Campus & Community

Early Admission numbers return to past levels

5 min read

Just over 800 students were admitted to Harvard College’s Class of 2010 under the Early Action program this week (Dec. 14-15), the smallest number since the Class of 1999. While the exact numbers were not available by press time as the Admissions Committee finished its final deliberations, it appears that there will be 80 or so fewer admitted compared with last year’s 892 for the Class of 2009.

“Our return three years ago to our long-standing policy of ‘single-choice’ Early Action has helped to abate some of the frenzy that has beset early admission programs across America over the past decade or so,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “The pattern of the past three years suggests a return to a better era, when students could take the time during their senior year in high school to make more thoughtful decisions about where they wanted to spend the next four years,” he said.

In each of the past three years, about 4,000 students have applied for early admission to Harvard. This compares to more than 7,600 who applied for the Class of 2007 when Harvard followed a now-modified requirement of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which allowed students to apply to an unlimited number of Early Action colleges, as well as to one binding Early Decision school. Although it is hard to compare past numbers owing to changing times and different policies at peer institutions, Harvard’s “early” numbers over the past three years are consistent with those during the last five years of its previous era of “single-choice” when between 3,000 and 4,500 applied.

Throughout the past three years, applications have remained stable – 3,882 to 4,212 to 3,872 this year. The numbers admitted have ranged from 902 to 892, to slightly more than 800 this year. “The Admissions Committee has always had a firm policy of admitting early only those who would definitely be admitted later in Regular Action. After last year’s record total applicant pool of nearly 23,000, we wanted to be ready if application numbers increase again this year,” said Fitzsimmons.

While it is still too early to tell precisely what the socioeconomic composition of the Class of 2010 will be, it is clear that last year’s substantial increase in students eligible for the new Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) has been sustained. “This year, 14.3 percent of the admitted students – compared to 12.5 percent last year – either had their application fees waived or were identified by staff to have significant financial need – both indicating the strong possibility that students would be eligible for HFAI,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. “We will have more definite information about the final numbers over the next few weeks as more admitted students complete their financial aid applications, but we are enormously encouraged by what we have seen so far. We are extremely grateful to the undergraduates, alumni/ae, and staff who have worked so hard to recruit outstanding students of modest economic means,” said Donahue.

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. 

About two-thirds of Harvard undergraduates receive some form of financial assistance and nearly 50 percent are eligible for need-based grant assistance. Harvard has increased its grant assistance by 55 percent over the past seven years and reduced median loan indebtedness for graduating seniors from $17,000 to $6,400.

It is likely that there will be more men than women admitted early this year, perhaps by a 51 percent/49 percent differential. Last year, men comprised 54 percent of those admitted early, and yet for the second year in a row there were slightly more women matriculating in the first-year class in September. The Class of 2008 was the first in Harvard’s history with more women than men.

African-American students will once again comprise nearly 9 percent of admits. Asian Americans increased from 17.9 percent to more than 20 percent, Latinos increased from 6.2 percent to 6.6 percent, and Native Americans from 0.7 percent to almost 1 percent.

Intended fields of concentration were very similar to last year’s pattern, as was the geographical distribution. Citizenship varied slightly, however: 18.1 percent are international citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or U.S. dual citizens compared with 14.1 percent last year.

“Admitted students will hear a great deal from us over the months ahead,” said Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions. “Faculty, staff, undergraduate recruiters, and alumni/ae will use telephone, e-mail, and regular mail to reach admitted students with information about Harvard. Many Harvard Clubs will host local parties during the winter holidays and in April. All admitted students will be invited to Cambridge from April 22 to 24 for our Visiting Program. Everything possible will be done to ensure that students are fully aware of the remarkable opportunities awaiting them here including the freshman seminar program, which has more than quadrupled in size over the past few years to more than 140 courses, the greatly expanded study abroad opportunities, and the many other recent changes that will enhance the undergraduate experience,” she said.

E-mail notification was sent on Dec. 14 to the 92 percent of the applicants who requested it, and letters were mailed on Dec. 15 to all applicants. In addition to the admitted students, so far 2,828 were deferred, 149 were rejected, 79 are incomplete, and 12 withdrew. Admitted students may apply to other colleges under their Regular Action programs and need only inform Harvard of their matriculation intentions by May 1, the national common reply date.