New numbers suggest a potential decline in early decision applications

Preliminary data from college-readiness software firm Naviance appears to back up anecdotal reports that some colleges are experiencing a decline in early decision applications, according to Inside Higher Ed

The number of students applying to colleges via early decision, in which they commit to attending, if admitted, had been increasing every year. However, the college applications tracked in the last year by Naviance’s tools indicated a steep drop for early decision—from 171,103 early decision applications in 2019 to 121,903 in 2020—and stagnation in the number of students applying early action, a non-binding early admissions process.

While critics of the Naviance data have said it disproportionately includes students who attend upper-class high schools, the firm says its sample is representative and now includes half of the largest public school districts.

It remains unclear why fewer students are applying early decision, Amy Reitz, the general manager of educational technology firm Hobsons, which runs Naviance, said, adding that students’ overall application rates have held steady. The data also showed disparities in early application rates. Black and Latinx students were less likely than their white and Asian peers to apply early decision.

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