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Harvard and Princeton Return to Early-Action Policies

After eliminating early-action programs four years ago, Harvard University and Princeton University announced Thursday that both institutions would restore them this fall.

When the universities made the move in 2006, the hope was that other schools would follow suit, but the trend didn't catch on. The University of Virginia did drop its early-decision program in 2006 and last fall restored a nonbinding early-action policy. With competitors offering the option, the universities are responding in part to demand in the marketplace. (For more on the trends in early action and early decision, see this blog post.)

Harvard and Princeton will maintain a nonbinding approach—their early-action programs will tell applicants of their acceptance early, but still give until the end of the regular admissions process to accept.

When Harvard and Princeton adopted a single-admission program in 2006, there was talk of leveling the playing field for applicants, as early admission has the perception of favoring wealthier students. Statements released by both institutions yesterday emphasized a commitment to encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds. Harvard announced enhancements in its recruiting program, including a new program promoting transparency in college admissions, greater outreach, and targeted staff visits to schools where few students apply early to college.

For more, see the Boston Globe and Inside Higher Ed.

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