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Early Action Acceptances Down From Last Year

By Kevin R. Lang


Despite an increased number of early applications this year, MIT has accepted fewer students through early action than last year.

This year, MIT has only accepted 520 students, or 14 percent of the 3608 early applicants, versus 588, or 17 percent of the 3372 early applicants last year.

“The increase [in applicants] is probably because of our recruitment coupled with the increased number of students applying to college,” said Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones. However, she added that “we’ll be taking fewer students early this year, partly to accommodate the class size issue,” Jones said. “We do not want to enroll more than our target.”

Elizabeth S. Johnson, associate director of admissions, said that MIT was “even more conservative than we have been in the past” due to instructions to enroll a class of “not more than 1000” students. The stricter target this year results from a desire to crowd fewer students into MIT housing next year, especially since all freshmen will be housed on campus. “It’s not a good idea to have as many crowds as MIT has had,” Johnson said.

However, Jones also said that MIT wants to avoid last year’s unusually high percentage of students who were admitted early. MIT traditionally admits 30 percent of each freshman class early, but 36 percent of the class of 2005 was admitted through early action.

“We do not want more than 30 percent of the class to have been admitted early.”

Jones said that while admitting more students through early action makes the admissions process easier for MIT, “taking too high a percentage of the class early is not good for secondary education. It really increases the anxiety felt by high school students, teachers and parents.”

Early admission criticized by Yale

While MIT is attempting to maintain its traditional 30 percent cap on early admissions, another top university is pushing to eliminate the process entirely. In mid- December, Yale University President Richard C. Levin said in an interview with The New York Times that he wanted to abandon the early decision process altogether, and that he had discussed doing so with the presidents of other competitive universities.

Levin said that the early admission process “pushes the pressure of thinking about college back into the junior year of high school, and the only one who benefits is the admissions officers.”

Most applicants deferred

MIT does not reject very many early applicants outright. This year, only 241 were rejected, compared to 2847 who were deferred. Johnson said that only students whose grades would definitely preclude them from regular admission were rejected.

Of the 520 admitted students, 53 percent are male and 47 percent female. MIT admitted 108 underrepresented minorities from the early action pool.

This year’s mean SAT scores for students admitted early were 731 verbal, 766 math. Johnson said that scores were unchanged from last year’s admitted early action pool, but the mean scores for the entire admitted pool last year were 724 verbal and 760 math.

Of the admitted students, 87 indicated that they were interested in Course VI (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), 65 in Course VII (Biology), 51 in Course XVIII (Mathematics), and 46 in Course VIII (Physics). Fifty-six people said they were interested in “engineering.”

MIT looking for “passion”

“We’re looking harder for students with passion for what they do as to public distinction, which has become pro forma for our applicants now,” Jones said. “It is so easy to overlook the students who follow their passions with intense desire when the applicant pool is filled with students who are the best in state, nation or world in an exam, project or competition.”

Jones echoed her earlier comments in the MIT Faculty Newsletter article “New Kids on the Block: Observations on the Newest Generation of MIT Students”, in which she said that MIT students who “have been raised on praise and positive reinforcement, are in for real culture shock.”

Impact of Sept. 11 not yet seen

Thus far, MIT has not seen any significant changes in early application trends which might be related to the September 11 terrorist attacks. However, Jones said that this “may change for regular admissions. It may be that Sept. 11 was just too close to the filing date and everyone was in a daze. Maybe we’ll see more essays about terrorism in January.”

Early Action Telethon tonight

The admissions office will begin its annual Early Action Telethon to call all admitted students tonight in the Bush Room from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The Telethon will continue Thursday night at the same time.

Christine Fry contributed to the reporting of this story.