Over 30,000 students—a record-breaking number—have applied for admission to the Harvard Class of 2014.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 attributed the increase—which represents about 5 percent more applicants than last year’s 29,114—to three factors: Harvard’s commitment to generous financial aid in an unpredictable economic climate, the continued effects of the elimination of early admission, and Harvard’s heightened reputation for excellence in engineering.
“A major factor was our financial aid program,” Fitzsimmons said in an interview with The Crimson today. “Certainly that’s made a big difference to us since the inception of the program. There’s been a major change in the amount of interest in Harvard around the country and around the world.”
Despite the impact of this year's budgetary cutbacks on admissions officers’ recruiting practices—the admissions staff was reduced by 10 percent and its travel budget decreased by 50 percent—admissions officers have been able to devote more time to recruiting students since the elimination of early admission two years ago, according to Fitzsimmons.
“One concern, obviously, when you’re making so many changes—especially so much less travel—is that we could have experienced significant decline,” he said. “The good news is...that the changes we made did not lead to a decline but rather to an increase.”
Fitzsimmons also noted that the number of applications from students interested in engineering, physical sciences, and computer science increased by a greater margin than did applications as a whole. He noted that there has been "quite a bit of interest" in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which was established in 2007.
“That’s one of the battles we’ve been fighting for a very long time, making the case to the world about the excellence of our engineering and applied sciences," Fitzsimmons said. "The fact that we now have a separate school and that there’s been a great deal of publicity over the past three years since it was established, are making certain that people know about our excellence in this area.”
Fitzsimmons predicted that the number of students to be admitted this year will be similar to that of last year—Harvard accepted 2175 students to the Class of 2013, an admission rate of 7 percent. The admissions office will be "very conservative" about its selection process, Fitzsimmons said, adding that he predicts Harvard will again offer admission to many students on the waiting list.
Admissions officers told the Harvard Gazette that applications were roughly evenly distributed between males and females, and the percentage of minority applicants is also similar to last year. Geographically, there was a larger than average increase in the number of applications from the western United States and abroad.
Notification letters and emails will be sent to applicants on April 1.