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ZACK WAJSGRAS/THE DAILY PROGRESS Jessica Liddle (right), who graduated with a Spanish major, takes a selfie with Dean of Students Allen Groves near the Rotunda before final exercises for the graduating class of 2018 at the University of Virginia on Saturday. The College of Arts and Sciences held their graduation first, while all remaining graduates followed suit the next day.

Admissions season is year-round for many colleges, with some top colleges filling nearly half of their freshman classes through early admissions processes that start at the beginning of fall. UVa is no exception; on Jan. 25, the school announced its Class of 2023 is so far more selective and more diverse than the previous year.

A record 25,126 students applied early, according to the school. UVa awarded 6,550 acceptances, for an offer rate of 26 percent.

Early-action admissions processes mean a student can still apply to and decide to go to other schools. Many selective institutions use a process called early decision, where a student must commit to attend if they are awarded admission.

 “Applying [to UVa] felt more like a pipe dream to me rather than something realistic,” said Sara Dunklee, who lives in Newport News. “I was sitting in the living room with my family and was taken by surprise when I received the email notification that decisions were out.”

Dunklee said she hopes to study biology and eventually attend medical school. She’s “almost certain” she’ll attend UVa, but she wants to hear back from all of the other 10 schools to which she applied.

UVa used early decision until 2007, when it switched to one deadline in an attempt to simplify the process and attract more low-income applicants. In 2012, the school began offering non-binding early action. Its applications, and offers, have soared since.

Greg Roberts, UVa’s dean of admissions, said the school made more early-action offers than in 2018, but because there were so many applications, the school was still able to be selective.

Overall, a record 40,804 students applied to UVa — either through early action or regular decision — between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1.

“Academically, the early pool is stronger than the regular decision pool,” Roberts said. “Approximately 62 percent of the applicants applied early. The breadth and strength of the group is impressive and the early-action pool continues to become more diverse with increasing numbers of first-gen and minority students in the [early-action] round.”

According to UVa, the university granted early-action admission to 41 percent more students who would be the first in their family to attend college and to nearly 4 percent more to minority students.

The College of William & Mary uses early decision. Virginia Tech uses both early action and early decision.

However, applying early, particularly for a binding process, does make it tougher for prospective students to compare financial aid packages. Many colleges’ sites warn students not to apply through early decision if they plan to apply for scholarships.

According to a 2016 analysis by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Ivy League schools admit early admissions applications at rates three to five times higher than other applicants, the equivalent of “a 100-point bonus on the SAT.”

“Low-income students are half as likely to apply early, even though doing so would dramatically increase their likelihood of admission; this remains true even when applying to institutions that practice so-called ‘need-blind’ admissions,” the report stated. “Recognizing the unfairness of the early admissions practice for low-income students, in 2006 Harvard College, Princeton University and the University of Virginia eliminated early admissions from their processes entirely. When no other selective institutions followed suit, all three institutions reinstated the practice within five years.”

The number of early applications to UVa has doubled since 2012, according to a post on a blog run by Jeannine Lalonde, UVa associate dean of admissions.

The school hopes to eventually enroll about 3,750 first-year students. It accepts many more students than that goal, because many students will choose not to attend UVa.

Students who were not awarded early admissions will be deferred to the regular admissions cycle. Those decisions will be released March 1. Students will have until May 1 to accept their offers.

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Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, or @RuthServen on Twitter.

Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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