Campus & Community

Women outnumber men in College’s Early Action

4 min read

Numbers reverse for first time in program’s history

For the first time in Harvard’s history, women outnumber men in gaining admission to the College under the Early Action program. Early Action admissions for the Class of 2008 total 906, 50.9 percent of which are women. “For quite some time, we have been on the verge of reaching this milestone. Alumni/ae, faculty, students, and staff have worked hard over the years to achieve equal access admission for women, and we are very grateful for all their help,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.

Recent entering classes at Harvard had slightly more men than women, ranging from 51.7 percent to 53.8 percent over the past five years. Early Action percentages have varied more, with smaller numbers applying early. Last year, 54.8 percent of those admitted early were men.

“We have come a long way from the 4-to-1 male-female ratios of the 1960s, and we hope this success in Early Action will send a positive signal to women to consider Harvard as a college choice. Research indicates that women still face barriers as they consider higher education, particularly at private colleges. Some families remain more reluctant to pay for their daughter’s college education than their son’s, and there are others who want their daughters to stay closer to home,” said Fitzsimmons.

There were major changes in Harvard’s nonbinding Early Action program this year, as the College returned to its long-standing policy of requesting that students applying early to Harvard not apply early elsewhere. (Nationally, Stanford and Yale also switched to this policy, but from binding Early Decision). The result for Harvard was a return to a considerably smaller number of early applications – 3,889 compared with 7,614 last year when students could apply simultaneously to an unlimited number of early action colleges as well as a binding early decision college.

“We believe the change in policy has led to a much more thoughtful, less frenetic, and ultimately more beneficial process for students applying early to college this year,” said Fitzsimmons. “Students admitted early to Harvard can still apply to other colleges, compare financial aid offers, and need only inform us of their final college choice on May 1, the national common reply date.”

Despite the reduction in the number of early applicants, the quality of the applicants remained high, as evidenced by the number of admitted students (906 compared with 1,059 last year) and their academic credentials. “While the number of applicants declined considerably, the quality was again quite remarkable,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions. “In addition, the admissions committee was pleased to see that Harvard continued to attract students from a wide variety of backgrounds who will bring with them to Cambridge a fascinating array of intellectual interests.”

The demographics of the early group are similar to last year’s Class of 2007. There are slightly more students from the Midwestern region of the United States and from abroad. Based on citizenship, there is greater international representation: 6.8 percent are foreign citizens (4.8 percent last year), 4.4 percent are dual citizens (4.2 percent last year), and 3.9 percent are permanent residents (2.5 percent last year). Proposed areas of academic interest remained relatively stable, as did the ethnic composition of the class. Asian Americans comprise 22.1 percent of the admitted students (19.6 percent last year), Latinos 6.8 percent (7.2 percent last year), African Americans 6.6 percent (7.1 percent last year), and Native Americans 0.8 percent (0.5 percent last year).

Admitted students are invited to request an early estimate of the financial aid awards they would receive in April. The Financial Aid Committee will meet in January and February to respond to these requests and will notify students and their families as soon as possible about their awards. “Harvard continues to admit the best students regardless of their families’ economic circumstances,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. “Nearly two-thirds of Harvard undergraduates receive some form of financial assistance and nearly 50 percent are eligible for need-based grant assistance. The average grant will likely be about $26,150 (although grants can range from $500 to $40,000), and the total aid package including job and loan expectations will be close to $28,050.”

On Dec. 11, decisions were communicated to the 82 percent who opted for e-mail notification, and on Dec. 12 decision letters were mailed to all applicants. In addition to the 906 admitted students, 2,737 were deferred, 165 were rejected, 70 were incomplete, and 11 withdrew.

Admitted students will hear from faculty, admissions staff, alumni/ae, and undergraduates over the next few months via telephone, e-mail, and regular mail. “We want them to be fully informed about the opportunities here,” said Lewis. “Obviously, we hope they will join us here next September.” Students will be able to experience student life firsthand during the formal visiting program from April 24 to 26 or at other times in the coming months that fit their schedules.