While occasionally colleges extend application deadlines in response to hurricanes or other natural disasters, Tufts’ announcement in October that it would extend its Early Decision I (EDI) deadline from November 1 to November 17 in response to COVID-19 and various natural disasters didn’t pass the smell test.
It’s one thing to be or appear charitable by giving struggling students a few extra days or a week to complete their applications; yet, giving every applicant seventeen extra days to submit applications EDI is an extreme act that reeked of desperation.
Now, we are getting Common App data that supports our suspicions.
Inside Higher Ed shared that Common Application colleges are seeing average application declines of eight percent this fall. Meanwhile applications for first-generation students and those eligible for fee waivers are down sixteen percent so far. A full sixty percent of Common App colleges are seeing application declines. In addition Common App colleges and universities in the Northeast and Midwest experienced the steepest declines in application volume – down a full fourteen percent compared to last year.
While we don’t yet know if Tufts is one of the schools with application declines, by pushing its EDI deadline out nearly three weeks the university is signaling that it at least wanted more EDI applications to review for some reason (either a dip in application numbers or some other internal application target not being met).
This was all expected and is one of the main reasons why colleges were so fast to go SAT- or ACT-optional for members of the high school class of 2021. Colleges rightly worried that pandemic closure-induced job/income losses and the ongoing pandemic itself would scare students away from wanting to live and learn in close quarters far from home. This is an acute worry at second tier or lower colleges that cost a pretty penny to attend. Interestingly, with so many colleges now SAT- and ACT-optional it is likely that only the biggest name colleges are benefitting greatly from the test-optional trend while others like Tufts that have limited name-brand appeal are likely getting overlooked by students newly-emboldened to apply to reach colleges they would have never considered if their SAT or ACT scores were any good.
For instance, let’s say you are a straight A student with a 1010 on the SAT; in a typical year you would never apply to anything other than your state university an a few others with relatively low test score averages. This year, you say to yourself, “I might as well put in an app or two to Harvard and Yale since they won’t look at my scores.” Notice how Tufts (or other similar schools) was not mentioned in such a hypothetical student’s line of reasoning. That’s because most college applicants have never heard of Tufts. Those who have are also probably holding off on applying EDI to Tufts when the school also offers EDII. This is because many typical EDI Tufts applicants are now going to try and swing for the fences at Brown, Penn, Princeton, or Harvard. Tufts likely finds itself in a doughnut hole of a situation. With that in mind its EDI acceptance rate is either likely to skyrocket, or, to save face, Tufts will reduce the total number of students accepted EDI in order to maintain the veneer of selectivity that it wants to portray to the world. Alternatively, Tufts might just not report EDI stats at all and instead lump them in with its EDII numbers later this winter.
Only time will tell.