Campus & Community

Applications to College exceed 20,000 for first time:

3 min read

12th time in past 13 years that applications rose

A record 20,918 students have applied for entrance to the Class of 2007 next September. For the 12th time in the past 13 years the number of applications rose. Last year, 19,609 students applied for admission.

“Harvard continues to attract many of the country’s and the world’s best students in these uncertain economic and political times,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “The pre-eminence of the faculty, our outstanding students, and superb facilities that enhance every aspect of undergraduate academic and extracurricular life are cited time and again by prospective applicants we meet on our recruiting trips. But it is our recently enhanced financial aid program that makes it possible for the large majority of them to apply,” he continued.

“Especially in difficult times, financial aid is the key to providing access to the College, both for those who need financial aid now or might need it later due to changing family financial circumstances,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. Nearly half of Harvard undergraduates receive grant aid, and two-thirds have some form of aid including loans and jobs.

The recently completed Capital Campaign allowed Harvard to provide $4,000 more per year, reducing annual loan and job expectations to $3,250 from $7,250 – a benefit of $16,000 over four years to each student with scholarship aid. Students can either work 12-15 hours per week and graduate with no loan indebtedness, use loans entirely, or do some of each. In addition, students may now use outside scholarships such as National Merit to replace their $3,250 loan and job “self-help” entirely. Last year, 620 students used this option.

The Financial Aid Office distributed more than $100 million in financial aid to undergraduates this year. While grant aid ranges from $500 to more than $30,000 depending on family need, the average grant is $22,000.

Ten years ago, 13,865 students applied to the College. While there has been an increase in the number of U.S. high school graduates almost every year since 1993 (a trend that will continue until 2008), demographic factors alone do not account for the rise in applications here and at many other colleges. In 1992-93, 2,477,000 graduated from high school, while this year 2,938,000 will do so. “Colleges have reached out to talented students in a wide variety of ways over the past decade,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions. “Direct mail, travel by staff, faculty, and students, and local alumni/ae volunteers have all contributed to greater interest in applying to college, and the media have provided significant and helpful information,” she continued.

The demographic composition of the applicant pool remained similar to last year with respect to gender, ethnicity, and geography. Proposed academic plans are also similar.

“Whenever the future is particularly uncertain, families, regardless of whether they have financial need, become more determined that their daughters and sons receive the best education possible. Colleges throughout the world are working hard to meet this need and ensure that the next generation is well equipped to meet the complex challenges that lie ahead,” said Fitzsimmons.

Admissions staff and faculty are now reading the applications in preparation for the selection meetings, which stretch from Feb. 3 to March 24. Notification letters will be mailed at 12:01 a.m. April 2, and electronic notification will take place later in the day for the 77 percent of the applicants who requested it. Students must reply by May 1.