I was discussing the admissions process for the EECS department with a friend at lunch today, and a question popped into my head. Why is there nothing similar to "early decision" for applying to grad school? Actual early decision probably would not work, as we have no admissions office reading applications, so the extra work of going through applications early would be too much. My idea is instead to have a checkbox on the regular application, saying something to the effect of, "If admitted, will accept offer." This should probably actually say something like you won't accept an offer from another school, whatever the early decision form says for undergrad admissions.
According to my friend, this information would be useful during the admissions process. There are lots of qualified students that get rejected for essentially arbitrary reasons, and with this information, it might be slightly less arbitrary, as certain students could be accepted to guarantee a certain yield. The very top students would be admitted regardless of whether they had committed or not, but for others, checking the box may provide their application with a little boost. Of course, applicants who don't check the box may be at a disadvantage compared to those who do. But, some applicants who would definitely come to Berkeley may be at a disadvantage now, since they can't communicate this information to the admissions committee.
Anyway, I'm curious as to what others think about this proposal.