Harvard Was Not Always So Selective

John Harvard Statue
Keren E. Rohe

During the late 19th century, Harvard put out advertisements encouraging prospective students to apply up until the very last days of summer. In an 1870 New York Times advertisement, the University boasted that 185 of the 210 candidates who took the entrance exam at the June examination were ultimately accepted. That's enough to get any Tiger Mom drooling.

These statistics are skewed by academic requirements, however, as applicants had to be versed in subjects that included (but were not limited to) Greek and Latin, ancient and modern geography, history, and math. During a time in which only two percent of people graduated from high school, it would make sense that Harvard would need to go on a search to find qualified applicants.

Nonetheless, some of America's top institutions would essentially bribe students to apply. Vassar attempted to entice applicants with the promise of excellent accommodations, including some of the finest rooms that professors' houses had to offer. Meanwhile, Yale Law School offered students free library access, prolonged fall, spring, and Christmas breaks, and the ability for students to come and go as they pleased.

During a time in which only 6.2 percent of applicants are being accepted to Harvard, it seems quite tempting to revert back to the ways of the past.

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