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When asked about the decline in the number of early applications for MIT — down 4.7 percent from last year — Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill ’86 hypothesized that the decrease was likely caused by the reinstitution of early application programs at several other universities this year.

“One thing that is certainly true is that because Harvard and Princeton went back to their early pool,” Schmill said, “that was probably one of the reasons the number of our early action applicants went down.”

Harvard and Princeton both established single-choice early action (SCEA) programs for this admissions cycle, after discontinuing other early application programs in 2006. Like MIT’s early action program, SCEA is nonbinding; the difference is that applicants who apply to Princeton or Harvard under SCEA may not apply early to any other private institutions.

680 of 6,008 early applicants, or 11.3 percent of applicants, were admitted to the Class of 2016 in mid-December. This marks a slight decrease from last year’s early acceptance rate of 12.1 percent and a small increase from the 10.3 early-action admit percentage for the class of 2014.

But, because of greater variety of early application options, Schmill said that the applicants who chose to apply to MIT early were very well-suited for the school. “The students who applied early to us were clearly very well focused on MIT and really strong matches to our culture and community, which made the choices particularly hard this year,” he said.

The number of applicants admitted through MIT’s early action program varies with the predicted distribution of applicants between the early and regular cycles.

“Our intent is to somewhat mirror the way the applicants come in — meaning that if a third or half of our applicants come in early, we would look to enroll that many from that cycle,” Schmill said.

Because there were less early applications this year, less students were admitted through the early action program. Schmill said that the admissions office intends to enroll 35 to 40 percent of the incoming class through early action.

Schmill is generally pleased with the breadth of applications that MIT receives. “I think we get a very large portion of the really talented students from around the country certainly who are interested in science and engineering and technology,” he said.

Schmill added that he realizes that MIT might miss some students who might be well suited for MIT but do not apply because their backgrounds are such that they do not have “the same kind guidance, where there are people around them who are pointing them towards MIT.” Schmill explained that there are outreach programs designed to target these students, but that “we don’t try to recruit students who we don’t think will have a reasonable chance of being admitted. We’re not interested in simply increasing our application numbers just for the sake of it.”

The total number of applications received — 6,102 — (which includes withdrawn and incomplete applications) marks a 4.7 percent decline from last year’s high of 6,405 applications. Still, Schmill stated that “this year’s admissions cycle was really tough because the applicants we got were uniformly excellent. Despite the fact that the total number of early applicants went down just a bit, the fact that we’re only admitting such a small percentage of the total makes it as tough as ever.”

This level of competition has been consistent over the last few years, and Schmill said that he is very happy about how the class is thus far “I’m very excited about the students we’ve admitted. … I’m just excited about the fact that we’re going to have another really awesome class join us in the fall.”

In a blog entry he posted after the release of decisions, admissions officer Chris Peterson wrote that “[the admitted students] represent some of the best and brightest stars of our future. We are honored to welcome them to campus, where they will join the similarly accomplished, diverse, generally excellent community of students who already call MIT home.”

Schmill mentioned that he was also impressed by the 1,308 applicants (21.8 percent) who were not admitted and the 3,731 applicants (62.1 percent) who were deferred. “I am always, and maybe even more so this year, amazed at the strength of the students who we weren’t able to admit and who we’ve deferred and are now in the regular action pool,” he said “Many of these are extremely strong and talented students who we will wind up admitting in March.”

The remainder of the class of 2016 will be admitted through the regular action cycle in March. No information on the regular action cycle is currently available.

“The dust hasn’t quite settled on that yet,” Schmill said.