(Cambridge, MA – February 8, 2010) – From left, William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid to Students in Harvard College and Kathryn Vidra, Associate Director of Financial Aid, attend an admissions meeting inside the Admissions Office in 86 Brattle St. at Harvard University. Staff Photo Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Admissions process

3 min read

Harvard Rituals

?The tradition of careful, individual review of applications to Harvard College goes back to its earliest days. Each application receives as many as four readings prior to selection meetings. This month, 20 subcommittees meet for three to five days — each discussing an applicant for as long as an hour. Decisions are made by majority vote and are referred to the full committee, which makes the admission offers next month.

Bill Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions, said eager applicants sometimes augment the process with extra material. Musically talented applicants each year submit 2,500 recordings, which are sent to the Music Department faculty for review.

Other applicants have sent in material ranging from the quirky to the outrageous: cookies and date bread, monogrammed pencils urging admission, mock issues of Time magazine with candidates as persons of the year, and photos of applicants in bedrooms freshly painted crimson. Perhaps the most shocking delivery was the life-size plaster of paris casting of an applicant.