Campus & Community

A record 22,717 students apply to the College

5 min read

Large applicant pool due in large part to Summers HFAI

A record total of 22,717 students have applied for entrance next September to Harvard College. “This unprecedented applicant pool is due in large measure to the new Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) announced by President Lawrence H. Summers last February in his keynote address to the American Council on Education,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “The new program sends a strong message that Harvard is accessible to all students, regardless of family financial resources,” he said.

“There are more students in the applicant pool this year who are likely to be eligible for the new HFAI – which requires no parental contribution from families earning $40,000 or less and a greatly reduced contribution from those who earn from $40,000 to $60,000,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. Added Fitzsimmons, “During our recruitment trips, we also met numerous other students who became interested in Harvard after hearing about opportunities in Cambridge through media reports about the HFAI. They included those whose families earn from $60,000 to $160,000 (the normal upper range for need-based financial aid at Harvard), as well as those not seeking financial assistance at all.”

Applications rose 15 percent from last year’s 19,752. For those seeking financial aid, the increase was 16.7 percent, as well as an increase of 45 percent for students seeking an application fee waiver due to financial hardship. Applying for a fee waiver is a strong indication that a student will be eligible for the HFAI.

“We are extremely grateful to our 7,000 alumni/ae, our faculty, and staff who have worked so hard to achieve these promising results,” said Sarah E. Beasley, co-director of HFAI. “We are particularly indebted to our team of 17 undergraduates who have contacted nearly 12,000 high school students since the beginning of the summer and throughout the school year,” added Melanie B. Mueller, the other co-director of HFAI. Undergraduates also met with visiting middle school and high school student groups, and several traveled to different parts of the country to recruit talented students who might be eligible for HFAI.

SAT scores rose slightly, but were within a few points of those applying for last year’s Class of 2008. Even without the large number of scores that will arrive shortly from the January test administration, nearly 11,000 of the applicants have an SAT verbal score of 700 or above and well over 12,000 have an SAT math score at that level. Almost 2,100 have an SAT verbal score of 800, while nearly 3,100 achieved an 800 in their SAT math test.

Proposed academic plans and geographical distribution are very similar to those of last year’s applicant pool. While final ethnic percentages are incomplete because applications are still being processed, there already is a striking 28.3 percent increase in applications from African Americans, along with a 15.5 percent rise in applications from Hispanic Americans. “This year’s pools of Asian-American, Native American, and Puerto Rican students are also likely to equal or exceed the levels achieved last year,” said Roger Banks, director of undergraduate recruitment. “Once again, students working for the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, now bolstered by the new HFAI efforts, made the critical difference in attracting so many accomplished minority students into our applicant pool,” he said.

Harvard’s financial aid program provides 70 percent of undergraduates with some form of financial aid, and nearly 50 percent receive grant assistance averaging over $26,000 annually (ranging from $500 to more than $37,000, depending entirely on need). “The average family income of a grant recipient is $90,000 and 1,300 families with incomes greater than $100,000 receive a grant, including 274 with incomes above $160,000,” said Director of Financial Aid Donahue. Harvard will distribute almost $105 million in financial aid to undergraduates this year.

“Our alumni/ae have been hard at work this year visiting schools, attending college nights, hosting winter holiday parties for students admitted during Early Action, and, of course, interviewing all our applicants,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions. “We can never do enough to thank them for their help. We are also grateful to the many members of the teaching faculty who have taken time from their already busy schedules to meet with prospective applicants, to talk with them on the telephone, and respond to their numerous requests for information by letter and e-mail,” she said.

Admissions selection meetings stretch from Jan. 28 to March 22. “Applications are read by as many as four admissions officers and faculty members prior to the meetings. Deliberations about individual applicants begin in subcommittee and can last for up to an hour before a majority vote is taken. Beginning in early March, the 35-person full committee convenes to make the final determination on every applicant. Those discussions about individual applications might also continue for an hour or more before a vote. Everything possible is done to ensure a thorough review for every candidate,” said Dean Fitzsimmons.

Notification letters will be mailed at 12:01 a.m., March 31, and electronic notification will take place at 5 p.m. that day. Admitted students must reply by May 1.