Applications to Harvard Drop for First Time in Five Years

UPDATED: Jan. 27 at 3:14 a.m.

For the first time in five years, Harvard College has seen a dip in applications. This year, 34,285 students applied for spots in the Harvard College Class of 2016, down 665 applicants from last year.

The 1.9 percent decline in applications comes after the College received an all-time high of 34,950 applications for this year’s freshman class.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said he attributes the decline in applications to Princeton's and the University of Virginia’s reinstatements of their early action programs, a move which Harvard also made this year. The three colleges’ decisions to offer early action programs after a four-year hiatus may have led students to apply to fewer colleges, he added.

Fitzsimmons also noted that the number of high school seniors from the Northeast, home to many of Harvard’s applicants each year, has decreased.

While Fitzsimmons said the make-up of this year’s applicant pool resembled last year’s, he noted that international applications to the College increased by only 5 percent this year, as opposed to last year’s 20 percent jump.

Fitzsimmons added that the Admissions Office will be careful not to accept more students than there are beds for at the College. “We will admit a number in April that will ensure that overcrowding does not occur,” he said.

Due to this more conservative approach, Fitzsimmons predicted that more students will be taken off the waitlist than in recent years.

Fitzsimmons said that he does not believe that this year’s decline is indicative of subsequent applicant pools.

Other Ivy League institutions also witnessed a decline in their application numbers this year.

Applications to Columbia University decreased by 8.9 percent, according to The Columbia Spectator, and applications to the University of Pennsylvania decreased by 1.7 percent this admissions cycle, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

However, Yale saw applications rise by 5.8 percent and Stanford by 7 percent.

Admissions officers are currently reviewing applications for the regular decision cycle as well as those of students who were deferred during the early action process.Harvard has already admitted 772 students to the Class of 2016 through its reinstated early action program.

Regular decision applicants will be notified of their admissions decisions by email on March 29. All admitted students, whether they are admitted in December or March, must accept or decline Harvard’s offer by May 1.

—Staff writer Elizabeth S. Auritt can be reached at eauritt@college.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION: Jan. 27, 2012

An earlier version of this article misstated the increase in applications to Yale College this year. It was 5.8 percent, not 8.5 percent.

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