NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ So many students have been admitted early to the Ivy League colleges that a good part of next year's freshman classes already are filled.

Poor students who cannot attend an elite school without financial aid may be most affected.

Harvard has admitted 72 percent of its freshmen class under an early action program. At Yale, the early decision program has brought in 41 percent of next year's class. At Columbia, 45 percent of the seats are gone.

``The frenzy picks up and students feel that they're going to be left out,'' said Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Alexandria, Va.

``Because (early admission plans) have gotten more visibility, more and more parents feel that's the only way their children are going to get in,'' Smith said.

Renee Gernand of the College Board in New York said guidance counselors, especially at highly competitive private prep schools, are pushing their best and brightest to apply early.

``All my friends are worried about if they're going to get in or where they're going to get in, and I'm coasting now,'' said Jeremy Falcone, 18, of Madison, who will attend Yale in the fall. ``Everyone is just chewing their fingernails.''

More than 400 colleges and universities have some form of early application program, including many of the country's 120 most-selective schools.

Students benefit because they don't have to spend their entire senior year fretting. And administrators are assured of having bright students for whom the school was their first choice, and they don't have to do as much recruiting.

Admissions officers admit that financially needy students can be left out in the rush. Poorer students are less likely to apply early because the early admissions process, in many cases, does not allow for comparisons.

Under most early decision programs _ including those at Dartmouth, Cornell and Yale _ students must commit to attending that school if they are accepted. They are held to that promise, regardless of the financial aid package offered.

Don Saleh, Cornell's dean of admissions and financial aid, concedes that applying early is a leap of faith for needy students.

``I think what this comes down to may be two different decisions the students and the parents have to make: How strongly do they feel that this is the best place to be, and the degree that they trust that the institution will offer a reasonable financial aid package?'' he said.

Ivy League administrators stress that academic standards are the same whenever the application is made and that personal finances play no role in whether a student is accepted. They aim to provide an aid package _ typically a combination of loans, grants and work-study _ that meet a student's full need.

Margit Dahl, director of undergraduate admissions at Yale, says students who apply early often have college-educated parents who have done a lot of planning and coaching.

``These are students who are that much ahead,'' she said.