Harvard College announced today (Feb. 24) that it will restore nonbinding early action as part of its admissions process this fall and significantly enhance its recruiting program to assist talented students from modest economic backgrounds in navigating the admissions process. Harvard also announced it will increase its investment in undergraduate financial aid next year to more than $160 million. Currently, more than 60 percent of Harvard College students receive scholarship aid, and the average grant is about $38,000.

In 2007, Harvard eliminated its nonbinding early action program on a trial basis and moved to a single admissions deadline, announcing at the time that it would evaluate the impact of the change after several years.

“We piloted the elimination of early action out of concern that college admissions had become too complex and pressured for all students, and out of particular concern for students at under-resourced high schools who might not be able to access the early admissions process,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “Over the past several years, however, interest in early admissions has increased, as students and families from across the economic spectrum seek certainty about college choices and financing. Our goal now is to reinstitute an early-action program consistent with our bedrock commitment to access, affordability, and excellence.”

“We looked carefully at trends in Harvard admissions these past years and saw that many highly talented students, including some of the best-prepared low-income and underrepresented minority students, were choosing programs with an early-action option, and therefore were missing out on the opportunity to consider Harvard. We have decided that the College and our students will be best served by restoring an early option,” said Dean Michael D. Smith of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Harvard’s concerns about equity and transparency will continue to guide the structure of its admission program. It will maintain a nonbinding approach, which maximizes freedom and flexibility for students. As in the past, students can apply under the single-choice, early-action program by Nov. 1 and will be notified by Dec. 15, at which point students completing financial aid applications will receive notice of their awards. Regular decision will continue to operate as usual, with applications due on Jan. 1 and notification on April 1. All students, whether admitted under early action or regular decision, will have until May 1 to decide whether to attend.

To ensure that the return to early action serves Harvard’s commitment to access and diversity across many dimensions, the change in admissions policy will be accompanied by enhancements in the College’s recruiting program, including a new program promoting transparency in college admissions, greater outreach, and targeted staff visits to schools where few students apply early to college; increased involvement of Harvard undergraduates throughout the year in three major recruiting efforts — the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, and the Undergraduate Admissions Council’s Return to High School Program; and enhanced web features providing families with the ability to calculate the likely net cost to them of sending a child to Harvard, and perspectives from financial aid students on life at Harvard.

“The commitment to including first-generation, low-income, and historically disadvantaged minority students in the full spectrum of admissions options is a key feature of this new early-action option,” said Harvard College Dean Evelynn Hammonds. “We have made significant gains in recent years in recruiting larger numbers of these students and in supporting them for success once here. I am very pleased that we are able to re-conceive early action, consistent with these goals, and to work with students based on whatever timetable best meets their needs.”

“We continue to be concerned about the pressures on students today, including those associated with college admission,” said Harvard College Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons. “In all of our work, we will do everything possible to level the playing field in admissions and encourage all students to make thoughtful choices about how they can best contribute to society.”

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