October 25, 2006: Letters

Tilghman and the clubs

Ending early decision

Keep TigerNet Webmail

PAW Letter Box Online
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Tilghman and the clubs

In the Sept. 27 edition of PAW, you ran an extensive interview with President Tilghman (cover story) in which she made the most remarkable statement, yet you left it unchallenged. Tilghman claimed, without qualification, that the No. 1 reason accepted applicants choose not to attend Princeton is because of the eating clubs. This blunt statement by our president has several problems:

1. Tilghman offered no statistical support whatsoever for her claim. Does the admission office take surveys of applicants to determine why they chose another school? If so, I would like to see PAW print the results.

2. It seems that any prospective student who took the time and energy to apply to Princeton at least would have heard about the eating clubs at some point in the process. Moreover, given the relatively high number of legacy applicants, some of these applicants already have intimate knowledge of the clubs and their role on campus. There are likely a myriad of more important reasons students choose another school, such as financial aid packages, athletic recruitment, the presence or absence of certain academic disciplines, a family legacy at another university, geographic considerations, etc.

3. Why is there no mention of simply building an upperclass dining hall that honors full Dining Services meal contracts? Tilghman and her predecessor, Harold Shapiro *64, always seemed to talk around this issue by calling for expansion of the residential-college system. Has anyone asked current students if they want to see such an expansion instead of an upperclass dining hall? Again, if such a survey has been taken, I would like PAW to print the results.

4. Tilghman’s comments provide broad evidence of her bias against the eating-club system, which I admit is not exactly perfect, and she is entitled to her opinion. But instead of negative commentary, maybe our president should focus on providing more dining alternatives. I’m sure one of the esteemed members of our economics department can explain the simple laws of supply and demand. Find out exactly what students demand — and then supply it.

Burlington, N.J.

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Ending early decision

As a 28-year veteran Alumni Schools Committee (ASC) volunteer, I am appalled at Princeton giving up early decision (Notebook, Oct. 11) for two reasons: a) It was such a knee-jerk reaction to Harvard’s decision one week earlier; and b) early decision was the greatest improvement to what at best is a chaotic period in the lives of applicants, the admission office, and the ASC folk.

I cannot see where early decision’s demise helps anyone. I’ve interviewed applicants from all areas of life — the well-to-do, a variety of ethnic groups, and the poor — in southern California, Long Island, N.Y., Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay area, and, for the last six years, in Reno.

With Princeton’s great grant program versus loans, the best thing an economically challenged applicant could do is to apply early decision to Princeton. Applying to college costs money: $50 here, $50 there — it adds up. By applying early decision, an applicant pays one fee and knows by Dec. 15 if he/she has been accepted to his or her first choice. Another plus is that a qualified applicant is almost four times as likely to be accepted early decision (27 percent to 7 percent) as in the regular-decision pool.

With early decision’s demise, the admission office will have to sort out around 17,000 applications filed by e-mail at 11:59 p.m. Dec. 31, get interview requests to ASC folk, and try and assemble a class in roughly six weeks, admitting a higher number, and praying that they have a good yield factor so as not to overload the campus capacity! Princeton must have a Harvard M.B.A. on staff to come up with this idea!

Reno, Nev.


Princeton’s wise decision to end early admission must have been difficult. Changing the endlessly cycling, competitive admission process is like overhauling a boat under full sail in unpredictable currents. 

The original purpose of early admission was to remove some pressure from the senior year of high school by allowing exceptionally qualified students who were sure about their first-choice school to get an early decision from the University. That simply is not the world we live in today. Students now frequently apply early because they feel they must, not because they are certain about which school they prefer. In recent years, after the early selections are made, an enormous pool of talented students face tough odds for remaining spaces available for only about half the class. Students who need financial aid often feel they cannot afford to apply early because they only have a chance to compare different aid packages when they wait for the spring round of decisions. 

With early admission, there is a push, exacerbated by the daunting number of candidates, to review applications with artificially truncated records and transcripts that lack any senior-year grades, while the admission staff is stretched to visit schools, do fall recruiting, and also conduct a fall selection process. Taking longer to read and announce admission decisions could benefit applicants and the University alike by giving candidates more time to put their best foot forward and the University more information to evaluate.

Early admission was never intended to burden students, reduce their choices, or make them feel left out of a rat race they could not win. Our capable admission office will be challenged to recruit top athletes who have many other opportunities early in the admission season, and also to calculate yield when many top applicants still remaining in the April pool will be accepted elsewhere as well.

My bet is that Dean Janet Rapelye is up to the task. Her track record of positive innovations warrants confidence. 

Washington, D.C.

Editor’s note: Allard was an Alumni Schools Committee volunteer for 32 years.  A longer version of this letter appears in Letterbox at www.princeton.edu/paw.


It is disappointing to realize that the admission office will never again know if an applicant’s first choice is indeed Princeton. While some applicants view the college admission process as primarily a competitive financial transaction, for others who apply early it can be a one-on-one love affair. Would I have been better off, prior to marrying my wife, Denise, and assuming her student loans, if I had applied to 10 other spousal candidates and chose someone with a better financial aid package? For a thoughtful view of early decision and how it has benefited Princeton, I recommend Fred Hargadon’s piece (feature, April 5) posted on PAW’s Web site.

New York, N.Y.


While I applaud Harvard and Princeton in leveling the playing field by discontinuing early admission, I recall an Alumni Day remark this year that while Princeton favored the action, it was not something the University was prepared to do on its own because it would put Princeton at a disadvantage in competing for qualified students (the classic “prisoner’s dilemma” of game theory formulated by Princeton’s Albert Tucker, http:// www.princeton.edu/pr/news/95/q1/0126 tucker.html). So, other than putting Harvard at the same disadvantage (though not Yale), what has changed?

Centennial, Colo.

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Keep TigerNet Webmail

I would like to voice my dissatisfaction with the decision to end the TigerNet Webmail service [see Notebook, page 15]. Ever since graduating, I have been a prodigious user of TigerNet Webmail. Despite limited features and storage space, it serves its purpose very well, especially when accessed with software capable of POP3. The termination of TigerNet Webmail requires that I establish an account with an external provider such as Google or Yahoo, whose service offerings and conditions frequently change.

Relative to the cost of Princeton tuition nowadays, I believe the cost of maintaining this service is negligible. I know many peers who graduated from institutions less venerable than Prince-ton who still retain a Webmail/POP3 service from their alma mater. If it can be done elsewhere, surely it can be done at Princeton.

Villach, Austria

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