Campus & Community

Class of 2006 chosen from record pool of 19,605

7 min read

Harvard’s Class of 2006 has been selected from a record pool of 19,605. The 2,068 admitted students were notified by letter and e-mail on Wednesday, April 3. The percentage of admitted students was the lowest in Harvard’s history (10.5 percent).

“Although the strength of the applicant pool made the selection process unusually difficult, Harvard’s mission to attract the nation’s and the world’s most promising students has resulted once again in a freshman class of remarkable excellence. Our financial aid program — augmented significantly in the past few years to reduce substantially both work and loan requirements — ensures that Harvard remains open to all students of talent regardless of their financial circumstances,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.

For the 11th time in the past 12 years, applications for admission have risen. Last year 19,014 students applied for the 1,650 places in the entering class.

By standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance in school, this year’s applicant pool was impressive. For example, more than 54 percent of the candidates scored 1,400 or higher on the SATs; 2,100 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT mathematics test; nearly 1,600 scored 800 on their SAT English test; close to 2,900 were valedictorians of their high school classes; and 70 percent of the applicant pool were in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes.

“Harvard’s generous financial aid program provides the foundation for Harvard’s efforts to reach out to outstanding students,” said Sally Clark Donahue, director of financial aid. Under the leadership of Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard has reduced the self-help portion of a financial aid package — the amount a student is expected to contribute — by $4,000, from $7,250 to $3,250 annually. 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 this self-help portion. Some students have won so much in outside scholarships that they are able to eliminate their self-help portion entirely and graduate with no debt. “This new financial aid program, fully implemented last year, makes it possible for financial aid students to take full advantage of the myriad academic and extracurricular possibilities here,” said Donahue.

Harvard’s financial aid budget for undergraduates next year will be nearly $100 million, with close to $68 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 $22,000.

In addition, other forms of financial assistance such as the Faculty Aide Program, the Harvard College Research Program, and the Dean’s Summer Research Program enable students to pursue partnerships with faculty members on academic projects of mutual interest.

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 will have a wide range of payment options, including the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates or to extend payments up to 15 years.

The geographical composition of the class remains fairly similar to last year’s class. Nearly 27 percent of the admitted students reside in the mid-Atlantic, 18 percent are from New England, 18 percent from the Western and Mountain States, 17 percent from the South, 12 percent from the Midwest, and more than 8 percent from the Territories and abroad. International students number 146, down slightly from last year’s 154 due perhaps to recent events here and abroad, but still well above the 116 who entered five years ago. As always, significant numbers of incoming students will bring an international perspective, including Americans who have lived abroad, 78 U.S. dual citizens, and 69 U.S. permanent residents.

Areas of academic interest were also similar to those of the Class of 2005, but there were some shifts. Once again the humanities led the way with nearly 28 percent (up from 26 percent), while more than 23 percent listed social sciences as their main area of interest (up 1 percent). Just under 20 percent indicated biology as their proposed concentration (down from 22.6 percent last year). More than 9 percent lean toward engineering and a similar percentage toward the physical sciences, while 6 percent are interested in math, 3 percent in computer science, and 1.5 percent are undecided.

The Class of 2006 has a wide range of extracurricular interests. The major extracurricular activities cited by students as a possible focus are music (27 percent), followed by creative writing, journalism, and other writing (26 percent), social service (19 percent), arts, dance and drama (18 percent), student government (13 percent), debate (11 percent), and political groups (8 percent). Almost 60 percent of the class plans to participate in recreational, intramural, or intercollegiate athletics.

Asian Americans comprise over 16 percent of the admitted group; African Americans, nearly 9 percent; Hispanic Americans, 3.7 percent; Mexican Americans, 2.6 percent; Puerto Ricans, 1.5 percent; and Native Americans, 1.2 percent. “Students, faculty and alumnae/alumni played a crucial role in our recruitment efforts. We are extremely grateful for all the hard work that went into such a successful result this year,” said Director of Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Roger Banks.

Once again women did well in the admissions competition, with more than 48 percent of the total. Special outreach in the recruiting process toward women, including those who show promise in the sciences, played a major role in attracting so many strong women to Harvard this year.

Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions, cited the efforts of the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, and the Crimson Key in working throughout the year to ensure that the students interested in Harvard were well served. “It is impossible to count the number of hours our undergraduates gave in leading tours, hosting overnight visits, and visiting schools. Their assistance underlines the strong commitment our students have to ensuring the excellence of future classes,” she said. In addition, she credits the over 6,000 alumnae/alumni Schools and Scholarship volunteers. “Their recruitment efforts in their local communities help attract the very best students into our pool and their remarkably perceptive interviews give us vital guidance in making wise admission choices. We simply can’t thank them enough for all their help.”

Lewis also emphasized the critical role of the teaching faculty in the admissions process: “Faculty spend enormous amounts of time throughout the year talking to prospective students in person or on the telephone and answering their many letters and e-mails. Their accessibility is a clear demonstration of their commitment to undergraduate education. In addition, faculty members read hundreds of application folders, evaluate academic research of all kinds, and assist in evaluating portfolios across the academic disciplines.” Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are: John Dowling, Patrick Ford, Mary Gaylord, Benedict Gross, J. Woodland Hastings, Harry Lewis, Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Susan Pedersen, Werner Sollors, Nancy Sommers, Frans Spaepen, Steven Wofsy, and Robert Woollacott.

Personal contact with admitted students will be very important over the next few weeks. Members of the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, the admissions staff, and faculty members will make phone calls to admitted students.

A Visiting Program for admitted students is scheduled for April 20-22. Events will include faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, department open houses, symposia, and activities offered by extracurricular organizations. “The program will give students the opportunity to attend classes and to experience the College first hand. We expect they will enjoy meeting their future professors and classmates,” said coordinator Jennifer Rifken. “Over 1,200 admitted students will visit during the month of April while over 1,000 will be here during the Visiting Program. Our undergraduate hosts are an extremely important part of this Program — enabling students to get a realistic picture of what it is like to be a student here. Their contact with prospective students is critical to our success in enrolling the new class,” she said.

“Beginning in the spring last year when we began the recruitment process for the Class of 2006, we have visited hundreds of cities, thousands of high schools and met with many thousands of students and their parents,” said Fitzsimmons. “Our travels have taken us all over the United States and throughout the world, and we have already met many of the students admitted to the Class of 2005. We hope we will see them here in September.”

Over 96 percent of the applicants opted for e-mail notification of their admission decisions along with the traditional letter. Students have until May 1 to reply.