Beginning next fall, Harvard College will return to its longstanding policy of requiring that early action applicants not apply early elsewhere. As always, early admission at Harvard will remain nonbinding, meaning that students admitted early to Harvard are free to apply to other institutions during the regular admissions cycle and need only reply to a Harvard offer of admission by May 1. The change applies to next year’s high school seniors and reverses a policy adopted last year that allowed students to apply simultaneously to an unlimited number of nonbinding, early action colleges (such as Harvard) even if they also had applied to another college with a binding early decision policy.
“Our return to a single early application policy is far better for students,” said President Lawrence H. Summers. “It is more closely aligned with the original intent of early admission programs, which are designed for students with a clear and well-considered interest in a particular college or university. This kind of program was never intended to put extra pressure on students by moving the deadline for multiple applications into the early fall.”
Allowing multiple early applications created difficulties for Harvard, both logistically and in terms of policy. The College received a record 7,600 early applications this year, 1,500 more than last year. Furthermore, Harvard faced the prospect of unknowingly admitting students who had previously committed to attending other colleges under binding early decision programs. Harvard has always required that such students withdraw their applications and does not permit them to enroll.
Harvard officials said that a multiple early applications policy leads to negative consequences, including creating too much pressure at the beginning of an applicant’s senior year in high school and reducing the time needed for students to make careful and informed college choices.
“We hope fewer students will feel compelled to use the start of their senior year in high school to rush and apply early to multiple colleges they may not have thoroughly explored,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Secondary school teachers and counselors have also voiced concerns about being able to provide thoughtful assistance to students in areas ranging from individualized counseling about specific colleges to producing letters of recommendation in time for early admissions deadlines, which occur shortly after the school year begins,” he said.