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Fewer Apply for Early Action

By Hyun Soo Kim
Associate News Editor

The number of early action applicants decreased 8 percent from last year. "It's the first decrease in four to five years," said Michael C. Behnke, director of admissions. But it's "not a huge downturn. Under 10 percent is not a major fluctuation," he said.

According to Behnke, 520 students were admitted from a pool of 1,276 applicants for the Class of '97. In 1991, 517 out of 1,387 applicants were admitted -- 8 percent higher than the 1,283 applicants in 1990, 588 of whom were admitted.

Early action students usually comprise a quarter of the total number of applicants offered admission, which was 2,219 last year, Behnke said. Sixty-two percent of early action students and 48 percent of regular admission students enrolled last year, he added.

To alleviate the dormitory crowding problem, the projected size of the Class of '97 will be approximately 1,050, the same that of the Class of '95. The class-size goal for the Class of '96 was 1,125, but 1,140 were actually admitted and enrolled, leading to the crowding.

Financial aid an important factor

The decrease in the number of applicants is "not particularly just early action. That's the way the number of overall applicants is running now. The easiest explanation is the economy. Some engineering schools are not even filling their classes anymore," said Behnke.

Behnke further speculated that publicity about downsizing and layoffs at IBM and other high technology firms might have decreased interest in engineering.

The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act last July may also have discouraged some applicants who need financial aid.

"Some rules are still not defined. Forms and rules changed completely, so there is no way to apply for aid now. The process is delayed by almost two months. The application process is getting more and more compressed," said Stanley G. Hudson, director of Student Financial Aid. "Our intention was to give financial aid as soon as the admitted student's materials are complete, but now no one will get aid until April."

"Knowing there would be no response to financial aid applications may have slowed down early applicants," Hudson added.

Students receive same consideration

Behnke also said that the admissions committee does not look for anything different in selecting early action applicants. "In early action decisions, we try to ask ourselves whether we would take them later on in regular admissions --if yes, then we take them."

However, "since they are the people that have chosen MIT early on, these students tend to be more focused on science and engineering than regular applicants," said Behnke.

Though it is not the case, Behnke said "a lot of students feel that being deferred is disadvantageous, so they don't apply early. That's another reason the early pool is strong."

MIT does not reject any early action applicants. They are either admitted or deferred to be considered with the regular applicants.

Behnke added that the male-to-female ratio in the early applicant pool was similar to last year's, so that the projected ratio in next year's freshman class is three-to-one.