Early Decision I applications: Inside the admissions process

Early Decision I applications from prospective students were due to the University on Nov. 15. Early Decision applications require students to commit to attending the University if accepted. Following this round of Early Decision I, Early Decision II applications are due on Jan. 15. While the Regular Decision applications are also due on Jan. 15, Regular Decision applications are non-binding and the applicants receive notice of admission later than Early Decision II applicants. Early Decision I applicants will receive notice of admission in mid-December.

“There are no set criteria for students in Early Decision or Regular Decision. Since high schools across the world are so different, we look at everything in context of the environment the student is in,” Dean of Admissions Kevin Mathes said. The admissions team understands that course offerings vary from high school to high school; however, they look for students who have opted to take more challenging courses. These courses include, but are not limited to, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, Dual Enrollment, Honors, and Advanced classes.

“Were also looking for students who perform well in their classes and students we feel will enrich our campus community,” Mathes said. “Given Bucknell is a primarily residential campus and students interact with each other frequently, we seek characteristics that are not quantifiable: kindness, compassion, empathy, grit, determination, creativity, resilience, and a willingness to engage with others from different backgrounds than your own.”

Overall, this is a busy time for the admissions teams and their student assistants. “We get a lot of questions about what documents are required for the application and what the admissions counselors look for,” Student Admissions E-mail/Phone Assistant Ali Lamson ’20 said. “The admissions counselors take a holistic approach to looking at a person’s application, meaning that they look at their test scores, teacher recommendations, transcript, and extracurricular activities, as well as the essays in their application.”

In terms of the admissions process itself, as Lamson mentioned, the University takes special care to read and review each application comprehensively. For Early Decision and Regular Decision, the admissions team conducts the same two-round application process. “Once the applicant file is complete, we begin our review process, which is based on a team approach, or as many schools call it, Committee Based Evaluation (CBE),” Mathes said. “With this approach, two admission readers review the application at the same time. The admission officer in charge of the state/region will review our supplement, the high school report/high school profile, transcript, test scores, and counselor recommendation. The reading partner for the day will review personal background, extracurricular involvements, essay, and teacher recommendation.”

Having two admissions readers per application allows for an accurate and fair review of the applicant. After reviewing the application, the readers share their comments concerning the applicant and discuss whether or not they see the applicant as a good fit for the University. This culminates the first round of review, from which the applications are passed to a second round of review.

While the first round focuses more on the individual, the second round focuses on the individual’s fit among the potential new class. Mathes and senior members of the admissions team conduct the second round. They review information from the first round, add information as they see necessary, and consider the potential individuals together to ensure a cohesive class.

“Our goal is to enroll 980 students for the Class of 2023, out of which 620 will be in the College of Arts and Sciences, 200 will be in the College of Engineering, and 160 will be in the Freeman College of Management,” Mathes said. “As the second review is being done and we make a final decision, we have to make sure we don’t admit too many in one college or we risk over enrollment. Once all files have a final decision, we double-check everything before releasing decisions online to our applicants.”

“Between our Early Decision I and Early Decision II rounds we look to enroll about 40 percent of the class. This can fluctuate a bit year to year based on the applicant pool, but we try to ensure over half of the incoming first-year class comes from Regular Decision applicants,” Mathes said.

In enrolling students to the University, the admissions team reviews countless applications. “For me, the most difficult part of the process is turning away wonderful students,” Mathes said. “We’re very fortunate at Bucknell to have a robust pool of qualified applicants who would be successful at Bucknell. But that means we can’t admit everyone we like, and that can be challenging.”

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