Admissions officers hoisted box after box of decision letters—2,110 acceptances and over 28,000 rejections and waitlist letters—into the back of a waiting mail truck yesterday, then celebrated the completion of this year’s first round of decisions.
A chain of about 30 admissions officers, staff, and students who work in the office passed the boxes of letters from the basement of the Cronkhite Center into the mail truck just before noon yesterday.
“That’s 28,000 broken hearts,” one member of the chain said nonchalantly, passing trays stuffed with rejections down the line.
Another staffer responded reassuringly, “There’s always graduate school.”
After applauding the loading of the final box and waving goodbye to the departing decision letters, the staff proceeded inside to celebrate.
While the admissions officers enjoyed cheese, crackers, and champagne (donated by a grateful alumnus), Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ‘67 toasted the newly admitted class—who would learn of their acceptance via email after 5 p.m. that evening—and extolled the admissions officers’ work.
He praised the increasing diversity in university applicant pools and urged the officers to continue to spread the message that Harvard is accessible to all talented students.
In reference to Harvard’s record-low acceptance rate of 6.9 percent this year, Fitzsimmons said, “That is a tough thing....Today it is a lot more difficult to get into all universities, but I think that is a great thing for America and frankly for the world. We’re using the talents of not just a small group of white, relatively rich men. It’s a great time.”
“In my generation a lot of these people would never even have thought about applying to college,” Fitzsimmons said.
Dwight D. Miller, who said that he has worked in the admissions office longer than any other officer, said that the largest change he has seen over his 42 years on the job is the increasing diversity of accepted students.
This diversification, he said, began with the merging of the Harvard and Radcliffe admissions processes in 1976, eight years after Miller came to Harvard.
The number of applications has skyrocketed as well—Miller says that there were 5,000 or fewer applicants for the 1,200 spots in the Class of 1972, the first year that he worked in the admissions office. This year, applications topped 30,000 for the first time.
The mood in the admissions office was jovial today, but Miller said that emotions often run high one step earlier in the process, at the final admissions committee meeting.
“We have to finally cut out so many kids, and we’re tired from working day and night,” he explained.
When an officer has made a personal connection with a student, perhaps on a recruiting trip, and that student is not accepted, Miller said, “that can be very hard on an admissions officer. I’ve seen tears in the committee room more than once.”
—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: April 12, 2010
An earlier version of the Apr. 2 news article "Admissions Office Mails 2014 Decisions" incorrectly stated that a group of workers in the admissions office passed the boxes of letters from the "basement of Byerly Hall." In fact, the admissions office is located in the Cronkhite Center.