Campus & Community

It’s another record breaker

6 min read

Class of 2005 chosen from a record pool of 19,009

Letters of acceptance to the Class of 2005 have been mailed to 2,041 applicants from a record pool of 19,009. For the 10th time in the past 11 years, applications for admission to Harvard have risen. Last year, 18,693 students applied for the 1,650 places in the entering class. The percentage of admitted students was the lowest in Harvard’s history (10.7 percent). Women will comprise nearly 49 percent of the class, an unprecedented proportion.

“Beyond the records and statistics, once again an extraordinary group has been admitted – with unusual academic, extracurricular, and personal strengths in abundance. They are among the most promising students of their generation, and we look forward to watching their progress over the next four years and beyond,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.

By standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance in school, this year’s applicant pool was impressive. For example, almost 55 percent of the candidates scored 1,400 or higher on the SATs; 2,000 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT mathematics test; nearly 1,700 scored 800 on their SAT English test; close to 2,900 were valedictorians of their high school classes; and two-thirds of the applicant pool were in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes.

One of the major reasons for the unprecedented interest in Harvard over the past few years is the College’s firm commitment to admitting the best students regardless of their financial need. Two major increases in the annual scholarship program, the second announced in February, have reduced the self-help portion of a financial aid package – the amount the student is expected to contribute – by $4,000 per year, from $7,150 to $3,150. Students may choose to meet this obligation by working, by borrowing, or through a combination of the two. In addition students may use the full amount of any outside scholarships to reduce or eliminate their self-help portion. In announcing the new plan, Jeremy R. Knowles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, stated that “Harvard is committed to the principle that all students have access to the whole range of academic and extracurricular opportunities while they are here, as well as to the variety of career options that await them upon graduation. … The new financial aid program ensures that no matter what their resources all our students can embrace and enjoy the possibilities here, without carrying a significant burden of term-time work, or of debt after graduation.”

Harvard’s financial aid budget for undergraduates next year will be nearly $100 million, with more than $63 million in the form of scholarship assistance from the College, all based on need. Nearly 70 percent of Harvard undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. The average grant next year will be more than $20,000.

Sally Clark Donahue, director of financial aid, reported that “the new financial aid plan will ensure that students from all backgrounds, including low- and middle-income families, will have access to a Harvard education. In addition, other forms of financial assistance, such as the Faculty Aide Program and the Harvard College Research Program, enable undergraduates to pursue special research interests in close partnership with faculty members.”

Financial aid staff will be available to talk with admitted students and their families weekdays during the month of April from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Families have a wide range of payment options, including the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates or to extend payments up to 15 years.

For the Class of 2005, entering this September, slightly more students will come from the Pacific and Southern regions of the United States. The class will also have more international students, especially from the Far East, Europe, and Canada.

Areas of academic interest were also similar to the Class of 2004. The humanities lead the way, with 25.6 percent of the class, while almost 23 percent list biological sciences. More than 22 percent lean toward the social sciences and 12 percent toward engineering and computer sciences, while 8 percent are interested in the physical sciences, 7 percent in math, and 1 percent are undecided.

The Class of 2005 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 (26 percent), followed by creative writing, journalism, and other writing (24 percent), and drama, dance, and other arts (22 percent). Over 18 percent expect to engage in social service projects, and almost 60 percent of the class plans to participate in athletics at some level.

Asian Americans comprise 14.3 percent of the admitted group; African Americans, 9 percent; Mexican Americans, 3.8 percent; Hispanic Americans, 3.5 percent; Puerto Ricans, 1.8 percent; and Native Americans, 1.2 percent. “We appreciate the support of students, faculty, and alumni/ae in our recruitment efforts. They have played a major role in the positive results achieved this year,” said Director of Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Roger Banks.

Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions, thanked the many people who contributed to the recruitment and admission of the Class of 2005. “Current undergraduates (the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, and the Crimson Key) and over 6,000 alumni/ae Schools and Scholarships volunteers worked to ensure that Harvard was considered seriously as a college choice by the very best students. We are extremely grateful for all their help, and we know that their efforts are the foundation of Harvard’s success in admissions.”

Lewis emphasized the many contributions of the teaching faculty to the admissions process. “Faculty members are an integral part of the recruitment and selection processes for every incoming class,” she said. “Their accessibility throughout the year to prospective students is yet one more demonstration of their commitment to undergraduates. They read hundreds of application folders and evaluated portfolios and research of every variety.” Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are: John Dowling, Patrick Ford, Benedict Gross, J. Woodland Hastings, Harry Lewis, Gregory Nagy, Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Susan Pedersen, Werner Sollors, Nancy Sommers, Frans Spaepen, and Robert Woollacott.

A visiting program for admitted students is scheduled for April 21-23. 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 most of all to meet their future classmates,” said coordinator Jennifer Rifken. “Over 1,200 admitted students will visit during the month of April, 1,000 or more during the visiting program. Undergraduate hosts play an enormous role in enabling admitted students to get a realistic picture of daily life here, and we cannot thank them enough for everything they do,” she said.

“The recruitment of the Class of 2005 began last spring when we wrote to 60,000 students and visited 55 cities,” said Fitzsimmons. “Throughout the summer and the fall, students visited the campus for tours, group information sessions, and interviews – and then in September and October we traveled even more extensively throughout the United States and abroad. We have already met many of the students admitted to the Class of 2005, and we look forward to seeing them here at the April visiting program and, we hope, in September.”

Letters were mailed at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4. Students have until May 1 to reply.