More than one third of the future Class of 2007 was filled
in December 2002 as 1,110 high school seniors were granted
admission under Cornell's early decision program.
This year, the admissions office evaluated a record 2,729
early decision applications, which is approximately a 3
percent increase over last year. Cornell accepted 40.7 percent
of these candidates to fill up approximately 37 percent of the
Preliminary data indicate an almost equal gender balance:
48.1 percent female, and 51.9 percent male.
Underrepresented minorities form 6.7 percent of the
accepted early decision class. As for regional variation, 37.5
percent of accepted students are from New York State.
Candidates from mid-Atlantic followed at a close second,
forming 27.2 percent of the early decision class.
The acceptance rate drops significantly in the regular
round. Last year, the regular decision admission rate was
24.35 percent and is expected to remain low this year.
Cornell notifies high school seniors of their acceptance
status four months before the regular decisions are made.
Students must pay a reward for this peace of mind: applicants
accepted under early decision must withdraw all pending
applications to other universities and enroll at Cornell. This
is in contrast to non-binding early action programs, where an
accepted candidate is allowed to apply and enroll elsewhere.
Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and
California Institute of Technology are among the few schools
offering non-binding early action.
The early decision system has come under fire recently by
some college administrators for placing undue stress on
applicants. The system's critics also argue that early
decision discriminates against disadvantaged students
(particularly minorities) who typically wait to compare
financial aid packages. Yale and Stanford universities
therefore announced in the fall that they will abandon early
decision and adopt early action for the Class of 2008.
In contrast, Brown University last year switched from early
action to early decision, a move which resulted in a sharp
drop in application numbers.
FUTURE OF EARLY DECISION IN QUESTION
While early decision policies are still widely used by most
competitive colleges, such policies now seem antiquated
compared to the early action policies a growing number of
Cornell's peer institutions have adopted.
Under early action, the applicant submits his or her
application in the fall and can be offered admission earlier
than regular deadline applicants, but doesn't have to make a
firm commitment to the university as they would under early
At a convention last fall of the National Association for
College Admissions Counseling, high school guidance counselors
and college admissions officers raised criticisms that under
such processes, many students are forced to prematurely decide
which college they will attend.
Such criticisms led big name universities like Stanford and
Yale to commit to ending their early decision programs and
adopt early action policies.
Cornell is expected to make a statement in Spring 2003
regarding the future of the University's early decision
One of the obvious downsides of eliminating the
University's early decision process is that without a firm
commitment from students admitted early, the University runs
the risk of having to admit more students per year under
regular decision in order to ensure a full enrollment.
Cornell received 20,442 applications for admission for the
Class of 2007. 2,730 of the applicants applied Early Decision
and 17,712 students applied Regular Decision. The overall
University acceptance rate was 31 percent this year.
The total applications received (20,442) represents a
decline of five percent from last year. Cornell denied
admission to 50 percent of the students who applied and wait
listed 13 percent of the applicants.
While there was a drop in the total number of applications,
there was a two-percent increase in the number of Early
Applications were down in four of the seven undergraduate
colleges this year, including the College of Arts and
Sciences, the College of Engineering, the School of Industrial
and Labor Relations, and the College of Human Ecology.
Applications were up in the College of Architecture, Art, and
Planning and in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.