Early decision freshmen to no longer get first pick for housing

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To increase alumni donations, the Council of Chairs is considering adding young alumni to advisory boards that support University fundraising efforts. Young alumni, who could encourage their peers to donate, made up a quarter of the University's undergraduate alumni donations last fiscal year.

GW will no longer give early decision students their first pick for residence halls – the first time it hasn’t offered that perk.

In the past, officials gave students who made GW their first-choice college a preference in housing selection. Director of Admissions Karen Felton said the change would bring the University’s policies in line with those of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors.

Felton said NACAC had conducted a “thorough review of all of its admissions practices” in the fall and found that giving priority housing registration to early decision students went against the organization’s guidelines. Felton said NACAC allowed all schools to phase the practice out over the course of the school year.

“All admissions staff and tour guides have been made aware of the change going forward,” Felton said in an email.

None of GW’s 14 competitor schools currently offer preferential housing to students who apply early decision. Several other schools – like Lake Forest College, Elon University, and Washington and Lee University – include priority registration as a bonus for early decision applicants.

Residence Hall Association President Ari Massefski said the change in policy came from the top down, but he thought it was important that all students were “treated equally.” Still, Massefski said some applicants may not know about the policy change and will later be disappointed.

“Because administrative policy changes take a while to institute, a student could hypothetically come on a GW tour and be told by a tour guide that ED kids get preferential housing. Then, once they arrive on campus, they would face a backlash,” Massefski said.

Massefski said preferential housing would be appealing to many incoming freshmen “who would rather live in Potomac than Thurston.” Thurston Hall houses more than 1,000 freshmen in mostly four-, five- or six-person rooms, while Potomac House offers beds to fewer than 400 freshmen in doubles.

“It’s pretty easy to see why preferential housing would be appealing to someone who’s leaving home for the first time and is going to be living in a dorm for the first time,” Massefski said.

The RHA does not deal with prospective students, and Massefski has said that GW Housing and the admissions office are in charge of relaying the policy information.

The University has not yet released the total number of early decision applicants who were accepted for next fall.

College admissions consultant Steve Goodman said it is “quite unusual” for a school to give early decision students a leg up in the housing process.

Goodman said the policy is similar to how some schools cluster Division I athletes in the same residence hall. But by grouping similar students together, it can make it difficult for students to meet a diverse group of people, he said.

“It encourages students to cluster with students with very similar profiles,” Goodman said. “This is a classic case where you’re balancing the incentive for early decision applicants versus the desire to have a wide-range intellectual community, which encourages free-flow ideas.”

But admissions consultant Anne Ivey, who has written books about the college application process, said getting more early decision applicants is a positive sign for a school and helps it stay competitive. But she said it may not be entirely fair to students who aren’t able to apply early because they’re waiting to hear back about financial aid.

Ivey added that a school may decide to give early decision students a housing preference to spread out the paperwork.

“It helps the school in the rankings and allows the administrative workload to be spaced out,” Ivey said.

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