Breaking from previous years, Stanford University has declined to release early action results for the class of 2021. This year, students applying under Stanford’s highly competitive restrictive early action (REA) program learned their decisions on Friday afternoon in emails sent by the admissions office, which since 2010 has freely provided numbers from the first round of application reviews.
In an email to the Stanford Daily, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw indicated that the release of early action data in the last several years was “exceptional.”
“Our policy is to release data at the end of cycle,” Shaw wrote. “We have returned to our standard approach in communicating about the Class.”
But in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, Stanford released the number of early acceptances, deferral and rejections from the early pool to the Stanford Daily, shortly after decisions were communicated to applicants. And in each of those years, Stanford made the information available after early admission results were made public by Harvard University.
This year, Harvard will be communicating restrictive early action results on December 12, several days after Stanford has closed its books on the early phase of the admissions process.
For the record, Stanford made offers to 745 early applicants or 9.5 percent of 7,822 REA candidates last year, having received seven percent more applications than in the previous year—the largest early pool in Stanford’s history. Stanford ultimately went on to take top honors in the selectivity race for the third consecutive year, by dropping to a breathtaking overall 4.69 percent admission rate for the class of 2020.
For the same class, Harvard accepted 14.8 percent of 6,173 early applicants and ultimately came in with the second lowest admit rate in the nation at 5.2 percent.
While not binding, both early action programs prohibit (with some exceptions) applicants from applying early to other colleges and universities. Those accepted now are free to pursue other applications and compare results later in the application cycle. All final decisions are due by May 1, 2017. But if you’re a Stanford applicant, don’t look for too many deferrals to the regular pool. Stanford’s philosophy is to “make final decisions whenever possible,” while in the past, Harvard has routinely deferred most early applicants.
And like it or not, the selectivity competition launched by the early admission announcements is closely watched by the entire admissions community, not to mention alums and trustees. Between now and May, Stanford and Harvard will compete mightily for many of the same candidates and both will be hoping to score the highest yield—the percent of students accepting an offer of admission—in the country.
In communications with the Stanford Daily, Shaw indicated that the university will release the Class of 2021 data when all candidates have been notified, which he hopes will deescalate the statistics war between Stanford and the Ivy League. Earlier this year, Shaw told the Washington POST that he finds a discussion about admission rates distracting. “It just diverts everybody’s attention from the fact that we took 2,000-plus kids that are magnificent,” he explained.
When Shaw moved from Yale University to Stanford in 2005, the rate for the first class he admitted was just under 11 percent and totaled 400 more students than admitted for the class of 2020. This has happened because Stanford’s yield is now the highest in the country.
But whether from a desk in New Haven or one in Palo Alto, Shaw no doubt remains aware of his competition at Harvard.
“My feeling is, what’s the difference between 7 percent and 4 percent? It’s all very competitive,” Shaw said. “If you look at Harvard’s number, Penn’s, Princeton’s, or any number of institutions, they’re all quite competitive.”
Nancy Griesemer is an independent educational consultant and founder of College Explorations LLC. She has written extensively and authoritatively about the college admissions process and related topics since 2009.