Continuing a recent trend, the yield on students admitted to the College has once again reached levels last seen in the early 1970s. Close to 80 percent of the students admitted to the Class of 2007 have chosen to enroll this coming September. The high yield means that very few applicants can be admitted from the waiting list this year. Currently the yield is slightly under 79 percent, and it may rise by the time the Admissions Committee has made its final selections in June.
Yield, the percentage of admitted students who decide to accept an offer of admission, is considered a measure of a school’s competitiveness. Harvard’s yield remains, by a substantial margin, the highest of the nation’s selective colleges – particularly striking because students admitted under Harvard’s Early Action program are free to enroll at other colleges.
A record 20,987 applied for admission to the Class of 2007. Applications for admission to Harvard have risen in 12 of the past 13 years. Last year, 19,609 applied for the 1,650 places in the entering class. The percentage of students admitted to this year’s class was 9.8 percent, the lowest in Harvard’s history.
“It is impossible to avoid superlatives in describing the members of the Class of 2007,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “As we met them in their local communities during the spring and fall recruiting programs, here in Cambridge when they came to explore Harvard’s many opportunities, and most recently during the April Visiting Program when 1,000 admitted students and over 400 parents participated in three days of academic and extracurricular exploration, it was clear to us that the personal qualities of these students are every bit as impressive as their remarkable academic and extracurricular credentials.”
Harvard’s strong financial aid program is critically important in encouraging outstanding students to apply and, of course, to enroll. 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 $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.”
The Class of 2007 is similar to last year’s class in terms of geographic background, intended field of concentration, ethnicity, and gender. There are slightly more students from the West and abroad – fewer from the Midwest and the East; prospective concentrators in the social sciences rose slightly from 24.9 percent to 26.4 percent as did those in biology, from 20 percent to 21.8 percent, while potential humanities concentrators represent 25.1 percent, down from 28.1 percent.
The percentage of Asian Americans dipped slightly (from 17.5 percent to 17.3 percent); African-American students will comprise 8.5 percent of the Class (6.9 percent last year), Latino students 7.9 percent (7.2 percent last year), and Native Americans 0.8 percent (0.7 percent last year). As with the Class of 2006, women will represent over 48 percent of the entering first-year students.
“Throughout the United States and around the world, alumni and alumnae made an enormous difference in recruiting the Class of 2007 by visiting high schools, arranging visits to high schools for admissions officers, interviewing candidates, calling admitted students, and hosting local gatherings in April for admitted students and their parents,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions. “Current undergraduates and members of the teaching faculty have also worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure that Harvard continues to enroll outstanding undergraduates. We are enormously grateful to all of them.”
The recruiting process for next year’s Class of 2008 has already begun. Almost 55,000 letters have been sent to high school students, and 55 cities are being visited this month by Harvard admissions officers in conjunction with three other colleges. Thousands of prospective students and their families have already visited Cambridge over the past few months, attending group information sessions and tours. Attracting the world’s best students is now a year-round effort.