With the November 1 deadline for early applications well past, the Admissions office is still wading in a pool of packets, sifting, filing, and beginning the process of selecting an incoming class.
This year's admissions process is highlighted by the recent changes in admission policy at a handful of high-caliber institutions, which may have cut into the early applicant pool, admissions officials said.
"We are still in the process of putting the EA applications pieces together to see how many there will be," O'Neill said. "There will be fewer than last year's record year because the rules have changed at a number of key universities. The change that most affects us is Harvard's change to a single-application early action program."
The most notable changes in admissions policies over the last year have been at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Harvard tweaked its admissions policy by forbidding its early applicants from applying to other early action schools, including the University of Chicago. Yale and Stanford, in separate announcements that coincidentally came on the same day, switched from early decision to early action.
Officials at Yale said it is too early to tell what the overall effect of their switch will be, but, according to the Yale Daily News, their initial numbers are up.
According to O'Neill, it's simply too early to tell how much these changes will effect the College's applicant pool. He said that because Stanford and Yale stipulated that students applying early can only apply to one institution, the two schools would receive "many more" early applicants. But the University has, since last spring, expected that the numbers would be down.
To Edward Chung, a prospective student from Millburn High School in New Jersey, Early Action is helpful because it allows him to narrow his options and have a slight advantage over the normal pool of people. "You can get your results early and make decisions by January," he said. "Regular decision sets you in the normal pool of people."
Chung praised Yale and Stanford's move away from early decision. "Since early action is not a binding contract, I for one think it is a far better option than early decision," he said. "It gives you a slight edge in the admission process. And every advantage counts in this stage."
Some students take a different view of early action. With the early deadline too burdensome, most students have decided to submit their applications by the regular deadline of January 1. "I was going to apply early action, but I couldn't get all of my recommendations in time," said Jennifer Kelly, a high school senior who is applying to the University this year. "I'm a bit intimidated by applying regular decisionmore applicants could mean more competition."
Another key factor that will have a heavy influence on admissions this year is financial aid. Many more students are considering the amount of aid they receive as an important, if not determining, factor in deciding what school to attend.
"In the end, how much money I receive through financial aid is going to play a huge role in where I end up going to school," said Karen Kingsley, a Chicago high school student who is applying to the University early action program. For the admissions office, however, the increased concern over financial aid is expected.
"Financial aid has always been important to the majority of the families who apply here, and that hasn't changed," O'Neill said. "Certainly, we might expect that a weak economy would lead to more concern with financial aid."
Although the number of early applications is still pending, this academic year is guaranteed to bring changes to the admissions office, as the University reacts to the ever-changing admissions policies of major universities around the country.