Harvard changes admission process

By The Associated Press

With a $26 billion endowment and 370 years of history, Harvard University says it can afford a gamble that could shake up the world of elite college admissions.

Harvard announced plans Tuesday to drop its “early action” admissions round – and urged rivals to follow. Under early action, applicants get word by late fall if they’ve been accepted into a college, and can still apply elsewhere in the spring. Harvard said such early admissions programs have two harmful effects: they may hurt schools’ diversity because poor and minority students are less likely to use them , and they create anxiety for the typically more affluent applicants who take advantage of them.

The move’s broader significance is that it could persuade other elite universities to change their admissions policies. Many other prestigious colleges have acknowledged early admissions has become a strategy tool for the well-connected, and have tweaked their programs, but none have dropped them.

If others follow Harvard’s lead, it could noticeably change the college application experience of high-achieving students. Applicants would face less pressure to identify a first choice early in their senior year of high school – but would also lose the chance to put the process behind them.

If other colleges don’t follow Harvard, the school’s dean of admissions William Fitzsimmons acknowledged it may soon abandon the experiment.

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Harvard admits about 21 percent of early applicants, compared to about 7 percent in the later pool. Harvard says this is largely because the earlier pool is academically stronger.