Campus & Community

Class of ’07 selected from pool of over 20,000:

7 min read

Considered the most competitive in Harvard’s history

Sean Boyce and Michael
The admissions staff, including Sean Boyce (left), helps postman Michael Wilcox pack the annual admissions letters into the mail truck. (Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell)

For the first time, a total of more than 20,000 students applied for undergraduate admission, making the Class of 2007 the most competitive in Harvard’s history. The 2,056 admitted students were selected from a pool of 20,986, an admission rate of 9.8 percent. Students were notified by letter and e-mail on Wednesday (April 2).

“The remarkable accomplishments of so many promising applicants made this year’s admissions deliberations unusually difficult. At the same time, reading their applications inspires great confidence for the future strength of the College and for their generation,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.

For the 12th time in the past 13 years, the number of applications for admission has risen. Last year, 19,609 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, 56 percent of the candidates scored 1,400 or higher on SATs; 3,000 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT mathematics test; 2,000 scored 800 on their SAT verbal test; 3,100 are valedictorians of their high school classes; and 70 percent of the applicants are in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes.

Harvard’s strong financial aid program is critically important in encouraging outstanding students to apply. During the past five years, Harvard has expanded its undergraduate scholarship program by more than $19.5 million, representing a 37 percent increase in need-based assistance. During this time, the average debt of graduating students has declined by more than $4,000, to just $10,450 per student for the Class of 2002.

“The total aid provided to undergraduates for 2003-2004 will likely top $105 million,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid “Two-thirds of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, including scholarships, loans, and jobs. Close to half will qualify for need-based scholarship assistance with an average total aid package of over $27,000, or roughly 70 percent of a student’s total costs, including an allowance toward personal expenses,” said Donahue.

“Harvard College is built upon the twin principles of need-blind admissions and need-based financial aid,” said William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “At a time when universities around the country, and families everywhere, can feel the effects of a weaker national economy, we are determined to protect every student’s ability to come to Harvard, regardless of his or her financial background.”

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 on weekdays during the month of April from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Families are offered a wide range of payment options, including the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates or to extend payments up to 15 years.

While U.S. regional representation remains similar, the Class of 2007 will be somewhat more international than its predecessor. Nearly 26 percent of the admitted students reside in the mid-Atlantic, 18 percent from the Western and Mountain States, 17 percent are from New England, 16 percent from the South, 11 percent from the Midwest, and almost 12 percent from the U.S. territories and abroad. Foreign citizens number 154, up slightly from last year’s 146. As always, a significant number of incoming students will bring an international perspective, including Americans who have lived abroad, 93 U.S. dual citizens, and 63 U.S. permanent residents. Together, foreign citizens, U.S. duals, and U.S. permanent residents comprise 15.1 percent of the class, compared with 14.2 percent last year.

Areas of academic interest are largely similar to those of the Class of 2006. Just over 22 percent listed biology as their proposed concentration, while 8 percent are interested in the physical sciences. More than 9 percent lean toward engineering, 3 percent toward computer science, and 7 percent toward math. The social sciences attracted more than 24 percent as did the humanities, while 2 percent are undecided.

The Class of 2007 has a wide range of extracurricular interests. The major activities cited by students as an extracurricular focus are music (26 percent); followed by creative writing, journalism, and other writing (25 percent); arts, dance, and drama (20 percent); social service (19 percent); student government (13 percent); debate (10 percent); and political groups (7 percent). Over 55 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, a record 10.2 percent; Hispanic Americans, 3.7 percent; Mexican Americans, 3.6 percent; Puerto Ricans, 1.5 percent; and Native Americans, 1 percent. “Students, faculty and alumnae/alumni worked extremely hard during the year to recruit students throughout the country. We are very grateful for all of their efforts,” 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. “Our undergraduates played a crucial role in leading tours, hosting overnight visits, and visiting schools. Their assistance contributes in important ways to the strength of future classes,” she said. In addition, she credits the over 6,000 alumnae/alumni Schools and Scholarship volunteers. “Their work in their local communities helps attract the very best students into our pool, and their interviews give us vital guidance in making our admission choices.”

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-mail. 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 Michael Brenner, John Dowling, Noam Elkies, Patrick Ford, Mary Gaylord, Benedict Gross (on leave), J. Woodland Hastings, Harry Lewis, Venkatesh Narayanamurti, 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 26-28. In addition to visiting classes, students will attend faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, department open houses, symposia, and activities offered by extracurricular organizations. “The program will give students the chance to explore the many opportunities awaiting them here in Cambridge. We expect they will enjoy meeting their future professors and classmates,” said coordinator Megan Basil. Over 1,200 admitted students will visit during the month of April, and nearly 1,100 will be here during the Visiting Program. “Our undergraduate hosts give students a realistic picture of what it is like to be a student here. Their contact with prospective students is vital to our success in enrolling the new class,” she said.

“Recruiting remains the key element in attracting the country’s and the world’s best students each year. Over 68 percent of all admitted students and 88 percent of minority students were on our original College Board Search List that helped us begin our recruiting efforts for the Class of 2007 last spring. We have already met many of our successful applicants in their home communities, and we hope to have them join us here in September,” said Fitzsimmons.

More than 78 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.