Early College Admissions

College-bound students need plenty of time, patience, and support as they (and usually their parents) wend their way through the maze that has become today's college admissions process.

Competition to get into the best schools has become fiercer as more students seek to earn a degree, and as colleges try to pick the best and the brightest to be in their classrooms.

One pressure tactic used by universities in recent years is to force students to make binding early decisions to enroll. In fact, in the past several years, top colleges had been admitting more than 40 percent of their freshman classes on such an "early decision" basis. That often doesn't give students the research time they need to investigate schools, and it discriminates against students who must wait to hear if they will receive federal financial aid.

But a small change in the way U.S. News and World Report ranks the nation's colleges and universities in its annual survey should help relieve some of the pressure. The magazine says it will no longer figure in the percentage of applicants accepted by a college who later actually enroll - known as a college's "yield rate."

It was a smart move. Too many schools - especially Ivy League institutions, looking for any paper-thin edge they could find - had been pushing students to make binding early-admission decisions, just to boost their yield rate, and give their school a higher ranking in the magazine's list.

The academic playing field will be a bit more level with the change.

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