U. of San Diego Ends Early-Admissions Program

Starting this fall, the University of San Diego is ending its early-action program and moving to one application deadline. The university had offered applicants two choices: early action, which is nonbinding but provides an earlier answer, and a regular deadline. The new deadline, December 15, comes halfway between the two old ones.

The new process should be an improvement both for students and for the admissions staff, says Stephen Pultz, assistant vice president for enrollment management.

“We, like a lot of schools, have been seeing many, many more students apply through early action,” Mr. Pultz says. The university has had a 36-percent increase in applications since 2010, and a 52-percent increase in the number of early applications, he says.

As the number of early applicants has risen, the university has deferred more of them to the regular pool, Mr. Pultz says. San Diego received 5,280 early applications for admission in the fall of 2012. It accepted 2,745 of them, and deferred 1,375. Of those, only about 300 were ultimately admitted.

Even for students who did get in early, the process came with hassles. Historically, the university informed early applicants of their merit aid when they were accepted. But lately, the staff hasn’t been able to let them know about scholarships until March, when the regular pool found out.

Besides, Mr. Pultz says, students who were admitted under early action were no more likely to enroll than those accepted after the regular deadline, even as the admissions staff created events to hold their attention over the longer time span. The new process, he says, “gives us extra time to read applications and find the best fit.”

The admissions office did consider starting a binding early-decision program as another option, Mr. Pultz says. But he didn’t particularly like the idea. Mr. Pultz isn’t certain that students are ready to commit to a college so early in their senior year, citing his experience as a parent. And starting such a program, he thought, could hurt the university’s efforts to improve diversity.

Mr. Pultz says he’s not too worried that the move will mean a drop in applications. A student who doesn’t apply because there’s no early program, he says, was probably not a good fit anyhow. Besides, Mr. Pultz says, “I don’t think it’s an irreversible decision.”

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