Harvard Grad Schools Stick to Their Own
Statistically, Harvard College Graduates Show Edge in Competitive Admissions
Going to Harvard College opens all sorts of doors-and admissions statistics show that applicants with a College degree may have an edge in gaining admission to Harvard graduate schools as well.
Schools such as Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) accept more applicants from Harvard College than any other undergraduate institution, although admissions officers in Harvard graduate programs say they do not have any official policy that gives preference to College graduates.
Joyce Curll '65, dean of admissions at the law school, said that one of three Harvard graduates is admitted to the J.D. program, whereas the overall admit ratio is one of eight or nine applicants. Last year alone, the law school admitted over a hundred graduates of Harvard College.
Yi Qian '01, who was recently admitted to the Ph.D. program in Harvard's Economics Department, said the she feels being an applicant from Harvard is not necessarily an advantage.
"Being a Harvard graduate could help or go against you. It could be easier if you know the professors," she said, but also noted that the economics department wants to get students who have had a variety of undergraduate experiences.
And most Harvard graduate schools admit far more Harvard College graduates than graduates from any other undergraduate institution.
At the medical school, roughly 20 percent of each class is made up of Harvard graduates.
"The success rate of Harvard College graduates is greater than that from many other schools," says Jules A. Dienstag, dean of admissions for the medical school. "But the fact of the matter is that the graduates from the College are a lot more accomplished."
Dienstag also notes that the number of applicants to the medical school has been falling by three to six percent since 1996, probably due to a boom in the U.S. economy. Although the number of applicants from Harvard has remained fairly stable over the past few years, last year was the first time that the majority of Harvard applicants to the medical school were alumni and not currently enrolled College students.
Zil A. Malik '01-'00, who is currently enrolled in the J.D program at the Law school, feels that "the policy of grade inflation may make it easier for Harvard grads to get in-also, being from the Massachusetts area makes a lot more Harvard students apply since they are close to the Law school, and are able to get a better feel of what it takes to get in."
GSAS oversees 51 graduate programs, maintaining a high profile-and distinctive-presence on the Harvard campus. GSAS does not have an admissions committee, since each of the 51 programs makes admissions and financial aid decisions on their own.
Russell E. Berg, dean of admissions at GSAS, says that all GSAS programs or affiliated centers make their own financial aid decisions and have authority over their own funds.
"There are some interdepartmental funds for which there are interdepartmental committees, but for entering students the bulk of financial aid is decided at the departmental level" Berg says. "In Ph.D. programs the admissions decisions are all made by the departmental admissions committees-often by individual Faculty members since the Ph.D. program usually requires working with a particular advisor or Faculty member."
This can put applicants from Harvard College at an advantage since they are able to develop personal relationships with Faculty members well before they apply.
"It is possible that Harvard College applicants are writing applications more relevant to the interests of Faculty members; you can tailor your application to the departmental needs." Berg said.
Making the Choice
Applicants from the College may have an easier time getting into Harvard graduate schools, but they certainly don't have an easier time deciding whether or not to attend.
Jennifer R. Pippins '96, who is graduating this June from the Medical school, says that in retrospect, she feels she made the right choice by deciding to attend Harvard Medical School.
"I thought it was a very supportive environment that helped students learn in the best way they could. Harvard undergrad prepares you for the Medical school by surrounding you with highly competitive and motivated people and setting high standards for you-this is a strong parallel between the Medical school and Harvard College" said Pippins.
Adriana V. Karagiozova '01, who was recently admitted to the PhD program at Harvard's Computer Science department, says she ultimately decided to go to Princeton.
"Harvard was definitely an option I was considering seriously-probably the fact that I was here as an undergrad made me consider it even more seriously than I otherwise would have. I visited Princeton, I liked the department and the faculty members a lot-Princeton's upper edge in theory and areas I'm interested in made me choose it" Karagiozova said.
For many students, though, the choice is more difficult-between graduate school and work. At the Law school, the admissions office has instituted a policy of granting admitted students a one year deferral to accommodate the demands of a large number of admittees who want to take time off before heading to Law school.
"Harvard College students tend to have a lot more choices (than students overall) when they graduate, including a lot more interesting jobs, that's why there are more people who ask for deferrals, and also more people who don't end up at Law school" said Curll. "Two-thirds will either accept or defer admission, whereas the remaining third decides not to attend."
The People who Mattered
Jennifer R. Pippins '96, says she relied upon alumni and tutors to get inside perspective of what medical school is like.
"Alumni help translate the Medical school experience into a language
Harvard students can understand. Houses also play a huge role-they draw on current Medical school students as tutors and advisors.
Pippins is also a resident tutor for Medicine in Leverett House.
"The role of the house is to help premeds through the entire process-
we essentially walk them through the application process. As juniors you get assigned a tutor who helps you out, offers mock interviews etc. OCS also has a premed tutor for the campus. OCS serves as a resource for houses and house tutors and provides students with more information about other Medical schools" said Pippins.
Qian praised her professors and resident tutor for their guidance through the application process, but pointed out that there are still many ways to improve the process.
"If there's one thing one would complain about the application process it would be the GRE requirement-it's a waste of time because the general is English and high school level Math, it really doesn't reflect much about your quantitative or qualitative skills" Qian said.
The Economics department is doing away with the Economics subject test requirement for GRE starting from next year, although the general GRE exam will still required.