Wake Forest Announces Early Action for First-Generation Admissions

A new early action option from Wake Forest will inform first-generation students of their admission decision by Jan. 15, giving them more time to weigh their options for higher education.
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Published on August 8, 2023
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  • Wake Forest University announced an early action for admissions option specifically for first-generation students.
  • That option will let students know of their admission decision by Jan. 15.
  • First-generation students face barriers to applying for college and sometimes miss out on early action deadlines.

First-generation students face unique barriers to applying for college and often miss out on early decision deadlines for admission.

A 2021 Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) report found college "early decision" deadlines often give an advantage to wealthier students with more resources. That report noted that historically underserved students, including first-generation students, often aren't aware of those deadlines or don't have the resources to decide on college early in their senior year.

"The research makes clear that early decision deadlines are at odds with equitably enrolling students from low-income backgrounds, first-generation students, and students of color," the report reads. "Applying early decision can boost a student's likelihood of being admitted to an institution — particularly a selective institution — but it is difficult for underserved students to take advantage of this benefit."

Now, one college is taking a unique approach to ensure that first-generation students have access to early admissions: Wake Forest University is creating an early action option specifically for first-generation students that will let them know of their admission decision by Jan. 15 so that prospective students will still have time to consider other admission offers and financial aid options before making their final plans for college.

"With this policy, Wake Forest is the first top-30 national university to offer an Early Action option specifically for first-generation students," Eric Maguire, vice president for enrollment at Wake Forest, said in a press release.

Maguire, who was the first person in his family to graduate from college, underscored the school's commitment to accessibility in announcing the new early action initiative.

"We are focused on continually improving opportunity and accessibility and this is one important way to do that," Maguire said in the release.

Wake Forest University President Susan R. Wente said in the release that universities are "called to be catalysts for good in society."

"This means lowering barriers to accessing the extraordinary educational opportunities we offer here," Wente said. "This initiative is one such way to make the path to Wake Forest clearer for first-generation college students, who often do not take advantage of early admission programs to the same degree as students from college-educated families do."

The private North Carolina college counts first-generation students as "those whose parents did not graduate from a four-year accredited college or university" and "the children of parents who earned a degree in another country, immigrated to the United States, and are underemployed in the U.S."

"Whether domestic or international, if the student resides with and receives support from only one parent, the 'first generation' classification is based on that parent's education," the Wake Forest release reads.

Wake Forest offers several first-generation support programs, including its First in the Forest Program, which provides first-generation students with resources throughout their time at the university.

"Wake Forest has always had a deep commitment to first-generation students and supporting their access and success," Maguire said in the release. "The real advantage of this plan is that first-generation students who want to come to Wake Forest have a new option to apply Early Action and know that the University values their experience and wants to create more opportunity for them."

The deadline to apply is Nov. 15.

Wake Forest's move to engage first-generation students with early action in the admissions process comes as colleges grapple with how to ensure on-campus diversity following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban race as a factor in admissions.

The 6-3 decision by the Supreme Court's conservative majority to ban affirmative action in admissions led colleges across the country to scrap their race-conscious admissions policies and will likely lead to a drop in enrollment among Black and Hispanic and Latino/a students.

Engaging with first-generation students can be a way for colleges to keep doors open to students of color: 60% of Hispanic and 59% of Black college graduates were first-generation students in 2015-2016, according to the Center for First-Generation Student Success.

Some colleges, including Virginia Tech, have since completely slashed early decision and legacy admissions.