Campus & Community

Class of 2004 Chosen from A Record Pool of 18,691

5 min read

Letters of acceptance to the Class of 2004 were mailed at 12:01 a.m. Saturday to 2,035 of a record 18,691 applicants. For the ninth time in the past decade, applications for admission to Harvard have risen. Last year, 18,161 students applied for the 1,650 places in the entering class.

“Not only is this the largest pool in our history, but it may also be our strongest,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “It was very difficult for the Admissions Committee to make its final decisions, and we are extremely pleased with the extraordinary individuals who will comprise the Class of 2004. They display a marvelous combination of academic and extracurricular promise along with special personal qualities that will greatly enrich the lives of their classmates.”

The percentage of admitted students was the lowest in Harvard’s history (10.9 percent). By standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance in school, this year’s applicant pool was impressive. For example, 56 percent of the candidates scored 1400 or higher on the SATs; almost 2,000 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT II English test; over 2,500 scored 800 on their SAT II math test; and nearly 3,000 were valedictorians of their high school classes.

Harvard’s new financial aid program offers an additional $2,000 annually in need-based grants to students receiving scholarships in order to reduce loan and/or job expectations. In addition, students are allowed to use the full amount of scholarships awarded from non-Harvard sources to reduce further or even eliminate loan and job requirements. These new benefits were extended not just to prospective students but to all current undergraduates.

Close to 50 percent (a record number) of undergraduates this year will receive scholarship support. Over $55 million will be devoted to scholarship aid, 93 percent of which comes from University resources. About 70 percent of undergraduates will receive some form of financial aid. The average annual grant will be almost $19,000 with a total package (including scholarships and jobs) of more than $23,000.

For the Class of 2004, entering this September, slightly more students will come from the Pacific region of the United States and from abroad. There were corresponding declines in the South and Canada, but none of these changes was significant.

Areas of academic interest shifted somewhat this year. The humanities lead the way, with 26.2 percent of the class, while 23.8 percent chose biological sciences. Over 21 percent lean toward the social sciences and 12 percent toward engineering and computer science, while 8 percent are interested in the physical sciences, 7 percent in math, and 1 percent are undecided.

The Class of 2004 seems certain to continue Harvard’s tradition of significant nonacademic accomplishments. The extracurricular activity cited by the most students as a serious focus of their attention is music (33 percent), followed by drama, dance and other arts (22 percent). Close to 17 percent expect to engage in social service projects, and 17 percent in journalism. Almost 60 percent of the Class plans to participate in athletics at some level.

Women did well in the admission competition once again, comprising almost 47 percent of the Class of 2004. For years, special efforts have been made to recruit outstanding women, and this year’s results again demonstrate the effectiveness of those efforts.

Asian Americans comprise 16.1 percent of the admitted group; African Americans, 9.9 percent; Mexican Americans, 3.6 percent; Hispanic Americans, 3.4 percent; Puerto Ricans, 1.8 percent; and Native Americans, 1 percent.

“This year’s admitted group is extremely impressive, and we are very pleased with the results of our recruitment efforts for the Class of 2004,” said Director of Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Roger Banks. “We are particularly grateful to the many undergraduates and alumni and alumnae who made a real difference throughout the year in reaching out to promising candidates.”

A Visiting Program for admitted students is scheduled for April 28 through April 30. Events will include faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, department open houses, symposia, and activities offered by extracurricular organizations.

“The program will give students the chance not only to attend classes, to meet faculty, and to experience college life here firsthand, but also to meet the people who will be their future classmates,” said Visiting Program coordinator Lourdes Gomez. “Over 1,200 admitted students will visit during the month of April, 1,000 or more during the Visiting Program. Undergraduates do a wonderful job of hosting our visitors and we cannot thank them enough for everything they do.”

Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis emphasized the many contributions of the teaching faculty to the admissions process. “Faculty members have been an integral part of the recruitment and selection process for the Class of 2004,” she said. “Their accessibility throughout the year to prospective applicants helps to ensure the future strength of the College.”

She said that the Faculty Committee was called upon more than ever before to assist in the difficult task of making the final admissions decisions on the 18,691 applicants. Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are: John Dowling, Gary Feldman, Patrick Ford, Benedict Gross, J. Woodland Hastings, Richard Holm, Harry Lewis, Gregory Nagy, Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Nancy Sommers, Frans Spaepen, William Todd, Helen Vendler and Robert Woollacott.