Campus & Community

‘Single-choice’ early admission policy stabilizes numbers

4 min read

Those admitted early may still apply elsewhere

For the third year in a row, close to 4,000 students have applied for admission to Harvard under its nonbinding Early Action program. This number is in stark contrast to the fall of 2002, when early application numbers soared to over 7,600. At that time, Harvard followed a now-modified requirement of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors that allowed students to apply simultaneously to an unlimited number of Early Action colleges, as well as to one binding Early Decision school. Eventually, in response to what admissions officials considered widespread confusion for college aspirants, Harvard three years ago returned to its long-standing policy of single-choice Early Action, requiring its early candidates to forgo early applications elsewhere.

“Looking across the country at early admissions programs, it was hard to believe that they were serving students well,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Too often we heard from high school counselors that students were making hurried, even frenzied, multiple early admission choices without sufficient research to determine if these colleges would provide the best match for them.”

Students admitted early to Harvard may still apply to other colleges, compare financial aid offers and need only inform colleges of their final college choice on May 1, the national common reply date. “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,” said Fitzsimmons.

While numbers are still preliminary because the processing and reading of applications have not been completed, it appears that the final total will near 4,000. Last year, 4,214 applied; the previous year, 3,889. This year, more women than men have applied – 50.6 percent – and minority students comprise a somewhat larger percentage than last year when Asian Americans totaled 23.2 percent, Latinos 5.7 percent, African Americans 5.2 percent, and Native Americans 0.8 percent.

While it is too early to tell precisely what the socioeconomic composition of the applicant pool will be, it appears that students who might be eligible for the new Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) are again well represented after last year’s substantial increase. “So far, close to the same percentage of students as last year have requested a fee waiver, a promising indication that they may be HFAI-eligible,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid.

President Lawrence H. Summers announced the new HFAI program on Feb. 29, 2004. The program requires no contribution from parents who earn less than $40,000 and a greatly reduced contribution from those with incomes between $40,000 and $60,000.

“We are extremely grateful to the undergraduates who worked so diligently throughout the summer months calling, e-mailing, and meeting students who might qualify for the HFAI program,” said Sarah E. Beasley, co-director of the HFAI program. Added Melanie Brennand Mueller, the other co-director, “Our HFAI undergraduates were able to dispel many stereotypes about Harvard that might have prevented students from applying.” Summer HFAI coordinators included Elizabeth Violin ’07, Precious Eboigbe ’07, Jon Gentry ’07, Jennifer Arcila ’08, and Neeraj “Richie” Banerji ’06. “HFAI recruiters have worked alongside members of the Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Program (UMRP) who, in similar fashion, have made an enormous difference to Harvard’s outreach,” said Roger Banks, director of recruitment. Summer UMRP coordinators included Tanya Thompson ’06, Shirley Cardona ’06, Elijah Hutchinson ’06, Maria Theresa Herrera ’07, and Cherry Miao ’08.

Geographical patterns in the applicant pool remained stable, as did the academic concentration intentions of the applicants. “Once again faculty, staff, students, and alumni/ae have helped attract students from all over the world with a remarkable array of academic interests,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions.

Early Action Admissions Committee meetings begin today, (Nov. 17) and end on Dec. 9. Students requesting e-mail notification will learn the committee’s decisions after 5 p.m. Dec. 14. Letters will be mailed Dec. 15.