The Latest On Being Early

Here's a tip for high-school kids who want to avoid the college-admissions frenzy: add the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to your list. UNC is the first major university to drop "early decision" admissions. Early decision, which requires students to attend in return for getting a fat envelope months before the regular deadline, has become increasingly important--and controversial--at elite schools. More and more colleges are accepting larger numbers of students early, raising their yield (the percentage of accepted students who attend) and fueling a panic among students who believe they have to "go early" or they won't get in anywhere.

UNC's move came just a few months after Yale president Richard Levin urged a halt. Levin and others contend that early decision favors richer kids who have access to better college counseling. But Yale says it won't change until its competitors do the same, and so far, only a couple of schools have heeded the call. In March, Beloit College, a top liberal-arts college in Wisconsin, announced that it would stop. UNC officials say their decision came after three years of trying to make early decision as fair as possible. Despite those efforts, says admissions director Jerome Lucido, early applicants were more likely to be white and affluent than regular applicants. It was important, he says, for UNC to "do the right thing." Anybody else?