“Admissions creep” is the term the National Association for College Counseling has coined for the tendency that universities have to admit students earlier and earlier in their senior year. The result is that high school seniors often use their admissions letters as an excuse to blow off rigorous courses. That’s why the NACAC is now requiring its 1,600 member schools to give applicants until May 1 to respond to admissions offers. “More and more colleges are admitting students earlier, so their senior year kind of goes away,” Joyce E. Smith, chief executive of the association, told the New York Times. Known as National Candidates’ Reply Date, the May 1st deadline will be more strictly adhered to beginning this year.

In another policy change, NACAC is also asking its members not to offer extra incentives to students who state a particular university is their “first choice.”  Perks have often included the first choice of housing or classes. “Colleges were putting far too much emphasis on students’ responses,” Smith says. “A 17- or 18-year-old may not have a strong preference for No. 1 over No. 3.”  For students who have no doubts, they still have the option of early decision.