Sunday, January 20, 2008

More than 27,000 student hopefuls applied Harvard to join the Class of 2012

Published On Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:52 PM
Over 27,000 Bid To Join Class of ’12

More than 27,000 student hopefuls applied to join the Class of 2012, the University announced on Wednesday, making next year’s freshman class set to be the most selective in Harvard’s history.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said Wednesday that the figure now stands at 27,278—up from last year’s pool of 22,955—and may increase slightly in the coming days.

The number represents a more than 35 percent increase over the 19,750 students who applied four years ago to join the Class of 2008.

College applications are rising nationwide, with this year’s high school senior class the largest in 20 years. The number of students graduating from high school will hit 3.2 million this year, up from 2.5 million in 1995-96, according to The Boston Globe.

The size of the entering class has held steady at about 1,650.

Due to a recent expansion in financial aid programs, Fitzsimmons said last month that the number of students accepting Harvard’s offer of admission may rise, forcing the College to accept fewer students.

The College has not yet projected yield for the incoming class, but even if Harvard continues to admit 2,100 freshmen as it has in years past, the admissions rate would plunge to 7.7 percent, down from 9.1 percent last year and 11.4 percent 10 years ago.

To help deal with the influx in applicants, at least four former Harvard admissions staff members are returning to help read applications, Fitzsimmons said.

Women composed just over half of the applicant pool this year, and a larger-than-average increase in applicants was reported from the Mid-Atlantic and the South. The admissions office said it did not yet have complete statistics on the number of minority applicants this year, “but the numbers of African American and Latino applicants already exceed last year’s totals by a considerable margin.”

This year marks the first without Early Action, the non-binding early admissions program that allowed students to apply by Nov. 1 and receive a decision by mid-December. Harvard announced the program’s end in fall 2006, arguing that early admissions practices tend to advantage students from wealthier families.

The resulting single Jan. 1 deadline created more opportunities for recruiting, University officials said. Join recruiting programs with Princeton and the University of Virginia—two other schools that dropped their early admissions programs—have reached over 120 cities this academic year.

Fitzsimmons said the schools focused on rural and urban areas in four trips during the month of November. Those trips included one targeting the South and one to the Mid-Atlantic. The events drew large crowds of students, including a total of 1,300 during one trip to Washington, D.C.

Princeton and Virginia saw their applicant pools rise by six and four percent, respectively. Other top schools have also seen major jumps in applicants, with the University of Chicago and Amherst College recording 18 percent and 17 percent increases.

Harvard also announced a sweeping financial aid initiative on Dec. 10, three weeks before applications for the Class of 2012 were due. But the University said that application numbers were still ahead of last year’s pace even before the overhaul of financial aid was announced.

Fitzsimmons said that effects of most new programs are usually not fully seen for three to five years after their inception, though he noted that there has been a 33-percent increase in the number of students whose families earn under $80,000 in the past three years, and that these undergraduate now comprise roughly 25 percent of the student body.

—Staff writer Arianna Markel can be reached at

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