For the first time in five years, Harvard College has seen a dip in applicantions. This year, 34,285 students applied for spots in the Harvard College Class of 2016, down 665 applicants from last year.
The 1.9 percent decline in applications comes after an all-time high of 34,950 applications for this year’s freshman class.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said he attributes the decline in applications to Princeton's and the University of Virginia’s reinstatements of their early action programs, a move which Harvard also made this year. The three colleges’ decisions to offer early action programs after a four-year hiatus may have led students to apply to fewer colleges, Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons also noted that the number of high school seniors from the Northeast, home to many of Harvard’s applicants each year, has decreased.
While Fitzsimmons said the make-up of this year’s applicant pool resembled last year’s, he noted that international applications to the College increased by only 5 percent this year, as opposed to last year’s 20 percent jump.
Fitzsimmons credited the rise in applicant numbers over the past five years to Harvard’s generous financial aid. Under the current financial aid program, students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year attend the College for free. Most families with incomes of less than $150,000 are asked to contribute no more than 10 percent of their annual income.
Other Ivy League institutions also witnessed a decline in their application numbers this year. Applications to Columbia University decreased by 8.9 percent, according to The Columbia Spectator, and applications to the University of Pennsylvania decreased by 1.7 percent this admissions cycle, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.
However, Yale saw applications rise by 8.5 percent and Stanford by 7 percent.
Last year, 2,188 students were admitted, leading to a record-low acceptance rate of 6.2 percent.
Harvard has already admitted 772 students to the Class of 2016 through its reinstated early action program.
Admissions officers are currently reviewing applications for the regular decision cycle as well as those of students who were deferred during the early action process.
Regular decision applicants will be notified of their admissions decisions by email on March 29. All admitted students, whether they are admitted in December or March, must accept or decline Harvard’s offer by May 1.
—Staff writer Elizabeth S. Auritt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.