warning – mimetic isomorphism in progress!


A few days ago, I wrote about how Harvard dropped its early admissions process because administrators thought it gives an advantage to applicants from wealthier families. The question last week was whether other elite colleges would follow. You might think that they would not because they could steal some of the strongest applicants from Harvard by admitting them earlier. You also might think that they would follow Harvard because Harvard is the highest prestige school.

For a few days, I thought Harvard would stand alone because Yale’s president equivocated on his promise to consider ending early admissions at his school if Harvard did so first. But yesterday the NYT reports that Princeton has dropped early admissions. So we do have a classic “chain reaction” in progress (called “mimetic isomorphism” in org studies).

My prediction: By the end of the academic year, the three leading Ivy League schools will have ended early admissions (Yale is the only one left). In two years, 5 of 7 Ivy Leagues will have abolished early admission or its equivalent. In four years, a majority of top 30 private universities who now have the policy will drop it. You heard it here first!

Written by fabiorojas

September 19, 2006 at 12:59 pm

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. If your prediction holds true, what do you predict will be the effect on the demographics of admissions applicants to the top 30 private schools?



    September 19, 2006 at 9:11 pm

  2. If everyone drops early admission, I would predict a slight increase in the number of kids from low income families. The conventional wisdom is that early admissions favors wealthier kids, because they can afford to take the first offer when they don’t have the opportunity to compare financial aid offers.

    Early admissions encourages top colleges to make a “take it or leave it” offer to a few hundred kids. Since the college knows that they don’t yet have alternatives, they don’t have to be so generous with financial aid. Thus, early admissions helps the wealthier kids and crowds out other applicants who rely on normal admissions.

    If that theory is correct, then all admits will be thrown into the same pool and applicants have the opportunity to compare financial aid offers. And in principle, this should result in better offers for low income kids.

    Of course, I don’t think this will revolutionize colleges, but I have a hunch that it will bring a few more hundred low income kinds into the elite universities


    Fabio Rojas

    September 19, 2006 at 9:34 pm

  3. […] Fabio blogged earlier this week about how early admissions policies (which favor the wealthy) are being dropped at Ivy League universities.  Read this eye-opening Economist article (via about just how far top universities are willing to go to bring in the wealthy, privileged and “legacies” (children of alumni). Hmm, of course if your ambition is to become a CEO, you might be better off going to Chico State. […]


  4. According to the NYT, MIT, Stanford, and Yale don’t actually have a binding early admissions policy–just an “early action” policy, in which you are admitted early in the fall but not required to decide until the regular deadline in the spring.



    September 26, 2006 at 12:18 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: