Students begin to hear college early admissions decisions

December is a special time of the year for high school seniors. This is when students who applied early to college learn if they were admitted.

About 10,600 students could log onto the University of Georgia's admissions site beginning Friday to learn if they were among the 6,100 admitted. (The site is www.admissions.uga.edu.)

Students apply through early admission when a college is their first choice. While the number of students who applied early to UGA remained about the same, other Georgia public colleges saw increases. Georgia Tech reported a 15 percent increase and Georgia State University had a 21 percent increase.

"Students like this option because they can know in December or January that they have at least one college under their belt," said Scott Burke, director of admissions at Georgia State.

About 15 percent of all four-year colleges offer early-application programs and the plans are common among the most competitive public and private universities, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Last year, 65 percent of the colleges with early decision said they admitted more students through this process, according to the group's survey.

Increased student demand has led some colleges to rethink their policies. Harvard University and the University of Virginia announced in 2006 they were eliminating early decision to be more accessible to low-income students. Critics say early admissions programs benefit wealthier students who can take offers early instead of comparing financial aid packages from multiple colleges. But Virginia said last month it will resume early admission and Harvard is reviewing its policy.

Sarah McCauley logged onto UGA’s site Friday and learned she got in. She also applied early to University North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will hear from them next month. She plans to apply to four more colleges.

"I’m so excited!" said the senior from North Atlanta High. "It’s such a relief to know I got into a school. I know I’m going somewhere next year."

Sarah Herring, a senior at Valdosta High, applied early to UGA and was waiting Friday afternoon to see if she got in.  She's also planning to apply to Georgia State and Valdosta State University.

"I just wanted to go ahead and find out if I got in and if you apply early, you don't have to do any essays," she said.

Early applications are often based only on grades and test scores. While a higher percentage of students are admitted this way, officials said the pool of applicants is often stronger academically than those who apply through the traditional process.

"It is not easier," Burke said. "We don't weaken our standards."

Georgia State will notify students by Jan. 8 if  they were admitted through early action. This year's applicants had an average grade point average of 3.53 -- up from last year's 3.37, Burke said.

Georgia Tech admitted 57 percent or 2,563 of  the 4,484 students who applied early, according to officials. The admitted students had an average 3.99  grade point average and a 1436 out of 1600 on the math and verbal sections of the SAT.

UGA admitted 100 more students through early admission this year, said Nancy McDuff, associate vice president for admissions and enrollment management. Grade point averages for those accepted ranged from 3.87 to 4.07 and their SAT scores ranged from 1230 to 1390 on the math and verbal sections. The students took an average of six college-level Advanced Placement classes, she said.

Colleges have room for more students.

McDuff predicted UGA will receive about 18,000 applications total. The target enrollment is 4,800 freshmen for the summer or fall semesters. About half the students admitted to UGA enroll.