Early Action Acceptance Rate Increases to 21 Percent for the Class of 2018

UPDATED: December 13, 2013, at 5:49 p.m.

Harvard College accepted just over 21 percent of the 4,692 early applicants to the Class of 2018, the College announced Friday, the highest early action acceptance rate since Harvard reinstated the program in 2011 after a four-year hiatus.

This year’s 992 early acceptances represent nearly an 11 percent increase over the number of prospective students accepted early last year.

“This year’s applicants are remarkable by any standard. Their academic and extracurricular strengths are impressive—as is their ethnic, economic, and geographic diversity,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in a press release.

The pool from which this year’s early admits were drawn decreased in size by 3 percent after a 15 percent increase between 2011 and 2012.

Fitzsimmons said in the press release that he was happy to see the pool size stabilize this year.

“The ‘early frenzy’, as some have referred to it, adds pressure to a generation that is already stressed by high expectations and economic uncertainty,” he said.

Economic disparity within the early applicant pool has been an issue of concern in the past five years. In 2007, when Harvard announced that would eliminate its early action program, then-University President Derek C. Bok claimed that such programs “advantage the advantaged.”

Fitzsimmons said in an interview Friday that the demographic information received so far from the early admits to the Class of 2018 indicated less of a disparity than has existed in years prior. The pool’s diversity is “better,” he said, but “not representative of what the total pool is going to look likeit’s an early snapshot, but it’s a very imperfect snapshot.”

Thanks to ongoing outreach efforts to encourage a diverse applicant pool, Fitzsimmons said, “I think now I can say that it appears we were successful at least in the first phase in getting the message out to students from poorer economic backgrounds, and from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, and, for that matter, international students.”

In October, Harvard announced the launch of the Harvard College Connection, a digitally-driven admissions initiative that seeks to encourage high-achieving low-income students to apply to Harvard and other selective institutions.

The increased volume of students admitted through this year’s early action program indicates a “new normal,” Fitzsimmons said, attributing the rise in part to the fact that promising students around the nation and world are choosing to apply to colleges early.

Still, he said, Harvard is more concerned that students apply at all than that they apply early. “We continue to send a message that you do not have to apply early to Harvard,” Fitzsimmons said.

Among those early applicants who were not offered admission Friday afternoon, 3,197 were deferred to the regular action decision process, 366 were denied admission, 18 withdrew, and 119 submitted incomplete applications.

Three other Ivy League schools which, unlike Harvard, operate a binding early decision program also sent out their early admissions notifications this week. Dartmouth College extended offers of admission to 28 percent of its 1,678 early applicants, while Brown University accepted 18.9 percent of its 3,088 applicants, the school’s largest ever early applicant pool. Columbia University, which notified admitted students on Thursday, also saw a record-high number of early applications, receiving 3,298.

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