Applications to the College have leveled off after five consecutive years of record numbers.  A total of 34,285 applications were received, down from last year’s record 34,950.  Two years ago 30,489 applied; 10 years ago 18,932 applied.

“A number of factors may be involved,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.  “The return of Early Action here and at Princeton and the University of Virginia may have led more students to make their college choices earlier and not apply to as many colleges in Regular Action.  And demographic downturns in the number of high school seniors, particularly in the Northeast (which will continue over the next few years), may also have played a part.  If so, we may experience a period of greater stability and less frenzy in college admissions, a welcome result for everyone,” he said.

As might be expected, there is a great deal of similarity between this year’s and last year’s applicant pools.  One change worth noting, however, is the modest (5 percent) increase in the international pool, compared with a 20 percent increase last year (from 5,006 to 6,014).

“Outreach to international students by American colleges and universities historically has usually produced large annual gains as relatively few international students had ever considered coming to the United States for college,” said Marlyn McGrath, director of admissions.  “Now an American college education is considered a normal option by more international students than in the past,” she added.

“Harvard’s generous financial aid program once again was a critical factor in attracting a large and diverse applicant pool,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid. “Over 70 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.” The program requires no contribution from families with annual incomes below $65,000 and asks on average no more than 10 percent of income from families with incomes up to $150,000 and typical assets — and does not require students to take out loans.  The average financial aid recipient’s family pays only $11,500 annually.

Over the next few months, the Admissions Committee will review the applications of those deferred during Early Action as well as those who applied for the Jan. 1 Regular Action program.  Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decisions on March 29.

Admitted students will be invited to Cambridge for Visitas, the undergraduate-named visiting program, which this year will be held from April 21 to 23, the Arts First weekend.  Students will notify Harvard by May 1 of their intention to enroll.