“Unprecedented levels of financial aid played a major role in producing a record applicant pool and an admitted group that promises to be one of the best in Harvard’s history,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

College admits 2,029

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Record financial aid helps cast Class of ’17 as ‘one of the best’

Letters and email notifications of admission were sent today to 2,029 students, 5.8 percent of the applicant pool of 35,023.  Admitted students have until May 1 to accept their offers.

“Unprecedented levels of financial aid played a major role in producing a record applicant pool and an admitted group that promises to be one of the best in Harvard’s history,” said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. “The leadership of President Drew Faust, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael Smith, and Dean of the College Evelynn Hammonds in providing a record $182 million in need-based financial aid affirms Harvard’s longstanding commitment to enroll the nation’s and the world’s best students regardless of economic background.”

“We expect that nearly 60 percent of the students admitted to the Class of 2017 will need financial assistance in order to attend,” said Sarah C. Donahue, director of financial aid.  “Their families will pay an average of only $12,000 per year. About 20 percent of Harvard families, those with normal assets making $65,000 or less annually, will pay nothing at all.”  As always, students contribute to the cost of their education through term-time and summer work.

“Beyond statistical measures, the Class of 2017 embodies all the intangibles, attributes of strong character and personal qualities that foster unusual academic and extracurricular excellence,” said Fitzsimmons. “Their remarkable creativity, intellectual curiosity, and love of learning will add immeasurably to the education of their fellow classmates and to the entire Harvard community.”

More than 27 percent intend to concentrate in the social sciences, 23 percent in the biological sciences, nearly 18 percent in the humanities, 15 percent in engineering and computer science, 9 percent in the physical sciences, 7 percent in mathematics, and the rest are undecided.

Extracurricular interests cited by students include music and other expressive and performing arts (42 percent); debate and political activities, including student government (35 percent); social service (17 percent); and writing and journalism (18 percent). In addition, 54 percent of the class expects to participate in recreational, intramural, or intercollegiate athletics.

More than 14,400 in the applicant pool scored 700 or above on the SAT critical reading test; 17,400 scored 700 or above on the SAT math test; 14,900 scored 700 or higher on the SAT writing test; and 3,400 were ranked first in their high school classes.

Slightly more than half (53.4 percent) of those admitted are men, reflecting the fact that more men than women applied.  Minority representation remained strong. The admitted class is 19.9 percent Asian-American, 11.5 percent African-American, 11.5 percent Latino, 2.2 percent Native American, and .5 percent Native Hawaiian.

Geographic representation remained similar to last year.  About 23 percent of the admitted students reside in the mid-Atlantic states, 21 percent in the Western and Mountain states, 17 percent in the South, 17 percent in New England, 9 percent in the Midwest, and 11 percent in the U.S. territories and abroad.

Foreign citizens make up 10.3 percent of the admitted students.  In addition, a significant number of entering students will bring international perspectives, including 147 U.S. dual citizens, 61 U.S. permanent residents, and many Americans who have lived abroad.  Together, foreign citizens, U.S. duals, and U.S. permanent residents make up more than 20 percent of the class, representing 81 countries.  “Harvard is greatly enriched by the presence of outstanding international students,” said Robin M. Worth, director of international admissions. “They add a unique dimension to the College, both in and out of the classroom.”

“Much of our success is due to our loyal 15,000 alumni volunteers,” said Marlyn E. McGrath, director of admissions. “Their interviews remain important as we make our admissions decisions.  They are also essential to our recruiting, as they visit schools, call newly admitted students, and host gatherings for them in April.” Added Elizabeth Adams, liaison to the alumni/ae Schools and Scholarship Committees, “Their willingness to take time out of already busy lives to help assemble our class each year is vital to our efforts.”

Recruitment begins each year with direct outreach to promising juniors. More than 64 percent of all admitted students and 81 percent of admitted minority students appeared on the original College Board and ACT search lists that helped launch Harvard’s outreach program for the Class of 2017.

Staff members will visit 125 cities this spring and fall in tandem with Duke University, Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University, targeting high school juniors who may eventually join the Class of 2018.  “Harvard will join Princeton and the University of Virginia to visit 20 more cities in the fall, targeting students from modest economic backgrounds,” said Tim Smith, assistant director of joint travel.  Added Jennifer Gandy, director of joint travel, “Last year, Harvard admissions officers visited all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Mexico, where we saw nearly 50,000 high school students and parents and met with more than 3,000 high school guidance counselors.”

“Recruitment has provided the foundation for Harvard’s pursuit of academic and extracurricular excellence for many decades,” said Roger Banks, director of recruitment.  “Members of the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program (UMRP) and the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) played a key role in attracting this year’s record pool of students.” Members of both organizations telephoned and sent email messages and letters to prospective applicants. They also conducted recruitment trips around the country and met with middle school and high school student groups who visited Harvard.

“We are gratified by the enthusiasm of our UMRP coordinators and the positive results they achieved this year,” said Lucerito Ortiz, co-director of UMRP. Added Tia Ray, assistant director, “Our program continues to develop close relationships with schools and communities that will help us with future recruiting as well.”

“HFAI remains one of Harvard’s highest priorities, and once again we were able to attract outstanding students from families with annual incomes under $80,000,” said Monica Del Toro-Brown, director of HFAI. Pharen Bowman, HFAI assistant director, noted, “Our student recruiters worked tirelessly to reach out to talented students from modest economic backgrounds who never dreamed Harvard was possible.” Added Charlene Kim, HFAI assistant director, “As a person who would have benefited from the HFAI program, I am inspired by students who have come to Harvard as a result of HFAI.”  Kaitlin Howrigan, assistant director of HFAI, observed, “As a Vermonter from a multi-generational farming family, I am particularly pleased to see the number of students from rural areas who benefit from HFAI.”

The Undergraduate Admissions Council (UAC) and the undergraduate tour guides and greeters work year-round with campus visitors to Cambridge, leading tours and hosting prospective applicants overnight. David Evans, co-director of the UAC, noted, “Current undergraduates have enormous credibility with prospective students who want to learn firsthand about the Harvard experience.” Added Mike Esposito, UAC co-director, “The UAC provides a human face to the Harvard community, and applicants often stay in touch with UAC members throughout the year.” Jake Foley, UAC co-director, concurred, saying, “We hear from students and families that UAC members help separate fact from fiction about what Harvard is really like on a day-to-day basis.”

Banks, director of visitor services and co-director of the student tour guide program, said, “Our tour guides and greeters welcome over 40,000 visitors each year to Cambridge. Their anecdotes about life in the College both inside and outside the classroom help lend a personal dimension to Harvard.”  Added Ortiz, “We get many compliments from the public about our tour guides and their ability to relate to a wide range of people with their grace and humor.”  Bryce Gilfillian, assistant director, said, “Prospective students and their families from around the world see Harvard for the first time with our tour guides and often make their decision about whether to apply based on this experience.”

McGrath emphasized the important role of the teaching faculty in the admissions process.  Faculty members speak with many prospective students in person or on the phone and answer their letters and email inquiries. “Their accessibility is a clear demonstration of Harvard’s commitment to undergraduate education. In reading hundreds of applications, evaluating academic research of all kinds, and assessing portfolios across a range of academic and creative disciplines, faculty members identify the next generation of scholars for Harvard.”

Members of the teaching faculty serving on the Admissions Committee are Ann Blair, Peter Burgard, Diana Eck, Edward Glaeser, Benedict Gross, Guido Guidotti, Evelynn M. Hammonds, Joseph Harris, Thomas Jehn, Harry Lewis, James McCarthy, Louis Menand, Michael Mitzenmacher, Cherry Murray, Alison Simmons, Frans Spaepen, Christopher Stubbs, Richard Thomas, James Waldo, Robert Woollacott, and Amir Yacoby.

Personal contact with admitted students will be important over the next few weeks.  Members of the UAC, UMRP, HFAI, the admissions and financial aid staff, and teaching faculty will write, email, telephone, and meet with admitted students.

“Our careful admissions process allows us to get to know our admitted students well,” said Niki Applebaum, yield activity coordinator.  “We write personalized notes to congratulate them and help them consider how Harvard might provide the right match for their interests.”

Harvard reaches out to students through a comprehensive digital communications program directed by Amy Lavoie.  Working with assistant directors, Applebaum, Jake Foley and Amelia Muller, Lavoie said that, “Students today rely increasingly on the Internet for information about higher education.  Through our website and student blogs, students from all over the world can get a wealth of information about the College.”

To give admitted students the opportunity to experience Harvard life and meet future professors and classmates, a visiting program for admitted students is scheduled for April 20 to 22.  The program, known as Visitas, enables guests to sample classes, attend faculty panel discussions, concerts, receptions, department open houses, symposia, and hundreds of events organized by extracurricular groups.  More than 1,400 admitted students are expected to visit during April, and 1,200 of them will do so during Visitas.  “Students admitted to Harvard have many attractive options, and meetings with faculty and future classmates are critically important to them,” said Visitas co-director Esposito.  Co-director Muller added that “many students decide to attend Harvard based on their Visitas experience.”

Donahue and her financial aid colleagues will be available to speak with admitted students and their families on weekdays during April from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDT and on April 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Visitas.  “We welcome students and parents who have concerns or questions about how to finance a Harvard education, including families who may not have applied for financial aid but who are interested in the wide range of available payment options,” she said.  “Our program offers assistance to all students and families, ranging from full financial aid to a number of financing alternatives: a monthly payment plan, the opportunity to prepay tuition at current rates, and a variety of parent loan programs that extend payments up to 15 years.”

“Students and their families are anxious to learn more about other forms of financial assistance, such as the Faculty Aide Program, the Harvard College Research Program, and the Dean’s Summer Research Program, all of which enable students to create paid partnerships with faculty members on academic projects of mutual interest,” said Meg Brooks Swift, director of student employment and the Harvard College Research Program.  “We stand ready to help them in any way we can.”