The University should switch to an early action plan

Students who applied early decision to GW earlier this month will soon hear back from the admissions office knowing they will likely afford the college they want. But not all students can say the same.

Early decision is an opportunity for students to make a commitment to the University ahead of schedule. The policy has perks, too, with relatively higher admission rates and a chance for officials to get a head start on building the next class. The early decision acceptance rate has been as high as 69 percent, while GW’s overall acceptance rate stands at about 41 percent.

But early decision is not perfect for everyone – low-income students may be disadvantaged by the policy because they do not have the financial security to commit to an expensive school before knowing how much aid they will receive. Early decision makes sense for wealthy students. If GW is a student’s No. 1 choice, there is no reason not to apply. They will gain an edge in the admissions pool because the admission rate is higher, and they can send in a check as soon as they receive an acceptance letter. But if officials want a more diverse student body, an early decision policy does not help.

GW should switch from early decision to early action so students of all financial backgrounds can apply ahead of schedule and still gain an advantage in the admissions pool. An early action program allows students to apply early in their senior year of high school without committing to the school. Students do not need to submit grades from their senior year of high school, and prospective students still have a higher likelihood of being accepted than they would as regular decision candidates.

“Wealth should not decide college admissions, but GW’s early decision program gives richer students an unfair advantage.”

The admissions process is meant to be a fair barometer of future college performance, not of a student’s ability to pay. It is unfair that the University allows students to apply early only if they can make a financial commitment to GW once they apply. GW aims to fill about one-third of the class through early decision applicants, which means students who are forced to apply regular decision face a more difficult admissions process just because they do not have the financial security to apply early decision.

The University currently sends admissions officers to urban school districts to boost diversity in applications, and administrators should continue these trips. But GW cannot encourage prospective students who are worried about affording college to apply if administrators cannot offer them just as fair of a process as they offer to wealthier students. Students from low-income families might not have access to reliable high school guidance counselors who can suggest different admissions options, leaving some students in the dark about when and how to apply. Visiting low-income schools makes the process easier but does not solve the inequality caused by early decision.

All of officials’ efforts to recruit students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds boil down to increasing diversity efforts, which cannot be fully accomplished until the University grants all students an equal shot at attending GW. The University has increasingly recruited more diverse classes for the past 10 years, but the trend can only continue if officials make the admissions process easier for poorer students. Ditching the early decision policy would ensure officials can consider students from all economic backgrounds knowing that they applied and have the freedom to choose GW based on their financial aid package.

Early action programs are not new. Four of the University’s peer schools – Georgetown, Northeastern and Tulane universities and the University of Miami – offer early action programs. The universities of Southern California and Pittsburgh offer rolling admissions, meaning that there is no deadline to apply. Still, five of GW’s peers – Boston, New York, Tufts and Syracuse universities and the University of Rochester – only offer early decision or regular decision admissions.

Switching from early decision to early action might hurt the University’s bottom line because students admitted through early decision tend to be wealthier, so the University does not need to provide as much financial aid. Early decision is an indicator that students are committed to the University, and early action shows the same commitment without preventing low-income students from also taking advantage.

Wealth should not decide college admissions, but GW’s early decision program gives richer students an unfair advantage. The University should eliminate early decision in favor of a more inclusive early action program.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Kiran Hoeffner-Shah and contributing opinions editor Hannah Thacker based on conversations with The Hatchet’s editorial board, which is composed of assistant copy editor Natalie Prieb, managing director Leah Potter, contributing design editor Olivia Columbus, sports editor Emily Maise and culture editor Sidney Lee.

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