On the heels of the highest number of applicants ever, Boston College announced on Jan. 24 its decision to switch from an Early Action admissions program to an Early Decision program. The program will be in effect next year for the class of 2024, which will admit 40% of its students during Early Decision.
Early Action programs are non-binding, meaning applicants who are accepted are not obligated to commit to that college. Early Decision programs, on the other hand, require students to commit upon acceptance.
Prior to this year, BC’s Early Action program was restrictive, meaning students could only apply early to BC if they were not applying to another college’s Early Decision program. This restriction was lifted this year for the class of 2023, allowing students who had applied Early Decision at another school to also apply to BC early. The change led to a 14% increase in applicants from last year, with a total of 35,556 applicants.
The increase in applications was responsible for the decision to switch to Early Decision, stated Grant Gosselin, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions, in the university announcement.
“Continued growth in the Early Action pool in the future would threaten our ability to meet our deadlines. After careful consideration, we came to the realization that we had to make this change to Early Decision,” said Gosselin.
Under the new Early Decision program, students will be able to apply through the Early Decision I or Early Decision II programs (both options are binding). Early Decision I has a Nov. 1 application deadline, with applicants notified of the admission decisions by Dec. 15. Early Decision II has a Jan. 1 deadline, with applicants notified by Feb. 15.
The university maintains that this new decision will benefit students and increase the quality of applicants.
“The advantage of Early Decision for students is the opportunity to increase their chance for admission at their top college choice and reduce the overall number of applications they submit,” explained Vice Provost for Enrollment Management John L. Mahoney in the university announcement. “The advantage for colleges is the opportunity to enroll more best-fit students, which should increase their satisfaction level and retention. For Boston College, Early Decision will allow us to attract the best students, knowing that we are their top choice.”
The Gavel spoke with students regarding this decision and found that many had an unfavorable view of the ED program. The first common criticism was that the number of applications for the early programs would decrease, which the university recognizes in their announcement.
Another common concern amongst students was financial aid. For students unsure of their ability to pay for college and wanting to see their financial aid package before committing, applying Early Decision is not an option.
According to Angela Zhang, CSOM '20 and a member of the First Generation Club of Boston College, the financial aid package was the deciding factor in her final decision about where to attend college, as it is for many students from low-income backgrounds.
"Early Action gave the flexibility to not commit if the financial aid package doesn't fit the student's needs," Zhang noted.
Given that early applications are considered to be demonstrations of interest and increase the likelihood of acceptance, Zhang is concerned that students who cannot commit to Early Decision for financial reasons will be discouraged from applying at all.
"Low-income students who are highly qualified to come to BC might not want to apply because of the change to Early Decision," said Zhang.
Currently, BC is one of 19 private universities that is need-blind in admission. The university is also committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need, and awarded $134 million in need-based aid last year.
A net price calculator is available online to determine one’s expected financial aid reward. According to the Early Decision website, “if you have used our net price calculators and have determined that Boston College is financially viable, it is likely that our financial aid award will meet your expectations.”
If a student is accepted through Early Decision and is unable to afford BC, they are able to request a release from the binding commitment by meeting with the office of financial aid. However, Gosselin said in an email to The Gavel that he does not expect this to occur very often.
“Families don't enter into a binding ED agreement lightly, so they are likely to follow our recommendation and use our net price calculators to determine that they can afford BC before applying," said Gosselin. "As a result, we don't anticipate that many students will request a release.”
A final concern brought up by students is the issue of homogeneity in the incoming class as a result of ED. When students who want to see their financial aid package before committing or are unsure of their ability to pay for college are unable to apply through Early Decision, there will be less socioeconomic diversity in the overall pool of applicants, potentially impacting the diversity of the incoming class.
Gosselin, however, argued that Early Decision could become a tool for furthering diversity.
“Early Decision allows colleges to shape incoming classes with far more clarity than Early Action does, since we know that the students we admit will enroll,” he said. “This should allow us an additional tool to continue to expand the diversity of backgrounds and experiences within each incoming class.”
The university is planning to enroll 40% of the class of 2024 from Early Decision, which is consistent with the percentage of enrolled students from Early Action in the last two years.
Admissions recommends students apply Early Decision only if BC is their first choice, and they are confident in their ability to afford college with or without need-based aid as calculated from the net price calculator.
With the introduction of any new program, there will be uncertainties, as there are in the case of the switch to Early Decision. Ultimately, the impact of Boston College’s new Early Decision program will only be fully understood after the acceptance and enrollment of the class of 2024.
Maura Donnelly contributed to this article.