Princeton to reinstate early admission program

Princeton University will reinstate an early admission program, beginning next year with the class that will enter Princeton in September 2012. The single-choice early action program will require applicants to apply early only to Princeton, but will not require them to decide whether to accept Princeton's offer until the end of the regular admission process.

"We have carefully reviewed our single admission program every year, and we have been very pleased with how it has worked," Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman said. "But in eliminating our early program four years ago, we hoped other colleges and universities would do the same and they haven't. One consequence is that some students who really want to make their college decision as early as possible in their senior year apply to other schools early, even if their first choice is Princeton.

"By reinstating an early program, we hope we can achieve two goals: provide opportunities for early application for students who know that Princeton is their first choice, while at the same time sustaining and even enhancing the progress we have made in recent years in diversifying our applicant pool and admitting the strongest possible class," she added.

In 2006, Princeton announced its intention to adopt a single admission program, shortly after Harvard University announced its intention to eliminate its early action program. At the time, both universities expressed the hope that other universities would follow suit. Only the University of Virginia did so, and it reversed that decision last year. Earlier today, Harvard also returned to an early admission program.

Princeton had some form of early admission program for almost 30 years before it eliminated its early program with the class that entered in September 2008. From 1977 to 1995 it had an "early action" program in which students admitted early did not have to commit to attending Princeton, and in 1996 it switched to an "early decision" program in which students admitted early had to commit to accepting Princeton's offer of admission. Since the elimination of the University's early admission program, the number of applications to Princeton has increased from just under 19,000 to just over 27,000 this year; the number of high schools represented in the applicant pool has increased from 6,881 to 8,658; and the number of applicants from lower-income and minority backgrounds has increased significantly.

"One of our foremost goals in eliminating an early program was to encourage excellent students from a broad array of backgrounds and geographical areas to consider Princeton, and to assure them that their applications would be reviewed with the same care and attention as every other applicant," Dean of Admission Janet Lavin Rapelye said. "Our single admission program helped us to make progress toward those goals, to which we remain fully committed. We are confident we can achieve them while also allowing students who are ready to apply early to do so."

Since one of the purposes of Princeton's early admission program will be to identify applicants for whom Princeton is their first choice, students who apply early will be required to affirm that their only early application is to Princeton. Because Princeton's program will be "early action" rather than "early decision," students who are admitted early will be permitted to apply to other schools through their regular admission processes and to defer decisions about where to enroll until they know all their options. This process also allows students who wish to compare financial aid awards to do so before making final decisions.

The 1,313 Princeton students in this year's freshman class of 2014 were selected from a record 26,247 applicants. Overall, last year Princeton admitted 8.8 percent of its applicants -- the lowest percentage ever. Almost 59 percent of the class is receiving financial aid, which under Princeton's groundbreaking policy requires no loans, and the average grant is $35,157. Nearly 16 percent of the class comes from low-income backgrounds, and nearly 11 percent are the first in their families to attend college.

The class of 2014 includes the largest number of students from minority backgrounds in Princeton's history, with a total of 490 students from American minority groups, representing 37.3 percent of the class, and 141 international students from 47 countries, constituting 10.7 percent of the class. Along with the two previous classes, this year's freshman class is the third in Princeton's history to be evenly balanced in terms of gender.

The decision to reinstate Princeton's early admission program was made by Tilghman, Rapelye and Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel. The decision was discussed at length with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, which expressed strong support for the decision.