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Early Action Pool Up, Admit Rate Falls

By Swetha Kambhampati

Early Action results for the Class of 2011 were finally released last week, with 3,493 early action applications received, marking a 13 percent increase from last year. Out of these, 390 students, or 11 percent, were admitted; last year, MIT admitted roughly 12 percent of early applicants in December. 319 were denied admission, while three-quarters, or 2,784, were deferred to regular action decisions in March. The deadline for early action was Nov. 1.

The admissions server has been notorious the past two years for crashing on the day of the early action deadline, but it held up this year after substantial testing, said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Marilee Jones.

“We’re thrilled and very satisfied with the students we admitted. They will fit in well with the MIT community and we believe will really thrive here,” Jones said.

A table outlining the composition of the student body admitted is featured on pg. 15

The admissions application has undergone some wording and content changes this year.

“We changed some of the language to clarify our intentions behind the questions and make them more transparent,” Jones said. For example, after the “What do you do simply for fun” question, the admissions committee added clarification, “This isn’t a trick question. We want to see how you bring balance to your life.”

Additionally, the Essay A option has now been changed to read, “Tell us about an experience which, at the time, really felt like ‘the end of the world’ — but had it not happened, you would not be who you are today. Describe the process through which you discovered value in the negative.”

Last year’s question stated, “Life brings many disappointments as well as satisfactions. Tell us about a time in your life when you experienced disappointment, or faced difficult or trying circumstances. How did you react?”

“It is so painful to turn down so many extraordinary students because we just don’t have the space,” said Jones. “We’re in the remarkable position of attracting so many of the nation’s most extraordinary students and we wish we could take many more.”

While many other top schools such as Harvard and Princeton decided to get rid of early admissions after this application cycle, MIT has no intention to do so.

“MIT early action is very open and fair. It is non-restricting, nonbinding, and non-preferential,” said Stuart Schmill, director of Educational Council.

Schmill said that other schools’ elimination of early action stem from the restrictive (meaning that students can only apply to that particular school early), binding (meaning that students have to matriculate into the college if they are accepted early), and preferential nature (meaning there is an advantage to applying early) of their early admissions. This advantage for those who apply early puts lower-income students, who may not have as much guidance and preparation to strategize and get their test scores, materials, and application in so early, at a disadvantage.

“MIT’s early admission is beneficial in many ways,” said Schmill, in that it allows students who definitely know that MIT is their top choice to get the stress of admissions out of the way as soon as possible. It offers no advantage to those who apply early, thus not putting regular action applicants and low-income students at any disadvantage, Schmill added.

Early admissions is a process that was started forty years ago which allowed students to apply to their top choice colleges early and allowed colleges to spread their workload out. Early decision, which requires students to attend the college they are accepted into early, arose from the competition between colleges and the desire to start locking students into a college decision.