December 7, 2006 — In its last year of offering a binding early decision option to candidates for admission, the University of Virginia this month offered 973 students a place in the Class of 2011, up slightly from 953 who were admitted under early decision for the Class of 2010.
U.Va. announced in September that it would no longer offer early decision for applicants beginning with students applying for the class that will enter the University in the fall of 2008. The decision was part of continuing efforts to increase accessibility for low-income students.
According to John C. Blackburn, dean of admission, the early decision process this year was “surprisingly normal” in the wake of the announcement.
“Our numbers are very similar to those we have seen over the past half-dozen years or so,” Blackburn said.
Under the early decision process, applicants are notified of an admissions decision by Dec. 1 in exchange for a pledge to attend the University if they are accepted.
U.Va. received 2,410 early decision applications this fall, compared with 2,311 a year ago. Over the past six years, the number of early decision applications has averaged 2,369.
In addition to admitting 973 or 40 percent of the applicants, 1,131 students had their decisions deferred so that they will be part of the regular decision process; 306 students were denied admission.
“The offer rate in the early decision pool is quite similar to our overall offer rate,” Blackburn said. “Typically, we offer admission to about half of the Virginia students and to about a fifth to a quarter of the out-of-state students. This year, we admitted 49 percent of the Virginia early decision applicants and 24 percent of the out-of-state applicants.”
The quality of the admitted students was comparable to that of last year, Blackburn said. Of those who reported a high school rank, 93.5 percent of the accepted students rank in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. The middle 50 percent of those admitted who took the SAT-I test scored in a range from 1,880 to 2,100.
The early decision figures indicated slight increases among both African-American and Hispanic students over a year ago. There were 71 applications from African-American students this year compared with 62 a year ago. Of those, 46 were offered admission this year compared with 33 last year. Asian-American applications increased from 239 to 282 with 125 offered admissions versus102 a year ago. Hispanic applications increased from 60 to 74 with 33 offered admission as opposed to 31 a year ago.
In announcing the University’s intention to end its early decision program, Blackburn had said that early admission programs put low-income students at a significant disadvantage in the process, which runs counter to U.Va.'s goal of increasing the diversity of our student body.
The response to the University’s announcement has been generally positive, according to Blackburn, though he has heard anecdotally from students who indicate a preference for getting the admissions process behind them early in their senior year of high school.
“There is a risk that students may have that view,” Blackburn said. “But nothing about this round of early decision has made me believe that our decision was not the correct one.”
Blackburn and his staff will now begin to explore changes for next fall based on the absence of the early decision program. For instance, he anticipates that admissions staff members will spend slightly more time visiting students in their schools and communities in October and November since they will not have to read the early decision applications as in the past.
“Even during the last week of October, many deans were already reading applications,” he said. “We anticipate that they can use this additional time traveling, which can offer us some advantages in meeting with more students.”
In addition, Blackburn said that there will be efforts to encourage students to apply for regular decision earlier than the Jan. 2 deadline. He said that the staff hopes to begin reading applications in November and December, beginning next fall, to provide ample time to give each application a thorough review.