Visions in Cambridge

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Harvard was the first to make early action non-binding, and it’s now become the first to ditch the whole policy, which has been widely derided for favoring children of the rich and deadline-savvy. But the Iviest of the Ivy League says it might not stick with the gutsy decision if other schools don’t follow suit, and Columbia, at least, isn’t biting. From Robert Hornsby, Columbia’s Director of Media Relations: 

“Columbia University’s admissions policies are re-evaluated annually. To date, it has not been our experience that our early admission program has negatively impacted our ability to create a diverse class.  For example, Columbia’s student of color representation and representation of students from lower income brackets has consistently been one of the highest among our peers.  Through a constant review of our policies, we maintain our commitment to providing a fair and equitable review process for all applicants.”

Translation:  Now why would we want to do a silly thing like that? Look at all the people of color we have, and that number nine on the US News College Rankings!

How inspiring.

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  1. orrr  

    for all of harvard's showboating, the fact that columbia is more diverse demonstrates not only that columbia does not need to abandon ED in harvard's wake, but exposes harvard's inherently more discriminatory admissions policies (let us not even begin to mention the legacy "z list" among other crimson abominations..._

  2. credulous  

    Like Columbia doesn't honor legacies...
    Anyway, Harvard's early action was much more need blind than Columbia's early decision since it allowed students to choose a different school later on if Harvard didn't offer enough financial aid. Columbia's early decision, on the other hand, is specifically designed for kids who have no worries about finances.

  3. well duh  

    of course there is a legacy component to columbia admissions- where is there not? honestly, we have to admit wealthy people or people who consider columbia part of the family tradition such that they are willing to donate substantial sums to cover what financial aid we are able to provide (the endowment doesn't sustain itself). but columbia has nothing like the endless labyrinth of secret committees that loosely control harvard admissions...

  4. rp  

    you guys still haven't bothered to read the fine print? even binding ED programs allowed you to attend another school if your financial aid wasn't met. (of course this is based on FAFSA and such i assume so your need and what they say is your need may not quite agree...but thats true for coulmbia or harvard)

    • that's not the point  

      That binding ED programs have a financial "out" has never compensated for the fact that many students in need of financial aid don't utilize these programs in disproportionate numbers, whether that stems from lack of understanding of the program on their own, their families, their guidance counselors or some other part.

      • but  

        if these students don't sign on to the websites of the universities they're planning to apply to at some point or do and miss something as crucial as early decision, OR haven't read any literature on college admissions on their will they survive academically at an elite university?

        • lbd  

          Your ignorance is showing.

          If no one in your family has gone to college and your public school is more used to keeping people from dropping out than launching them into the Ivy League, there's no reason you should know what early decision is, nevermind when the app's due. That in no way means you can't handle the work here or wouldn't enhance the student body (too much of which is already composed of white kids from suburban NJ).

          • what?  

            if no one in your family has gone to college and you're in a crappy public school, you have no means to access the website/other information about the colleges you are applying to? students at schools like columbia and harvard have to take initiative to do research or seize opportunities...oughtn't this be expected of applicants, then, as a simple gauge of their capabilities?

            NB: I went to a wealthy private school; we were never instructed to apply early to game the system and indeed were discouraged from applying early to anywhere that wasn't an absolute first choice...and it isn't as if there aren't "disadvantaged" kids who had, in fact, taken advantage of ED at RD kids' expense- to their own advantage. there are too many structural presumptions being thrown around here.

            I agree there are too many white kids from NJ here...whether that really has to do with ED is another question altogether.

  5. DHI  

    Early admission is pretty sweet because it can save you a lot of having to do work in high school. So if you like people, you should support it, and if not, you should oppose it.

  6. go harvard  

    way to not suck!

  7. sakib  

    "To date, it has not been our experience that our early admission program has negatively impacted our ability to create a diverse class."

    notice how it doesnt say that early admissions results in the acceptance of diverse candidates, but simply that the early program doesnt interfere with that goal.

    drop it.

  8. i call bs  

    ""Columbia University's admissions policies are re-evaluated annually. To date, it has not been our experience that our early admission program has negatively impacted our ability to create a diverse class."

    Naturally, because ED spots can be used to 'lock up' students who fulfill certain quotas. Kids like me, your typical striving middle class overachiever, are a dime a dozen, and in RD we barely stand a chance. ED allows schools to create two pools, and judge within them seperately, creating a double standard.

    Early programs were implemented by colleges for their own benefit- securing the most talented students by offering an early decision tha was binding.

    Now the programs have been turned on their head as students have taken advantage of the inherent double standard and are using ed to 'game' the system, something the admissions folks hadnt banked on.

    now rather than engage in an arms race of pitting strategy vs prestige (e.g. Harvard getting away with a non binding system- its not like a Harvard admit is going anywhere else even if they get in elsewhere, while lower ranked schools are scared of getting exposed to yield losses if they give up...). It seems like harvard wants to de-escalate the admissions race a bit and bank more on their name and offers- like the sweet financial aid they have for low income students. something columbia has yet to match COUGH.

    • columbia  

      has neither the name of harvard nor the people all want an extraordinary education and the total fulfillment of social justice. these are mutually exclusive goals. killing the endowment for financial aid would result in a lower ranking, less talented students attracted, and a less intelligent classroom would also mean less ability to expand or even maintain campus facilities which are desperately lagging behind our peers. what harvard can do easily would be suicide for columbia as we know it.

      • moot point  

        the university of pennsylvania has a smaller endowment than columbia yet has still managed some form of financial aid reform. and they're launching a bigger expansion project than manhattanville. don't lecture me on endowment and expenditures.

        of course harvard can get away with bucking the trend. they have the comfort in knowing that no matter what they do, applicants will overwhelmingly prefer harvard over any school, which is why they can use the infamous Z-List admissions tactic, among other things, and why other schools have compete on terms other than Harvard's- you can't beat them on name and prestige, it's impossible. you have to lure them by other means.

        for the most part columbia relies on NYC to beat out it's competition rather than anything particularly great about the school itself. we're talking about why I'd pick Columbia over Brown (for academics? not really), not SUNY. it's no surprise that columbia was considered a god awful school when crime was rampant in NYC, and rebounded with the city's reputation.

        • brown/penn  

          you seriously think its willy-nilly "take whatever you want pass fail" system is conducive to a better education? at brown, the most motivated people can talk to you about their narrow specialty in absurd detail, while the least will barely be able to spit out a sentence of coherent, intelligent prose. at least at columbia everyone emerges know something about what we read/learn in the core...

          crime was not really a significant factor in columbia's demise from the mid 1960s to the 1980s...the 68 protests effectively killed off its reputation as a bastion of the elite, donations withered, and professors fled. through it all, morningside was less safe than today, but still a comparative haven to the rest of the city.

          as far as penn- their expansion is cheap. no compensation to be paid off to vocal activists, no vast legions of lawyers or connections to be maintained in the state capital, no endless info sessions, and far, far lower land costs. not to mention no need for demolition and less expensive union labor once the project gets going.

          beyond that, there's a reason penn is considered a worse school- us news notwithstanding. columbia focuses its endowment, beyond physical expansion, on academic improvement- creating new chairs, funding research, etc. much of this is investment in the future- the development of new technologies could lead to new patents which could enrich us. given time, columbia could reemerge as one of the definitive top few universities, a position it held before the 1960s, in which case it could make a move like harvard's. right now, we need to focus on getting there.

          btw, this was the daily pennsylvanian's take on the harvard decision: "don't follow harvard, yet"

  9. Anonymous

    Part of the reason Columbia has a smaller endowment and alumni giving then say Harvard and Princeton is because we actually aren't nearly as nice with the legacy admissions.

    I think Harvard is going in the right direction with this though.

  10. bottom line

    there will be no radical revolution in financial aid until and unless Columbia coughs up $500 million to put in a financial aid lockbox, that will generate rougly $25 MM/yr to cover costs associated with eliminating tuition for families making less than $40K, etc.

    why cant fair tools understand this???

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