When Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia announced in 2006 that they would eliminate their early admissions programs in the 2007-08 application season, they may have increased -- however inadvertently -- the overall frenzy of college admissions. Think of it as the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

In his thought-provoking opinion in the NY Times, John Etchemendy, the provost of Stanford University, maintains: "Ending early admission programs increases the level of frenzy in the application process; it does not decrease it." As he points out, in recent years, Harvard, Princeton, and UVA have collectively admitted 2,500 students early. Those 2,500 students would normally be off the market. Now those 2,500 students are still in play, and they have submitted probably 8-10 applications each (that's probably

conservative -- more likely 10-15 each) and so they have swelled the application pools by at least 20,000 to 25,000 applications! In this blogger's opinion, the effect is probably even greater than Etchemendy indicated: these aren't just 20,000 average applications -- they are applications from the most stellar students. So the fact that they are still in play has much more competitive impact.

Indeed, the reports of the soaring early admission pools at the elite schools that overlap with Harvard, Princeton, and UVA offer solid support for Etchemendy's opinion. The University of Chicago saw a 46% increase in its Early Action, while Yale had a 36% increase, and Georgetown a 31% increase. Georgetown's longtime dean of undergraduate admissions, Charles Deacon, was particularly candid about the spillover effects resulting from the elimination of early admissions at Harvard, Princeton, and UVA: “Those three universities have a significant impact on our own applicant pool. Without their early programs, there are approximately 8,000 to 10,000 students trying to get into a school that’s non-binding, and so they have a good reason to apply to Georgetown.” While this may be good news for Georgetown, it will almost certainly be bad news for many applicants, as Deacon envisions an admit rate that will probably fall from 21% to 18%. While some counselors had anticipated that the elite schools with non-binding Early Action programs would have sharp surges in their early pools, the increase at one of UVA's overlap schools with binding Early Decision was quite unexpected: Vanderbilt saw a 41% increase in its ED pool!