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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The start of a revolution or brilliant PR move?

Harvard surprised a lot of people yesterday when it announced that it was abandoning the early action program. Interestingly, Harvard was the first school to put "single choice" early action into place in 2003. What brought about this change? For three years, Harvard (and other schools that felt compelled to follow suit) has been using a restrictive form of EA that heavily benefited the school and not students.

So, why the change? Read the news articles about the move and the quotes are about righting the wrongs of the process. If that is the intention, then I think this is a wonderful move and I hope that it takes hold elsewhere.

But, there's a tiny, cynical voice in my head that can't help but look at this as a PR/marketing move.

One week ago, Daniel Golden's book came out. Harvard was blasted repeatedly. Story after story talked about admission practices that gave preference to the rich. One admission professional estimated that only 40% of space in the incoming freshman class was open to students without "connections".

So last week, news agencies picked up on the hype. Golden's former employer, Wall Street Journal, has a story front and center about "silver spoon admission". All the major cable news networks had articles. The buzz was good and I'm sure Golden's publisher was elated.

But then the Harvard story came out. All of a sudden, the news cycle was hijacked. Golden's book was last week's news and Harvard was the big story. Brilliant work on the media/public relations office if my cynical voice is correct. Announce a year early to allow others to follow along, do what so many wish would be done, and bury a story that was unfavorable.


Regardless of why Harvard did what it did, I'm thrilled that a step has been made in the right direction. I can't wait to see what comes next!