This fall the University went from "early action" to "early decision" for high school students applying early for admission. For the first time such applicants could not apply early to any other schools and
pledged to enroll at Brown if accepted. As a result, the number of early applications dropped 40 percent, to 1,918. About 25 percent of them were accepted, up 4 percent from the year before.
BAM Why did early applications decline?
Goldberger The change weeded out people whose first choice is Harvard or MIT. Last year they had nothing to lose by applying early to Brown. We also saw a reduction in applicants who needed financial aid. Students want to see a couple of financial-aid packages before they make a choice.
BAM Why was the admit rate so high?
Goldberger Coaches used early decision to a much greater extent than we anticipated. It makes perfect sense: to have a goalie admitted early means the coach doesn't have to recruit another goalie. We actually admitted early more than half the athletes that. I think we will admit.
BAM Is there an advantage to applying early?
Goldberger No. Some schools say, "If you're willing to commit to us, we'll give you a little bit of an edge." We treat everyone the same, whether they apply early or not. We think it's in our best interests to go after the best candidates, no matter when they apply.
BAM In December, Yale President Richard Levin urged colleges to abandon early admission. What's your opinion?
Goldberger I think he's absolutely right that pressures are being exerted on kids to make a choice early. But if early action or early decision didn't exist, kids would feel that they have to apply [in the winter] to seven or eight or nine schools. We'd see a dramatic increase in the number of applications. The amount of money kids would have to pay in application fees would certainly be an argument in favor of an early plan.
BAM Others accuse colleges of using early decision to manipulate yield, thus improving the school's standing in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. Is this true?
Goldberger The argument is sort of inaccurate. Yield has such a small role in rankings, you couldn't possibly manipulate it enough to make any difference.
BAM In your ideal world, what would be the early-admission policy?
Goldberger Students would apply to one school early, but [the application] would not be binding. That would let them concentrate on their senior year, but would also [accommodate] kids who had a change of heart. The biggest obstacle is college counselors, who seem to feel that giving kids lots of options early empowers them. The problem, in my opinion, is it adds to the strategizing and gamesmanship. It further advantages some kids over others.
- Interview by Emily Gold