Campus & Community

The Class of 2010 is the most diverse in Harvard history

9 min read

The Class of 2010 has set new records for economic, gender, and ethnic diversity. Following a 24 percent increase last year in the number of students eligible for Harvard’s new Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) for low-income families, the HFAI program grew an additional 10 percent this year. A record 51.8 percent of those admitted are women, compared to 49.5 percent last year. Records were also set for Latinos (9.8 percent), Native Americans (1.4 percent), and African Americans (tying last year’s record of 10.5 percent). Asian Americans increased their numbers slightly compared to last year, comprising 17.7 percent of the admitted students.

By standard measures of academic talent, including test scores and academic performance in school, this year’s applicant pool reflects the remarkable level of excellence typical of recent years. For example, nearly 2,600 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT verbal test; 2,700 scored 800 on the SAT math; and nearly 3,000 were valedictorians of their high school classes.

“Harvard has reached milestones that seemed almost unimaginable not so many years ago,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “We are very grateful to the many faculty members, alumni/ae, students, and staff who have worked so hard to achieve such remarkable diversity and excellence in our student body,” he said.

A total of 2,109 (9.3 percent) students were admitted from an applicant pool of 22,753 (just shy of last year’s record of 22,796). Students were notified on Thursday (March 30) – 93 percent by e-mail along with the traditional letter. Admitted students have until May 1 to reply for September matriculation.

Harvard’s financial aid program next year will be the most generous in its history with nearly $90 million in scholarships for undergraduates, a 6.2 percent increase over the past year and a 65 percent increase over the past six years. The new Financial Aid Initiative will add an additional $2.4 million annually. Two-thirds of Harvard undergraduates receive some form of financial aid, including scholarships, loans, and jobs. The average total student package will likely be more than $33,000, more than 70 percent of the total cost of attendance.

“We are very pleased to offer such exceptional financial support to our undergraduates,” said William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History. “We do so because quality deserves quality: Outstanding students from all backgrounds deserve an equal chance at securing a strong education. Harvard will continue to support talented individuals across the socioeconomic spectrum.”

President Lawrence H. Summers, who announced Harvard’s new Financial Aid Initiative in February 2004, said that he is “very encouraged by this year’s positive results. Thanks to vigorous recruiting on the part of many people, we have added substantially to Harvard’s economic diversity while preserving a level of excellence in our student body that is truly remarkable.”

Building on the success of HFAI, Harvard announced this week a significant enhancement to its financial aid program, which further expands opportunities for low-income families while offering significant relief to middle-income families as well. The income threshold for families who will not be required to make a parental contribution has been raised from $40,000 to $60,000. The threshold for families who will benefit from a reduced parental contribution has risen from $60,000 to $80,000. In addition, the annual $2,150 summer savings expectation can now be met with scholarship awards from sources outside of Harvard, such as National Merit and the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Finally, many colleges have recently made changes in their financial aid programs, some increasing need-based aid for Pell Grant recipients (students from low- and moderate-income families). Students with Pell Grants who receive these more generous financial aid awards elsewhere will have their awards honored by Harvard. All the features of the new financial aid program will be offered to current and future students.

Geographical representation remained similar to last year. More than 25 percent of the admitted students reside in the mid-Atlantic; 21 percent are from the Western and Mountain states; 16 percent from New England; 16 percent from the South; 11 percent from the Midwest; and 10 percent from the U.S. territories and abroad. Foreign citizens number 181, compared to 183 for the Class of 2009. A significant number of other incoming students will also bring an international perspective, including Americans who have lived abroad, 123 U.S. dual citizens, and 102 U.S. permanent residents. Together, foreign citizens, U.S. duals, and U.S. permanent residents comprise 19.2 percent of the Class of 2010, compared to 16.9 percent last year. A total of 79 countries are represented in the Class of 2010.

Areas of academic interest are also similar to those of the Class of 2009. Twenty-one percent list biological sciences as their proposed concentration, while 9 percent are interested in the physical sciences, 8 percent in engineering, 7 percent in math, and 2 percent in computer science. The social sciences attract 26 percent, the humanities 26 percent, and 1 percent are undecided.

The Class of 2010 has a wide range of extracurricular interests. Major activities cited by students as an extracurricular focus are music (25 percent); followed by creative writing, journalism, and other writing (25 percent); arts, dance, and drama (21 percent); social service (17 percent); student government (14 percent); debate (11 percent); and political groups (10 percent). Fifty-two percent of the class plan to participate in recreational, intramural, or intercollegiate athletics.

“Only the most effective recruitment can achieve the excellence we see every year in our incoming students,” said Fitzsimmons. About 70 percent of all admitted students and over 90 percent of minority students were on the original College Board Search List that helped launch Harvard’s outreach program for the Class of 2010 last spring. “The foundation of our recruiting is our 8,000 alumni/ae volunteers who will be calling newly admitted students and hosting local gatherings in April. Simultaneously, they will be preparing to assist our staff visits to nearly 80 cities this spring, targeting the high school juniors who will eventually comprise the Class of 2011,” said Fitzsimmons. “Harvard would not be the same without the often herculean efforts of alumni/ae, including the interviews that are critical to our decision-making process,” he added.

“Recruitment requires the commitment of large numbers of dedicated undergraduates,” said Roger Banks, director of undergraduate recruitment. “We are enormously grateful to members of the Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Program (UMRP) and the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) for their crucial role in attracting this unprecedented group of admitted students.” Members of both organizations made countless telephone calls and sent e-mail and letters to prospective applicants. They also met with visiting middle school and high school student groups and traveled to various parts of the country to recruit talented students.

“We are excited about a new publication created by HFAI students, ‘Shoestring Strategies for Life at Harvard,’ that will help all students balance their daily expense budgets in Cambridge,” said Melanie Brennand Mueller, co-director of HFAI. Added Sarah E. Beasley, HFAI co-director, “We are also happy to see the recent development of a student-to-student HFAI mentoring program as well as a monthly HFAI newsletter.”

Marlyn McGrath Lewis, director of admissions, lauded the efforts of the Undergraduate Admissions Council and the undergraduate tour guides and greeters who work throughout the year with visitors to Cambridge. “The undergraduates who lead tours, host overnight visits, and visit high schools bring a priceless personal touch to our outreach efforts,” she said.

Lewis also emphasized the importance of the role of the teaching faculty in the admissions process: “Faculty talk with many prospective students in person or on the telephone and answer their many letters and e-mail inquiries. Faculty accessibility is a clear demonstration of commitment to undergraduate education. In addition, faculty members read hundreds of application folders, evaluate academic research of all kinds, and assist in evaluating portfolios across the academic disciplines.” Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are Professors James Anderson, Michael Brenner, John Dowling, Mary Gaylord, Benedict Gross, J. Woodland Hastings, Akira Iriye, Harry Lewis, David McCann, James McCarthy, Venkatesh Narayanamurti, Richard O’Connell, Wilfried Schmid, Nancy Sommers, Frans Spaepen, John Stauffer, Steven Wofsy, and Robert Woollacott.

Personal contact with admitted students will be very important over the next few weeks. Members of the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, the admissions staff, and the teaching faculty will telephone and meet with admitted students.

For the third year, the Admissions Office has been hosting online chats and message boards for admitted students, starting in December with the students admitted under the Early Action program. There will be additional chat sessions in April, which will provide an opportunity for admitted students to speak with Harvard undergraduates and one another. Meghan Crnic, director of Internet Communications, noted, “The chat sessions and message boards extend our outreach and recruitment dramatically.” Prospective Harvard students can post questions to Harvard undergraduates and admissions representatives on the message board. “The boards provide yet another way for students to meet and make connections with future classmates,” said Crnic.

A Visiting Program for admitted students is scheduled for April 22-24. In addition to visiting classes, students will attend faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, departmental open houses, symposia, and events offered by extracurricular organizations. “The program will give students the chance to explore the many opportunities awaiting them here in Cambridge as well as meet their potential professors and classmates,” said Visiting Program Director Erin Fehn. More than l,200 admitted students will visit during the month of April, and nearly 1,100 will be here during the Visiting Program. “Past experience indicates that many students make their decision to attend Harvard as a result of the Visiting Program. Their contact with current undergraduates often provides the critical difference,” said Fehn.

Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid, and her colleagues will be available to talk with admitted students and their families on weekdays during the month of April from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. “We are always available for students and parents who have concerns or questions about how to finance a Harvard education,” said Donahue. “We even talk with families who have not applied for financial aid to outline the wide range of payment options, including the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates or extend payments up to 15 years,” she said. “We want all students to be aware that there are other forms of financial assistance such as the Faculty Aide Program, the Harvard College Research Program, and the Dean’s Summer Research Program, which enable students to create partnerships with faculty members on academic projects of mutual interest.”