Ties That Bind

By Emily Gold Boutilier / November / December 2002
June 28th, 2007
Ever since last year, when Brown changed its fall admission program from "early action" to "early decision," high school students who apply early have had to pledge to enroll at Brown if accepted - and to refrain from applying early to any other school.

The policy, however, is now out of line with practices accepted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), an organization of high school counselors and college admission officers. Nonetheless Brown - along with Princeton - does not intend to change its rules, even if the group revokes its membership.

NACAC recently recommended that early-decision plans permit students to apply early to any number of other schools - as long as the other schools follow nonbinding "early action" policies, which do not require students to enroll if accepted.

The problem is that Brown adopted its early-decision approach precisely to stop students from applying early to more than one college. Until last year, Brown had the more permissive early-action policy. "The change weeded out people whose first choice is Harvard or MIT," Director of Admission Michael Goldberger told the BAM last winter (see "60 Seconds With " March/April). Before that, he added, "they had nothing to lose by applying to Brown."

In the past the University has gone out of its way to comply with NACAC rules. In fact, that's how it got into this bind. Brown used to forbid its early-action students from applying simultaneously to other schools, but abolished that rule a few years ago to fall in line with the NACAC definition of early action. The result, though, was an overwhelming rise in early applications, which ultimately led to the shift to early decision.

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November / December 2002