Boston College Essays

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NACAC has historically defined the difference between early decision and early action as binding versus nonbinding.

I have argued before that the distinction should actually be single choice versus multiple choice, that single-choice early action is really nonbinding early decision. A year ago, Boston College dropped the restrictions on applying early action, with the only substantive change that early-decision applicants elsewhere could now apply EA to BC.

It involves a moral contract between student and college.

The student applies early and commits to attend if accepted in exchange for an early decision, a decision that can simplify the admissions process. It doesn’t limit its option to admit, defer or deny but knows it will have a yield of one for one for an ED applicant rather than the one for four or one for five yield in regular decision.

Several weeks ago, Boston College, often referred to as BC, announced that it will replace its early action program with early decision I and early decision II application options beginning with the 2019-20 admissions cycle.

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This marks the second time in two years that Boston College has changed its early-application plan.In any case, the increase in applications strained BC’s ability to read those applications in a timely and meaningful way.That raises the question about whether there is a point at which increasing application volumes is no longer a good thing.Colleges that admit a higher percentage of applicants early are being subtly coercive, using a variation of “if you order now.” More troubling is the number of institutions that admit a huge percentage of their freshman class, as high as 60 percent, through early decision (Boston College plans to hold its ED percentage to 40 percent).That benefits them by driving the regular admit rate down, but it also drives students and their counselors to adopt an application strategy that includes an early option.That strategy is risk-reward, because if a student uses his or her early chip at one college or university and is unsuccessful, the odds of admission at other comparably selective institutions during regular admission drop dramatically.There are two other arguments advanced by Boston College for its move to early decision.Boston College’s move to early decision is telling because it, along with its most common overlap colleges, the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University, has been a stalwart espousing early action based on the belief that students should have until May 1 to make a final college decision.John Mahoney, vice provost for enrollment management at Boston College, has a reputation as one of the most thoughtful and principled people in our profession.It can penalize students with financial need, although the ability to complete the FAFSA with prior-prior year tax information has lessened that issue.Today what is most problematic about early decision is its use as a tool to manipulate student behavior.

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