A few thoughts:
When Harvard went back to SCEA, their early admit rate was pretty comparable to YPS – and it was easy to accept their explanation that your chances in the SCEA round were no different than the RD round.
However, for the class of 2018, Harvard took more than half their class in the early round (895 students) – that’s 246 more students than Yale took SCEA, 198 more students than Princeton took SCEA and 170 more students than Stanford took SCEA.
Class of 2018 SCEA Acceptance Rates:
Stanford = 10.77%
Yale = 15.47%
Princeton = 18.53%
Harvard = 21.24%
By taking so many more applicants in the SCEA round than their peers – both in sheer numbers and percentage wise – Harvard was “tipping their hat.” They were letting student’s know that if you really wanted Harvard, your chances are better applying in the early round.
However, for the class of 2019, Harvard scaled back their SCEA acceptances, while Princeton ramped up theirs
Class of 2019 SCEA Acceptance Rates:
Stanford = 10.2%
Yale = 16%
Princeton = 19.9%
Harvard = 16.5%
Keep in mind that HYP admit most of their recruited athletes in the SCEA round – that’s about 200 to 240 students per school, which is one reason why HYP’s SCEA acceptance rate is higher than Stanford’s. Also, HYP defers more students in the SCEA round than they could ever hope to admit in the RD round (and that’s not including those student’s that apply in the RD round). Stanford does not do this.
For the class of 2020, it’s really anyone’s guess which school will accept more students in the SCEA round. So, rather than try to second-guess the issue, student’s should apply to the school they like the best, and let the chips fall where they may.