While there has been much speculation that economic woes would drive students away from more expensive schools, generous financial aid packages, such as those offered by many Ivy League schools, may be driving early applications up. It's speculated that students whose resources have been reduced and whose options may be limited are vying for any college seat with a full-tuition scholarship attached.
Early action and early decision college application deadlines have now passed at the majority of competitive private colleges. As the schools begin sorting through these applicants and making admission decisions, many are reporting that numbers are up, in some cases way up. Stanford University has seen early action applications increase 18 percent this year, while early decision applications have increased by 23 percent at Duke University. Other selective schools, such as Yale and Northwestern, have seen similar increases, as well.
While regular applications have held steady at Harvard University, other private schools that have seen a surge in early applications have heard from fewer regular decision applicants. The regular admission pool may have thinned due to students paring down their lists or choosing less expensive state colleges as safety schools. This could be good news for all of the early applicants who may find themselves bumped into the regular admission pool, though many schools are worried that fewer applicants could ultimately mean fewer enrolled students, especially if more students follow the money to the most affordable schools.
If you're a high school senior still in the process of applying for college, you may want to check out the articles appearing in The New York Times and The San Jose Mercury News this week and consider modifying your college search to take advantage of shifting application patterns. If you're in the market for a private college and you have the time and money to put together a couple extra application packets, it could pay off, especially if you're able to wait until April or May to make your final decision as to where to go.