Campus & Community

Early action admissions hold steady

4 min read

A total of 1,174 students were admitted this year under the College’s early action program, the fourth consecutive year in which the number of students admitted early has stayed roughly the same. Four years ago, a record 1,185 students were admitted, compared with 1,105 last year.

While a record 6,126 students applied for admission this year, applications have remained just over the 6,000 level for the past three years. Last year 6,096 applied early, while the previous year there were 6,026 applicants.

“After a number of years in which there was a great deal of fluctuation in ‘early’ numbers at most colleges across the country, the period of stability we have experienced here in recent years is a positive development,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons. After 1995-96, when several other major institutions adopted binding early decision programs that require admitted students to attend, intense media attention chronicled a dramatic increase in the numbers of students applying early to the nation’s most selective colleges. Harvard’s nonbinding early action program, which allows admitted students to apply to other colleges, has been in place since the early 1970s.

“The College’s generous financial aid program – enhanced twice in the past few years under the leadership of Jeremy Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences – helped attract many superb students into our applicant pool this year,” said Fitzsimmons. This year more than $63 million will be provided in scholarship assistance at the College to nearly 50 percent of the student body, with an average grant of $20,000. More than 70 percent of students receive some form of financial aid, with close to $100 million distributed to students in various forms, including $11 million in parent loan financing. “Our comprehensive need-based financial aid program offers the freedom and flexibility that our undergraduates need to pursue their academic and extracurricular interests,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. “Financial aid provides the foundation for the excellence of our remarkable student body,” she said.

“Despite speculation in the media subsequent to Sept. 11 that students, especially those from far away or those who had serious financial concerns about college costs because of the economy, would be less likely to apply, the results of early action are encouraging,” said Fitzsimmons. “Record numbers of students applied nonetheless, although there was, predictably, a substantial increase in the proportion of students applying for financial aid compared to last year. Geographical distribution remained much the same, with a slight rise in the number of international students and Midwesterners, and a slight decline in New England.”

Women comprise almost 48 percent of the admitted students, compared with slightly over 46 percent last year. The percentage of Asian Americans admitted increased from 18.4 percent to 20 percent, while the percentage of African-American students rose from 6.1 percent to 7.6 percent. At the same time, the number of Latino students dipped from 7.3 percent to 5.9 percent, and Native American admissions numbered nine students for the second year in a row.

Proposed areas of academic concentration remain similar to last year’s. Prospective humanities concentrators led the way again, increasing from 24 to 26 percent, followed by social sciences – 23 percent; biology – 21 percent (a 3 percent decrease); physical sciences – 9.6 percent; engineering – 8.4 percent; mathematics – 6.4 percent; computer science – 3.5 percent; and undecided – 1.9 percent.

“The statistics don’t even begin to convey how interesting, talented, and accomplished these admitted students are. And the people who know them – teachers and interviewers – make them sound wonderful in personal terms,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions.

On Dec. 14, letters were mailed and decisions communicated to the 93 percent who elected to be notified by e-mail prior to their official notification letter. In addition to the 1,174 admitted students, 4,677 were deferred, 191 rejected, 68 were incomplete, and 16 withdrew.

“Over the next few months, admissions staff, alumni/ae, and students will communicate with admitted students to respond to questions they may have about the College,” said Lewis. All admitted students will be invited to visit Cambridge, particularly during the formal visiting program in April. Students have until May 1 to notify the College of their intention to enroll.