A record number of students have applied to become members of Harvard-Radcliffe's Class of 1998, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 said yesterday.
This year's total of 15,210 applicants is nearly 10 percent higher than last year's and five percent above the record, set in 1992.
Most impressive, Fitzsimmons said, is a 15 percent increase in women applicants, bringing the number to more than 7,000 for the first time.
"We've refined our use of the College Board search program to identify women who have done particularly well in standardized tests and in their high school programs," Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis said in a written statement. "We've also made a special search for women interested in the sciences."
Fitzsimmons said the effort of alumni recruiters helped to "give out the message that [we] are very interested in having strong women apply."
Fitzsimmons said, however, that the College is still aiming for a 50-50 balance of men and women applicants. This year's applicants are 46 percent women.
"We certainly won't be satisfied until we reach a point where we're right on par," he said.
Fitzsimmons said the admissions office did not yet have complete breakdowns of the applicant pool by minority group. The dean said those figures are not tabulated until applications have been completely read.
"So far, we do have record numbers of applicants from all minority groups," Fitzsimmons said.
The dean said his office has already read more than 3,000 applications from Asian Americans, surpassing the previous high of 2,838. "The increase for Asian Americans will be [more than] ten percent," Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons said last year's record for the number of Black applicants has already been broken.
Numbers of applicants classifying themselves as Mexican American, Hispanic American, Puerto Rican and Native American are also higher than last year, he said.
Among the regions, the South and the West showed the largest increases. And the number of applicants interested in biological sciences and the humanities increased by more than 10 percent.
Fitzsimmons said the office currently plans to admit "something in the range of 2,114" students. But he added:"We're going to refine this as we go along."
In its written statement, the administrationstressed that the applications record isparticularly impressive because the number of highschool seniors has been shrinking.
Fitzsimmons said the University's "very strongfinancial aid" packages along with the prospect ofa Harvard education had encouraged many studentsto apply.
The dean added that many other schools havealso seen increased applicant levels this year.
"The average applicant to highly competitiveschools is applying to a larger number ofcolleges," Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons speculated that the end of theOverlap Agreement, which permitted schools tojointly decide financial aid awards, may becontributing to the larger number of applications.With schools now giving widely different financialaid packages, students may want to shop around.
"You could have students applying to a largernumber of places to see what kind of financial aidthey can get," Fitzsimmons said