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Who Goes Early?: A Multi-Level Analysis of Enrolling via Early Action and Early Decision Admissions


by Julie J. Park & M. Kevin Eagan — 2011

Background/Context: Several studies have identified that applicants who apply to college via early admissions programs tend to be White and affluent. Because researchers have also identified benefits with applying early, akin to a 100 point boost on the SAT, such programs raise questions around equity in the college admissions process.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study/Research Design: We used cross-classified hierarchical generalized linear modeling to examine predictors of enrolling due to being admitted through an early decision or early action program in a national dataset of 88,086 students. Although research has investigated the types of institutions that tend to offer early action and early decision programs, the types of students who apply to these programs, and the types of high schools that they come from, no prior study has examined these three contexts simultaneously.

Findings/Results: When controlling for high school, individual, and institutional characteristics, receiving private college counseling was the strongest predictor of enrolling due to early admissions. We suggest that elevated levels of cultural capital help explain why White and affluent students are more likely to enroll via early admissions.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Our findings indicate that early admissions programs, and in particular, early decision, perpetuate social privilege and stratification. At a minimum, institutions need to look inward and ask serious questions about the patterns of who applies and is accepted via early policies, and the implications of offering advantages to students who generally already are advantaged in the admissions process.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 11, 2011, p. 2345-2373
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16103, Date Accessed: 10/17/2017 5:52:05 AM

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About the Author
  • Julie Park
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    JULIE J. PARK is an assistant professor in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research interests include racial diversity in higher education, college access, and Asian American students. Recent publications include “Taking race into account: Charting student attitudes towards affirmative action” in Research in Higher Education and “Attitudes and advocacy: Understanding faculty attitudes on racial/ethnic diversity” (with Nida Denson) in The Journal of Higher Education.
  • M. Kevin Eagan
    University of California, Los Angeles
    M. KEVIN EAGAN is a postdoctoral researcher at the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute. His research interests include STEM education and community colleges. Recent publications include “Effects of exposure to part-time faculty on community college transfer” (with Audrey Jaeger) and “Training Future Scientists: Predicting First-year Minority Student Participation in Health Science Research” (with Sylvia Hurtado, et al.), both in Research in Higher Education.
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