UChicago: Pick An Option, Any Option

The University of Chicago has always been one of my favorite higher education institutions. Its place in the Hall of “Prestige” (whatever that means) has risen as fast as its acceptance rates have plunged. It is a true “elite.”

Now, for the 2016-2017 admission season, it appears that UChicago is flinging open the doors for the greatest possible number of applicants by offering a full menu of applicant options by offering Early Action, Early Decision, Early Decision II, and Regular Decision.

Here’s the scoop, as revealed on their Web site:

Early Action Early Decision I Early Decision II Regular Decision
Application Due Date November 1* November 1* January 1* January 1*
Admission Decision Release Date Mid-December Mid-December Mid-February  Late March
Student Reply Due Date May 1* January 15* March 15* May 1*

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This news caused quite a stir among the College Confidential discussion forum faithful. In a thread announcing UChicago’s quartet of options, the CC thread initiator posits:

– It’s up on their Financial Aid page already – for 16-17, students can apply EA, ED, EDII, and then RD:

https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/costs/apply-for-aid

This is ridiculous. Seriously, why even bother having an RD round then? Between EA, ED, and EDII, Chicago can easily fill 70-80% of the class, and have an absurdly high yield. All these options also just further confuse the process.  

From my admittedly biased viewpoint, this move to four applicant options is a naked power play to cover all the bases and, as the poster above notes, maximize yield, not to mention the number of applicants. Can you say, “U.S. News rankings”?

I can hear UChicago’s marketing staff’s whispers hovering over all their promotional literature:

pick a card

– Early Action: “Hey boys and girls, send us your applications. You may get in. If you do, you won’t have to enroll here, since you may be accepted by your favorite Ivy or even Stanford. So, apply now!”

– Early Decision: “Okay, guys. If you already know that we’re #1 in your heart, sign on the line which is dotted and pledge your loans and parents’ 401K to us. In return, we may even shave a point or two off your unlikely acceptance odds!”

– Early Decision II: “See Early Decision but add a touch of vague confusion to your option choice.”

– Regular Decision: “For those of you whom we need to fill in the empty spaces, this is the right choice for you (and us). As we always say, ‘RD — for those traditionalists we can’t get to apply earlier.'”

The comments on the CC thread are illuminating and echo the growing frustration and cynicism of parents and students these days. Let’s take a look at what some posters said.

– EA/ED is the new RD. You’re either early, or you’re late.  

– By adopting ED Chicago has surrendered itself as a true competitor to HYPS + M + Cal Tech in the college admission game, I think.

– What’s really interesting to me is the ED II option. I don’t think any other really highly-ranked universities have that, and only some of the LACs that might compete with Chicago for students. (Swarthmore, Pomona, and Reed, yes, Williams and Amherst, no.) I could see ED II at Chicago following SCEA or ED deferral elsewhere as a very popular option.

Gotta hit those bonus targets!  

– Is our current yield not sustainable or something? This seems like a last ditch attempt to squeeze the last drop of talent out of the applicant pool.  

UChicago 2016 – the admissions journey.

ED: Show us you love UChicago and help boost yield to 70%

EDII: Show us you love UChicago and boost our yield while lowering HYPS’s

EA: Show us you don’t really love UChicago and increase the denominator of our acceptance %.

Coming soon – SCEA: Show us you can pick the worst of 4 options.  

– … And here they provide information about the four choices. https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/apply/applicants/firstyear

– When my D and I went to an info session in our city that UChicago had invited students to, the admissions rep said that UChicago had two options- EA and RD because they weren’t the jealous type to force kids to choose with SCEA or ED. I guess they are the jealous type now….

Yes, I’m sure that you are right and no one from UChicago cares enough to read these posts.

– Having spoken to some people working in admissions (not the ones making any of these decisions, but in the room for the discussions), a key rationale was that Chicago is losing too many kids to ED schools (mostly Penn and Columbia). …

– ED I: I’m really wealthy and can afford $70,000+ and visited your school and think it’s so cool; also my family totally “gets” UChicago and isn’t pressuring me to apply to Ivies. ( Less likely: I’m a high stats low socio economic student and bought into the No Barrires thing and love, love UChicago so I’m going to risk not comparing fin aid- I really hope I don’t regret it).

ED II: Man, I messed up applying to that Ivy early (or MIT or Stanford) now I’m rejected and I have to get into a really selective school because I’m prestige conscious and will never live it down if I don’t get in somewhere I can brag about plus I’m loaded so I don’t need to worry about fin aid.

EA: I really want to go to UChicago but I need to compare fin aid or merit offers. Please, please take me. ( Maybe too: Well, I really like it but still going after my first choice- and I’ve got my act together enough to do EA here and EA somewhere else or maybe ED to my first choice)

RD: Man, I’m hot stuff and can wait it out. I know that I’ll have choices. I have nerves of steel. ( Maybe too: I’m totally clueless and just applied everywhere in the top 10 to see what would happen.)  

– In the end, I wonder how much of this is financially-driven rather than ratings-driven. If a University wants to do needs-blind admissions and doesn’t have a massive endowment, then it may need to look for ways to attract/admit more full-pay students. (SSN has already made this point). ED, especially ED II, scoops up some of these kids. Recruiting at private schools is probably another strategy. My DC said the Admissions person at the EA accepted students event for our Metro area indicated that that group was predominantly private school applicants. Waitlist admissions can be used in a similar fashion. ED may also help the school avoid allocating merit money to (some) kids who would enroll even without that inducement. 

gordon gekko

[And my favorite post:]

– It’s time to remove colleges’ tax exempt status. The reasoning behind the exemption was that they provided a public service. Now they are businesses that seek to maximize revenue by admitting full pay domestic and foreign students, while admitting a few “lottery” financial aid students. Donut Hole parents (the bulk of the income tax payers) now find these schools out of reach. It’s ridiculous. This is no longer a public service. Tax the endowment income. These places are businesses.  

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[Sigh] Newer, bigger, and shinier is not always better. In my opinion, this move by UChicago comes straight from the Gordon Gekko School of Calculated Greed. And we all know that “Greed is good!” Right, Gordon?

As my favorite CC poster above notes: “It’s ridiculous. This is no longer a public service. Tax the endowment income. These places are businesses.”

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Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

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