Harvard College received 4,245 applications for early admission to the Class of 2016, the University announced on Monday. This year marks the first time that the College has offered early admission since it eliminated the program four years ago.
revived early program allows students to apply to the College by Nov. 1
and receive a non-binding decision in mid-December. The process,
referred to as single-choice early action, stipulates that students only
apply to one school early.
“We’re never concerned about the
numbers. It’s always about the quality. And the impression so far is
that the quality is very, very high,” said Dean of Admissions and
Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67. “It’s also the case that this
is a very diverse group ethnically.”
Harvard, Princeton, and the
University of Virginia eliminated their early admissions programs in
2006, arguing that they unfairly benefited students from privileged
“Early admission programs tend to advantage the
advantaged,” then-Interim University President Derek C. Bok said in a
statement in 2006. “Students from more sophisticated backgrounds and
affluent high schools often apply early to increase their chances of
admission, while minority students and students from rural areas, other
countries, and high schools with fewer resources miss out.”
Harvard and Princeton retreated from that stance earlier this year, with each announcing the return of early admissions
within hours of each other. Though Harvard administrators had hoped
other colleges and universities would follow suit in eliminating early
admission, that trend never materialized.
In the February
announcement of early admission's return, Fitzsimmons argued that the
circumstances had changed and that a broader group of students sought
to apply early.
In this year’s early admissions pool, nine
percent of the applicants are African American, up nearly two-thirds
from four years ago and nine percent are Latino, up almost one-third.
Seventy-two percent of applicants applied for financial aid, also an
Still, Fitzsimmons acknowledged that the pool would likely be less diverse than the class as a whole.
is certainly true that if you look at students from most ethnic
backgrounds and certainly true for students who need financial aid, they
are much less likely to have access to counseling that other students
would have,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s certainly far [more diverse] than
it was in the past. I still believe that differential opportunities
will continue to produce the kind of results we’ve seen in early
Early application numbers at Harvard’s peer
institutions varied greatly. Yale received 4,310 applications, down 18
percent from the previous year. Application numbers at Stanford
University and the University of Pennsylvania declined by less than one
percent, from 5,929 to 5,880 and from 4,571 to 4,526 respectively.
Princeton received 3,547 early applications.
Speaking to the Yale
Daily News, Yale Dean of Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel acknowledged the
impact of Harvard and Princeton’s decisions to bring back early
“Though it is impossible to identify all of the
factors that influence early admissions numbers, it is clear that the
policies this year are allowing students to sort themselves out more
among schools,” he said.
Fitzsimmons offered no estimate of the number of students that will be admitted through the early action process.
we’re going to do is what we always did. If we’re 100 percent certain
that we would take the person later, we’ll take the person early,” said
Fitzsimmons, noting that there was a very high bar of certainty. “We
have no quotas in our minds, no numbers. We don’t go there.”
than 21 percent of approximately 4,000 early applicants to the Class of
2011 received acceptance letters early, compared with an overall
admissions rate of less than 9 percent. The acceptance rate for the
Class of 2015 stood at a record low 6.2 percent.
Asked how the admissions office has adjusted to reading applications early, Fitzsimmons smiled and laughed.
“We’ve done this before, we know how to do this,” he said.