News, University News

University accepts record low 18 percent of early decision applicants

Applicant pool up 21 percent this year, largest number of ED applicants in University history

University News Editor
Thursday, December 13, 2018

The University admitted 18 percent of early decision applicants to the class of 2023, marking the lowest early decision acceptance rate in the University’s history, according to Dean of Admission Logan Powell. Seven hundred and sixty-nine students were accepted out of 4,230 applicants, which was the largest early decision applicant pool the University has ever seen, Powell said.

The number of early decision applications grew 21 percent from last year, when 3,501 students applied early decision, The Herald previously reported. The acceptance rate fell due to the large volume of applications, Powell said.

The Brown Promise — which replaced all loans in University financial aid packages with grants — had a major impact on the size and composition of the early decision applicant pool this year, Powell said. Since the University officially announced the initiative in December 2017 after the early decision deadline and right before the regular decision deadline, this year’s early decision applicant pool was the first group of prospective students to “change dramatically as a result of the Brown Promise,” Powell said.

Over half of the admits intend to apply for financial aid, more than any previous cohort of early decision admits in at least six years. The University also saw a 45 percent increase in applications from the Midwest this cycle. Both trends are “directly attributable to (the) Brown Promise,” Powell said.

“These were students who — in some cases, geographically or socioeconomically — might not have thought Brown was going to be affordable for them,” Powell added. The “Brown Promise now gives them an indication that Brown is affordable for them.”

Additionally, 12 percent of early decision admits are first-generation students, the largest number of students in at least six years, Powell said. Forty-four percent of admitted students identify as people of color, up from the 38 percent of early decision admits to the class of 2022, The Herald previously reported. Of the 769 admitted students, 390 identify as women while 379 identify as men, Powell added.

Students admitted early to the class of 2023 represent 46 states and 37 nations, Powell said. China, the United Kingdom, India, Singapore and Canada are the most represented foreign countries, he added.

Though there has been a decline in the number of international students attending American colleges over the past two years, “we’re actually seeing increases in international students applying to Brown,” Powell said. He suggested that the University’s strong reputation abroad, the presence of dedicated alums in foreign countries and the Open Curriculum continue to attract international students to the University, despite national trends “in the opposite direction.”

“This is the beginning of another phenomenal class,” Powell said. “They’re talented, they’re socioeconomically diverse, they’re geographically diverse, they’re going to add incredible perspectives to the Brown community, and we’re happy to welcome them.”

Out of the early decision applicant pool, 27 percent were denied admission and 55 percent were deferred. The University denied more and deferred fewer early decision applicants this year, Powell said. Last year, 12 percent of early decision applicants were denied while 66 percent were deferred, The Herald previously reported.

This shift came in response to “nearly unanimous” feedback from high school counselors who suggested the University should deny early decision applicants who would not be competitive in regular decision rather than deferring them, Powell said. As the volume of applications has increased in recent years, the University has become more selective, he added.

“We want to be clear about an applicant’s chances in our pool,” Powell said. “In the short term, (being denied admission) is hard news to take. But if we can help the student refocus, recalibrate, shift their attention to a school that’s a better academic fit, then that’s the right thing for us to do.”


  1. Jacob, this is a fascinating. Thanks for the illuminating charts and commentary.

    You have shown the legacy/non-legacy and color information for the Accepted category. It would be educational to have the same information for the Deferred and Denied categories as well.

    • The first gen/not first gen is not referring to legacy status. It is referring to whether or not someone in the applicant’s family went to any 4 year college in the USA (it might also include the international equivalent of a bachelor’s). If no one in the family has been to college, then they are the “first generation” to go to college.

      • Why do you get points from coming from an uneducated family?

        • Because uneducated families provide less resources than educated ones.

          Let’s pretend it’s a simple 100M dash and you’re a coach selecting one of 2 racers to take and develop for four years for a race in the future. One racer has been receiving coaching for years on the proper techniques to maximize their performance, training on a top of the line track with top of the line equipment (speed suit, shoes with better grip etc). The other has had absolutely no training, no experience, no idea on how to properly use starting blocks or what the most efficient way to run is and doesn’t even have shoes.

          The two of them race, and the person with all the training and experience finishes 1 step ahead of the other person. Yes, in this race, that person won, but which of the two do you think will be better in 4 years? The one who won the race but has received extensive training or the one who lost by one step but hasn’t been exposed to any of the world class training that is out there?

          • I get your point, but for better or worse, the one that received the training will be more successful. These first gen kids are out of their element, adjust poorly, require tons of money and resources and counseling when there, have mental health issues, etc where the other kids don’t.

  2. As one of those deferred students, I hope I’ll join you all after RD decisions come in March! The lowered number of deferred students gives me hope!

  3. Meanwhile, turning from the 19th Century admissions approach at Brown to the 21st Century:
    Brown spends 8 minutes per application, making a decision about who should attend.
    On average, 40% of students accepted to Brown go elsewhere.

    If you met someone on a first date, would you ask him/her to marry you after 8 minutes? What could be the objection? “I hardly know you” comes to mind. Neither side knows enough about the other to make a years-long commitment.

    Brown should deepen its relationships with high school students. It should teach AP courses online, and use Brown students as proctors who interact 1-on-1 with those high school students. Rather than base a decision upon essays and GPA, Brown (and the students) can base their decision to attend on years of interaction with professors and students. Brown proctors can recommend promising students to the University.

    Oh, and charge for the privilege. 10,000 students, half on scholarships, can earn $100 million a year for Brown (with 14 courses). This would add 10% to Brown’s current $900 million budget. Brown profs can be paid $200,000 per course, and Brown student proctors earn $200 per student. The scholarships can go to inner-city students who are so sought-after by Ivy League and other schools.

    Brown, your 19th Century tactics are long overdue for change.
    Tear down the system! Think in new ways!

    • Sounds nice, but this is the way every school does it. Harvard and Stanford are even worse. They only have two months to go through forty thousand applications. You are always into online courses. Most people are not into staying in their pajamas and taking on line courses. They want to be immersed in a university experience.

      • Really? That’s how “every” school does it?
        Anon–how do you intend to reach out to high school students? With 19th Century tactics? Why must a 68-year-old Brown alum need to teach Brown about social media, online courses, or earning an extra $100 million per year?
        Anon, do you favor spending 8 minutes per application? Basing a decision on such poor information? How do you think the high school student feels? What do they really know about Brown? Could that be the reason why 40% of those accepted to Brown go elsewhere?
        What “everyone” does is not good enough, Anon. Brown should be, can be better than that.

        • I don’t know where you have been, but there is this new thing called the internet. All the information that you want to find out about Brown or any school is available on line, including virtual reality tours to anyone on the globe. And Brown has endless social media sites on facebook, twitter, instagram, snapchat. etc in case you did not know. Brown is constantly posting pictures on line, check it out. No, they do not need an old geezer to tell them how to run a social media campaign. That is why for the last few years they have had more applications than at any point in their 254 year history.

          • In my educational initiatives to teach kids to read, I’ve found that it’s all about the one-on-one personal relationships. Simply having a “presence” online through facebook etc. is insufficient.
            Rather, Brown needs to form relationships with high school students beginning years before their application to Brown. In fact, the “application” process should be scrapped altogether. Both Brown and the prospective student should know one another well enough to make acceptance a foregone conclusion.
            We’re not talking about a ‘social media campaign’ (and this geezer founded 2 VC firms in Silicon Valley). Rather, a key feature of Brown offering AP classes is the interaction between Brown student proctors and the high school students. This is especially important for inner city and minority applications, whom are highly sought-after, and who need the assurance of good interpersonal support prior to going to university.
            Oh, and by the way, Anon. This program will generate $100 million per year for Brown, and pay each professor teaching a course an additional $200K, and pay each student proctor $200 per course/student/semester. That’s 14 courses, 10,000 AP students, half of whom are inner city scholarship AP students.
            Living in New Mexico, I know that there are many diamonds in the rough in hard-to-reach places, like Thoreau, Gallup, Raton, T or C, Navajo schools, and many others. These students and their teachers would kill to be able to interact with Brown profs and students.
            In short, Anon, this is not a ‘social media campaign.’ Rather, it’s a way to deepen one-on-one relationships between Brown students & profs and prospective Brown attendees. And it makes a boatload of money.
            BTW, since graduating from Brown, I’ve spent over $300K on my own education, and several million dollars for my employees for their education. Brown hasn’t seen a penny of that money. Do we “geezers” fall off a cliff after graduation (except for being Brown’s ATM)?
            Anon, new thinking is needed. Brown is a dead man walking–despite “more applications than…”, unless it moves from 19th Century admissions and teaching to the 21st Century.
            Now, Anon, I’m open to a better proposal…and it had better bring $100 million a year to the university.

    • Where are the disrupters, the new thinkers, the pioneers at Brown? Have you all been subsumed by an all-powerful administration? Or are you too focused on your own career chances to look up and see what Brown needs?
      I was part of the 1968 movement at Brown. We were bold, courageous and brought about creative destruction.
      Are today’s Brown students cowards, selfish and indifferent?
      Prove me wrong!

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