Changed Admissions Policy Leads to Surge in Applications

A change in Boston College Early Admissions policy led to a significant increase in the number of applicants for the class of 2023. The Office of Undergraduate Admission received 15,862 Early Action applications, a surge of 50 percent from last year’s applicant pool of 10,350. The University admitted 4,488 students in December, an acceptance rate of about 28 percent. Including regular decision applicants, BC received over 35,000 applications for the incoming freshman class — a new record.

Represented among accepted students are all 50 states, three of five U.S. territories, and 49 countries. AHANA+ applicants make up 35 percent of accepted students, a jump of four percent from last year’s early admission yield.

Admitted students averaged a 34 on the ACT and a 1477 on the SAT. Last year, Early Action admits averaged a 33 and 1453, respectively. In 2016—the first wave of applicants who took the new, 1600-point SAT—the average scores were 33 and 1425.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is aiming for a freshman class size of 2,300, with 40 percent—920 students—coming from Early Action offers.

The uptick in Early Admissions applications can in large part be attributed to the removal of a restriction that excluded students who were applying to other schools through a binding Early Decision process.

In entering an Early Decision pool, applicants agree to attend the college if accepted, signaling that they consider the school their top choice. Early Action plans, on the other hand, are not a commitment to any particular school. Both paths allow applicants to receive admissions results in late fall or early winter.

“Over the past several years, BC’s Early Action program included a restriction that prevented applicants in binding early decision pools elsewhere from applying early action to Boston College,” Grant Gosselin, director of undergraduate admission, said in an email. “Recent changes to our national association’s guidelines forced us to reconsider our policy last spring, leading us to remove that restriction this year. While we anticipated that this would result in a larger application pool, we did not expect an increase of more than 50 percent.”

BC’s previous policy represented a middle ground between normal Early Action and single-choice Early Action, which is nonbinding but prevents students from applying to other schools Early Action or Early Decision. The change brings BC in line with typical Early Action programs and allows student who might otherwise forgo applying to take an early interest in the University.

The new policy has also caused a change in the balance between early and regular-decision applicants. The total applicant pool increased by approximately 6,000 — 14 percent — from last year, but almost the regular decision wave actually fell by nearly 2,000, indicating that prospective students are shifting their focus to the early admissions process.

While the altered policy does allow for students to apply to an Early Decision school and BC simultaneously, the BC Admissions website asks that since such candidates have promised to prioritize other colleges, they should consider not applying Early Action.

In line with past years, Gosselin identified the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, and members of the Ivy League as BC’s top rivals for applicants. Of those, Georgetown and Notre Dame have an early admission policy which, like BC’s previous stance, bars students applying Early Decision elsewhere. Most Ivy League schools offer traditional Early Decision plans, although Harvard, Princeton, and Yale offer single-choice Early Action.

Gosselin said that sheer volume of applications posed a challenge to admissions staff.

“To achieve this level of care, we expanded our early action application review period by 50 percent to mirror the overall application increase,” he said. “All of our deadlines and decisions were mailed on time, but the task was monumental. I’m enormously proud of the work that the admission staff committed to the review of this record applicant pool.”

Correction (1/22/19, 11:40 p.m.): Georgetown University’s early admissions program was initially mischaracterized as being standard Early Action.

Featured Graphic by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor