Early decision applicants dip amid wider national growth

The University received 8 percent fewer Early Decision I applications for the Class of 2016 than it did at this time last year.

GW’s first of two early decision programs yielded 1,575 prospective students, according to preliminary data – the first decrease after three years of growth. Last year at this time, 1,725 students had applied early.

The first Early Decision I deadline was Nov. 10, but the final head-count may change as students withdraw or send late applications, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Admissions Kathryn Napper said. GW offers a second early decision program with a Jan. 10 deadline.

Napper said she was pleased with the early numbers “in this economy and this competitive nature.”

“My outlook is very good for admissions this year. Overall, applications are coming in on track. Our admissions directors met with many enthusiastic students in their travels, and we’ve seen an increase in visitors to campus this fall,” Napper said.

Early Decision applicants have slightly higher chances of being admitted to the University. Last year, GW accepted 36 percent of all early decision applicants – 5 percentage points higher than the regular admission rate. The University saw 1,600 Early Decision I applications in 2009 and 1,290 in 2008.

Other universities – including several in GW’s market basket – maintained large growth in their fall 2011 early application programs.

Duke University reported one of the largest initial increases with 23 percent more early applications than last year. Boston University saw nearly 20 percent growth while Northwestern University saw 15 percent more applications for its early decision program.

Early decision numbers offer the first indication of the upcoming admissions year. The applications also serve as a barometer of committed interest in the University, as Early Decision I and II acceptances are binding.

The drop comes on the heels of mixed admissions indicators last year – the scores of students admitted, though high, were stagnant, and fewer students submitted deposits compared to previous years. The applicant pool increased by 1 percent from the year before – 5 to 10 percentage points lower than similar and neighboring universities.

Napper said the University does not set aide a quota for early decision students, but rather accepts those high school seniors that are qualified.

“I’m going to admit those students that are best for GW,” Napper said.

Applicants from Early Decision I and II made up more than 37 percent of last year’s total enrollment, two-thirds of which came from Early Decision I. Napper said the University wants to admit a freshman class of 2,350.

The University changed its application process this year to allow prospective students to show their character by describing themselves in two words and listing their favorite movie.

“We employ a holistic review, meaning that we’re looking at many, many factors and trying to look at a variety of things,” Napper said.

This article was updated on Nov. 17, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the early decisions numbers from other universities were from 2010. Those numbers are from 2011.

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