On July 1, Dean Bender will clean out his desk and, after seven years on the job, leave the Office of Admission and Financial Aid, to become associate director of a Boston Foundation.
Ever since the war, and particularly in the last ten years, applications to the College have risen sharply. The growing ratio of opplications to admissions made it necessary to form a working "policy of selectivity"--a set of criteria, however vague. And the possibilities of a hand-picked class encouraged extensive speculation, both within the Admissions staff and among other administrators, about the ideal Harvard class, and how to get it.
Neither question has brought an answer agreeable to every official concerned with the problem. "No one I know in college admissions is happy about his work," Bender said yesterday, "for none of us have been able to find satisfying answers."
Student Backgrounds Present Dilemma Faced with a huge stack of applications, and subject to intense pressures from within the College, the Dean of Admissions must maintain a host of balances. Perhaps the most controversial balance is that between students with superior academic preparation, and the less prepared, but no less brilliant "diamonds-in-the-rough" students whose pre-college background has failed to provide an atmosphere of learning.
If the College were to limit itself primarily to the first group, Harvard's intellectual atmosphere might change from one presumably rich and diverse to one of pre-professional training for graduate schools.
Also, since most well-prepared applicants come from either prep schools or bette than average suburban high schools, the presently broad socio-economic base of the College would contract. "Harvard would be cutting itself off," said Bender, "from a group we've worked hard to get."
As well as "diamonds-in-the-rough," the Dean has looked for students with exceptional "character" qualities. In the booklet sent to all applicants, the Admissions Office writes that "the obsessive grade-grubber, the person who is afraid of life, and the arrogant or precious intellectual are not likely to profit greatly here."
And there are other balances, too, between young scientists and young English majors, between knowing how to read a book and how to act or write for a newspaper.