This story was based on preliminary data provided by Harvard's Office of Admissions. According to revised data released following the publication of this story, Harvard's yield will indeed fall. See The Crimson's continued coverage of the 2008 admissions cycle for more information about the yield percentage.
Harvard's yield for the Class of 2012 will remain about the same as last year—around 78 percent—even though the college admissions landscape has seen dramatic changes.
This year was Harvard's first since abandoning early admissions, and the incoming freshmen are the first admitted under the College's new financial aid policy, which drastically slashes costs for upper-middle-income families.
It was also the College's most competitive year yet, with an acceptance rate of only 7.1 percent of a record 27,462 applicants. To avoid overcrowding the freshman class and without the results of previous years to give an idea of what yield would be like in the wake of these changes, 110 fewer students were admitted.
The admissions office will be accepting anywhere from 150 to about 175 students off the waitlist starting tomorrow, with the bulk of waitlist decisions made by the end of this month. At this point, 55 percent of the confirmed members of the Class of 2012 will be on financial aid, up from 49 percent of the current freshman class.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, William R. Fitzsimmons '67, who has seen over three decades of admitted classes, described this admissions cycle as the "most unusual and most unpredictable in my admissions career."
He pointed to overcrowding as a major source of stress in a tumultuous admissions season—in addition to changes in financial aid and early admission, the College announced it would not be accepting transfer students for the next two years, despite receiving over 1,300 applications for transfer admission.
Harvard's announcement of its generous new financial aid policy, under which families with incomes below $60,000 pay nothing and families making between $120,000 and $180,000 pay only ten percent, was promptly followed by expansions of financial aid at other schools, including a similar program at Yale. Other peer institutions also sweetened their aid packages by cutting loans and expanding funding.
"All the changes [at other schools] could well have rendered the financial aid factor a bit of a wash," Fitzsimmons said.
While Harvard and Princeton dropped early admissions this year, Yale and Stanford maintained their early programs. As a result, Fitzsimmons initially calculated that dropping early admissions would ding Harvard's yield by as much as seven points, an effect that ultimately did not take place. Last year's yield came in at 79.2 percent.
Still, he said that he expects to have lost more students in the cross-admit battle between Yale and Harvard this year, due to Yale's decision to keep its early action program. Yale's yield also remained unchanged, at 69 percent.
With any crisis of overbooking the freshman class averted, he said that the admissions office is breathing "an incredibly loud sigh of relief."
Fitzsimmons said that after "a lot of angst" and "a lot of difficult work," the class looks "spectacular."
And, he added, the admissions office will be able to "make a lot of people happy in the month of June."
—Staff writer Lingbo Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.