For the first time in Harvard’s history, more than 30,000 students applied to the College, leading to an admission rate of 6.9 percent for the Class of 2014. Letters of admission (and e-mail notifications) were sent on April 1 to 2,110 of the 30,489 applicants. More than 60 percent of the admitted students will receive need-based scholarships averaging $40,000, benefiting from a record $158 million in financial aid. Families with students on scholarship are expected to contribute an average of $11,500 annually toward the cost of a Harvard education.
A number of factors contributed to such unprecedented results. “In these uncertain economic times, prospective students and their families have been particularly drawn to the excellence of Harvard’s faculty and students, and its remarkable academic programs,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Harvard’s new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has underscored Harvard’s commitment to expanding opportunities in engineering and all the sciences. The University is also highly focused on fostering closer relationships between the College and Harvard’s rich array of graduate and professional Schools, as well as its numerous research and regional centers. These University resources, many of which focus on national and international public policy issues, greatly expand and enrich the experience for Harvard College students,” he said.
Applications to Harvard have doubled since 1994, and about half the increase has come since the University implemented a series of financial aid initiatives over the past five years to ensure that a Harvard education remains accessible and affordable for the best students from all economic backgrounds. “Financial aid has never been more important to students aspiring to higher education,” said Fitzsimmons. “The unwavering commitment of President Drew Faust, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael Smith, and Dean of the College Evelynn Hammonds to keeping Harvard’s doors open to all talented students sends a powerful message that reaches far beyond our campus,” he said. Seventy percent of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid.
In 2004, Harvard introduced the first in a series of financial aid initiatives that have greatly expanded its appeal to students from a wide range of backgrounds. For the first time, more than 25 percent of admitted students are eligible for this program that asks for no parental contribution from those with annual incomes under $60,000, and reduces contributions from families with incomes of $60,000 to $80,000. “The search for talented students from modest economic backgrounds is more intense than ever before — a public policy result that is of significant benefit to our nation,” said Fitzsimmons. “We hope the current economic environment, which is particularly challenging for families of modest means and for the school districts in which many of them live, will not discourage students from reaching their full potential and slow the progress evidenced in the past few years.”
Many additional students are eligible for the expanded aid, announced in December 2007, for middle- and upper-middle income families. Families with incomes up to $180,000 a year and typical assets are now asked to contribute from zero to 10 percent of their income; home equity is removed from financial aid calculations; and loans have been eliminated for all students.
By standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance, this year’s applicant pool reflects an unprecedented level of excellence. For example, more than 3,000 applicants scored a perfect 800 on the SAT Critical Reading Test; 4,100 scored 800 on the SAT Math Test; and nearly 3,600 were ranked first in their high school classes.
More than half of the applicant pool and more than half (52.4 percent) of those admitted are men. Last year, both the pool and the admitted group were also comprised of more males, but the matriculating class had slightly more women, because a higher percentage of them accepted their offer of admission.
Minority representation remained strong in this year’s admitted group, and similar to last year’s numbers, although it is difficult to make precise comparisons to previous years because of changes in federal requirements concerning the collection and reporting of race and ethnicity information. A total of 18.2 percent of the admitted students indicated they were Asian-American (17.5 percent last year), 11.3 percent African-American (10.4 percent last year), 10.3 percent Latino (10.6 percent last year), 2.7 percent Native American (1.1 percent last year) and 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian (0.2 percent last year).
Geographic representation remained similar to last year’s figures. Nearly 24 percent of the admitted students are from the mid-Atlantic states, 21 percent from the Western and Mountain states, 18 percent from the South, 16 percent from New England, 11 percent from the Midwest, and 10 percent from the U.S. territories and abroad.
Foreign citizens make up 9 percent of the admitted students. In addition, a significant number of other entering students will bring an international perspective, including 135 U.S. dual citizens, 92 U.S. permanent residents, and many Americans who have lived abroad. Together, foreign citizens, U.S. duals, and U.S. permanent residents constitute nearly 20 percent of the class. There are 79 countries represented in the Class of 2014. “Students with international living experiences add immensely to the education of their college classmates,” said Robin M. Worth, director of international admissions.
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Students’ academic interests shifted somewhat this year. Nearly one-quarter (24.9 percent) of the admitted students intend to concentrate in the humanities, compared with 22.7 percent last year. Engineering attracted 12.2 percent, (10.2 percent last year), while students expressing an interest in the social sciences constituted 21.3 percent, (24.6 percent last year). Other choices remained similar to those made last year, with 24.3 percent planning a biological sciences concentration, 8.3 percent physical sciences, 6.8 percent mathematics, 2 percent computer science, and 0.2 percent undecided.
The Class of 2014 will bring extraordinary extracurricular talents to Harvard across a wide range of endeavors. Major activities cited by students as extracurricular interests are music and other expressive and performing arts (46 percent), debate and political activities, including student government (34 percent), writing and journalism (21 percent), and social service (21 percent). In addition, 58 percent of the class expects to participate in recreational, intramural, or intercollegiate athletics.
“The help of alumni/ae interviewers is more important than ever as the Admissions Committee chooses a small number of students from an ever-increasing applicant pool,” said Marlyn E. McGrath, director of admissions. “Personal qualities and character remain central to each and every admissions decision. Our 10,000 alumni/ae volunteers around the world make a huge difference to us in many other ways as well — attending college nights, visiting schools, and calling newly admitted students and hosting gatherings for them in April. We can never thank them enough for their loyalty and devotion to Harvard,” she said. Added James Wigdahl, liaison to the Alumni/ae Schools and Scholarship Committees, “We are particularly grateful to our alumni/ae volunteers for their patience and hard work in making our new electronic system function so well, a change that enabled interviews to be submitted in a much more timely and effective manner, even as the number of applications has risen.”
Recruitment is the foundation of Harvard’s strength. Nearly 70 percent of all admitted students and 90 percent of minority students appeared on the original College Board Search List that helped launch Harvard’s outreach program for the Class of 2014. Staff will visit 60 cities this spring, targeting the high school juniors who may eventually join the Class of 2015. Joint travel trips will be conducted with Duke, Georgetown, Penn, and Stanford universities. “Joint travel is the fundamental element of our recruitment. Last spring and fall, Harvard admissions officers visited all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, where we saw 40,000 high school students and parents. We also met with more than 3,000 high school guidance counselors,” said Angela Flygh, director of the Joint Travel Program. In addition, Harvard students visited some of these areas and others to speak at high schools.
Eliminating Early Action two years ago allowed more time in the fall for staff to communicate with students who might not have otherwise thought about applying to Harvard. Joint outreach events with Princeton University and the University of Virginia (both of which also eliminated early admission) met with an overwhelming reception in November, previously a time when all three institutions were off the road conducting early-admission selection meetings. Harvard once again will visit nearly 20 cities with this group.
“Undergraduate recruitment has a long and distinguished history at Harvard,” said Roger Banks, director of undergraduate recruitment. “Members of the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program [UMRP] and the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative [HFAI] played a crucial role in attracting this year’s record pool of admitted students.” Members of both organizations telephoned and sent e-mail messages and letters to prospective applicants. They also conducted recruitment trips to various parts of the country and met with middle school and high school student groups who visited campus.
“HFAI is one of Harvard’s highest priorities, and once again we were able to attract outstanding students from families with annual incomes under $60,000 and $80,000,” said Patrick Griffin, director of HFAI. Precious Eboigbe, HFAI assistant director, noted, “Undergraduates worked closely with staff and alumni/ae, forming a partnership that enabled us to reach out to talented students from modest economic backgrounds.” Monica Del Toro-Brown, the other assistant director, added, “HFAI opens up new worlds that many students never dreamed were possible.”
Fitzsimmons and McGrath again praised the efforts of the Undergraduate Admissions Council (UAC) and the undergraduate tour guides and greeters who work throughout the year with visitors to Cambridge — leading tours, hosting prospective applicants overnight, and visiting high schools. David L. Evans, director of the UAC, noted that “prospective students are extremely interested in meeting current undergraduates to learn firsthand about the Harvard experience.” Added Elise Eggart, UAC associate director, “UAC members extend a warm welcome to students interested in Harvard. Their hospitality and thoughtfulness are greatly appreciated, both by prospective students and their families.”
Elizabeth Pabst, director of the Undergraduate Tour Program, said, “Our tour guides and greeters welcome students to campus throughout the year. They love to share personal anecdotes about life at Harvard, both inside and outside the classroom. They often are the first Harvard students a prospective applicant meets, and they introduce college life with grace, humor, and enthusiasm.” Added Devery Doran, assistant director of the program, “Rain or shine, in small groups or large, you’ll find them walking backward through Harvard Yard, leading groups of prospective students and their families from around the world.”
McGrath emphasized the important role of the teaching faculty in the admissions process. Faculty members speak with many prospective students in person or on the phone and answer their letters and e-mail inquiries. “Faculty accessibility is a clear demonstration of Harvard’s commitment to undergraduate education. In addition, faculty members read hundreds of applications, evaluate academic research of all kinds, and assess portfolios across a range of academic disciplines,” she said.
Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are: Peter J. Burgard, John E. Dowling, Edward L. Glaeser, Benedict H. Gross, Guido Guidotti, Evelynn M. Hammonds, Joseph D. Harris, J. Woodland Hastings, Eric N. Jacobsen, Thomas Jehn, Harry R. Lewis, Richard M. Losick, David R. McCann, Michael D. Mitzenmacher, Cherry Murray, Richard J. O’Connell, Orlando Patterson, Frans Spaepen, Christopher Stubbs, Steven C. Wofsy, Robert M. Woollacott, and Amir Yacoby.
Personal contact with admitted students will be important over the next few weeks. Members of the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, the admissions and financial aid staff, and the teaching faculty will telephone and meet with admitted students.
For the seventh year, the Admissions Office hosted message boards for students throughout the year. In addition, chat sessions in April will provide an opportunity for admitted students to speak with Harvard undergraduates and one another. Danielle Early, director of Internet communications, said, “The chat sessions and message boards extend our outreach and recruitment to students across the world.” Prospective Harvard students can post questions to Harvard undergraduates and admissions representatives on the message board. “The boards provide yet another way for students to meet and make connections with future classmates,” said Early.
To give admitted students the opportunity to experience Harvard life and meet their future professors and classmates, a Visiting Program for admitted students is scheduled for April 24-26. In addition to visiting classes, students will attend faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, department open houses, symposia, and dozens of events organized by extracurricular organizations. More than 1,300 admitted students will visit during April, and 1,100 will be here during the Visiting Program. “We know that contact with current undergraduates and faculty is critically important to students as they evaluate their college options. Students often cite the Visiting Program as pivotal in their decision to choose Harvard,” said Visiting Program Director Valerie Beilenson.
Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid, and her colleagues will be available to talk with admitted students and their families on weekdays during April from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT. “Especially in these challenging economic times, we look forward to talking with students and parents who have concerns or questions about how to finance a Harvard education, including families who may not have applied for financial aid but who are interested in the wide range of available payment options. Our program offers assistance to all students and families, ranging from full financial aid to a number of financing alternatives: a monthly payment plan, the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates, and a variety of parent loan programs that extend payments up to 15 years,” she said.
“Students and their families should know that there are other forms of financial assistance, such as the Faculty Aide Program, the Harvard College Research Program, and the Dean’s Summer Research Program, which enable students to create paid partnerships with faculty members on academic projects of mutual interest,” said Meg Brooks Swift, director of student employment and the Harvard College Research Program.
Admitted students have until May 1 to accept their offers of admission.