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Universities Debate Whether Early Admission Should Be Continued

Harvard and Princeton are among the institutions that have abandoned the use of early admissions, saying the process is unfair to lower-income students. Other universities argue against this and have instead redoubled their commitment to early decision.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It used to be a relatively straightforward rite of spring, but over the last decade, the process of getting accepted to college has become more complicated. And for a growing number of students, including these at George Mason High in Northern Virginia, it's moved way up in the calendar.

    For tens of thousands of high school seniors around the country, this was the week to learn whether they would gain acceptance to college under so-called "early admissions" programs.

  • MARGARET LIPMAN, George Mason High School:

    I'm a little anxious, but I'm happy that I'll know for sure, yes or no, very soon.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    For many, this year has been about more than just getting good grades.

  • JASON BENN, George Mason High School:

    It really helps to have a couple easy activities, like National Honor Society. Once you're in, the application itself is like one day's work. Then once you're in, it's a 10-minute meeting every week, and it looks great on your application. So why not be part of that?

  • ANNA DUNING, George Mason High School:

    Applications have become so lengthy, and there are so many activities to fill out, it's a lot — it takes a lot of work, and especially senior year when I already have a lot of work.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Early admissions programs take many forms. And some, called "early decision," colleges require a student, once accepted, to make a binding commitment to the school. Other programs, often called "early action," are non-binding and the student can still look at other schools.

    But even as they've grown more popular with some students and colleges, early admissions programs have also gained detractors. One area of contention: whether they disadvantage lower-income students who need to shop around for the best financial aid package.

    This fall, two of the nation's elite universities — Harvard and Princeton — caused a major stir in the academic world by announcing an end to early admissions beginning next year. The question now is whether other colleges will follow their lead.

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