Harvard College’s early action acceptance rate increased for the first time in six years — from 13.4 percent last year to 13.9 percent this year.
The College invited 895 of 6,424 early applicants to join its Class of 2024 Thursday around 7 p.m. The 13.9 acceptance rate represents a 0.5 percent increase from last year. The early admission acceptance rate has not increased year-over-year since 2013.
The number of early applicants also decreased by 537, representing a 7.7 percent decrease from last year’s applicant pool, which totaled 6,958. The number of early applicants has only decreased once — also in 2013, with the Class of 2018 — since Harvard reinstated its early action admissions program in 2011.
The number of students accepted also decreased, with 40 fewer students receiving early admission to the Class of 2024 than in the Class of 2023.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 attributed the decline in applicants to a few factors, including demographics, “uncertainty economically in the world,” and the “broad category of economic issues.”
“What's happening right now is a little bit of a plateauing, or a decline in the number of high school seniors,” Fitzsimmons said. “These people have been born, so this isn't speculation. This year, the demographics work a little bit against, one could argue.”
Fitzsimmons also speculated that the California wildfires, natural disasters, and school shootings might have affected application numbers. He said that when schools are forced to close, some students are unable to consult with their college counselors to complete college applications.
The percentage of applicants that Harvard saw from California declined 16.6 percent, representing a loss of 116 applicants, according to Fitzsimmons. He called the decline “huge” and said California is usually ranks among the top three states.
The percentage of students admitted early action who identify as African American, Latinx, and Native American and Native Hawaiian increased slightly, from 12 to 12.7 percent, 10.1 to 11 percent, and 1 to 1.3 percent, respectively.
The percentage of students admitted early action who identify as Asian Americans fell from 26.1 percent to 24 percent from the Class of 2023 to the Class of 2024.
In October, a federal district court judge ruled in favor of Harvard on all counts brought against it by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, who had alleged that Harvard discriminates against Asian American applicants.
The percentage of admitted students who are international citizens also declined from 11.2 percent to 9.6 percent.
Fitzsimmons said the decline in the number of international citizen applicants was less than the overall decline.
“There were some who worried — including us, actually — as we were going into the year that there would be a major decline on the part of international citizens, or people applying from abroad, generally,” Fitzsimmons said, citing the political climate in the United States. “That turned out not to be the case, actually, so that was encouraging.”
Women comprise 51.7 percent of the admitted class thus far, slightly more than last year, when women made up 51.3 percent of the early admit class.
The class included notably magnified numbers of women who are interested in the physical sciences and computer science. This year, 57.4 percent of admitted students who said they intend to concentrate in the physical sciences are women, compared to 52.9 percent last year and 33 percent the year before. For computer science, 49.1 percent of interested students are women, an increase from 42.9 percent last year, and 29 percent the year before.
In addition, 10.1 percent of the admitted students were from first-generation college backgrounds, up from 9.6 percent last year.
Those admitted under early action are not obligated to attend the College and have until May 1 to decide whether they will accept their offers of admission.
The deadline to apply under the regular admission program is January 1.
Fitzsimmons called the admitted class “stunning.”
“It's not just the people we admit, it's most of the applicants. You'd be honored and thrilled to get to know these people. The shame of it all is that we have so few spaces,” he said. “You can't help but read these applicants stories, and not believe, despite all the conflict and trouble, that the world isn't going to be better.”
—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.