November 16, 2010 — Beginning fall 2011, high school seniors will have the option of applying "early action" to the University of Virginia and receiving an admission decision before the April 1 national notification date – but the admission offers will be nonbinding. Students can still apply to other schools and will have until May 1, 2012, to decide where they will attend college.
Greg W. Roberts, U.Va.'s dean of admission, unveiled the nonbinding early action plan today at a meeting of the University's Board of Visitors.
The early action application deadline will be Nov. 1, 2011. By Jan. 31, 2012, students will receive one of three responses from the University's Office of Undergraduate Admission: an offer of admission, deferral to the regular admission cycle, or denial of their application. Those offered admission will have until May 1, 2012, to decide if they will enroll in the university.
"Students who apply early action to U.Va. will be able to apply to other schools' early and regular admissions cycles, including a binding early-decision program," Roberts said. "This provides, in our opinion, the most flexibility and freedom to students."
The University will continue to offer its regular decision admission plan. Students who would prefer to apply under regular decision must submit their applications by Jan. 1, 2012 and will be notified of the admission committee's decision by April 1.
Roberts has been floating the early action idea among high school college counselors for the past six months, and "response to early action was overwhelmingly positive," he said.
Brandon Kosatka, director of student services at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school in Fairfax County that typically produces many U.Va. applicants, said his students will welcome the early action option.
"It affords the students an opportunity to apply, and – ideally – receive an offer of admission in the winter, thereby alleviating a considerable amount of anxiety that students often experience waiting for the results of the process in the spring," he said.
Until 2006, U.Va. offered an "early decision" admission program, in which students applied early in exchange for a commitment to attend if accepted. The program was abolished in 2007 amid concerns that the early decision application pool lacked racial and socioeconomic diversity.
"Economically disadvantaged students were far less likely to apply under the binding early decision plan, since they were unable to compare multiple financial aid packages from other colleges and universities," Roberts said. "Since early decision was abolished, the University has admitted classes that are both increasingly diverse and academically better qualified."
He expects that trend to continue under early action. Students will not be asked to make a commitment to attend until after receiving financial aid notifications from all of the schools to which they are admitted. In addition, the University hopes to make official financial aid offers to accepted early action candidates as early as February, instead of April.
"Having a pool of students who are offered admission by late January will give the University a chance to develop stronger relationships with the admitted students and provide more targeted information to the students during the winter months," Roberts said. "We hope to better connect admitted students with faculty members who teach in their area of interest, offer the opportunity to visit classes and even spend the night with current students in residence halls," activities that usually occur only in the month of April for students offered admission during the normal application cycle.
Roberts stressed that the early action plan should not be seen as an "easier" way to get into the University.
"We strongly believe that there should be no strategic advantage to applying early action," he said. "The students we admit early action should have the same academic and personal qualities as those whom we admit regular decision."