Harvard College Accepts Record Low of 5.8 Percent to the Class of 2017

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Jessica C. Salley

Senior Admissions Officer David L. Evans emerges from the Admissions Office with the first box of acceptance letters for the class of 2017, to be loaded onto a waiting mail truck, on Wednesday as his fellow admissions officers cheer. After an hour-long delay in the arrival of the truck, Admissions Office employees formed an assembly line to send off regular decision acceptance packets and rejection letters.

UPDATED: March 29, 2013, at 5:40 a.m.

For the seventh consecutive year, a record low percentage of applicants received offers of admission to Harvard College. A total of 5.8 percent of 35,023 applicants were admitted to the Class of 2017, the University announced Thursday.

At 5 p.m., the University sent emails to the 1,134 regular applicants receiving offers. Taking into account the 895 students admitted to the class through the early action program, 2,029 students were admitted this year.

The admit rate for applicants considered under regular decision, including the 3,196 early action candidates who were deferred to regular decision, was 3.4 percent, down from last year’s rate of 3.8 percent. 18 percent of students who applied early action were accepted in December.

“The fact that we agreed to be spending $10 million more on financial aid this year has certainly caught people’s attention,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson, citing what he said was one of many forces driving the large number of applicants. “It’s proof that we meant what we said: that we’re going to diversify Harvard economically and be reaching out to people from a wider range of backgrounds.”

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Harvard recently announced a 5.8 percent increase in its financial aid budget for the 2013-2014 academic year, providing a record $182 million to make Harvard more accessible and affordable for students.

Fitzsimmons described the diversity in the pool of this year’s admitted students as an “encouraging” reflection of progress. Of the students offered admission to the class, 19.9 percent are Asian-American, 11.5 are percent African-American, 11.5 percent are Latino, 2.2 percent are Native American, and 0.5 percent are Native Hawaiian. Fitzsimmons said that institutions of higher education have a responsibility to educate a diverse set of future leaders.

“If you’re not able to, and again this is what we’re doing now, to reach out to the most outstanding Latino students in the country...you won’t be educating the future leaders of America,” said Fitzsimmons, explaining the importance of reaching out to high-ability students within all minority groups.

Foreign citizens, U.S. dual citizens, and U.S. permanent residents make up over 20 percent of the class and represent 81 countries.

Fitzsimmons responded to recent reports claiming that selective schools fail to attract high-achieving, low-income students.

“No one’s being left out who has a chance of getting in,” he said of the situation at Harvard. The issue is not reaching these high-ability students who come from low-income families, but in getting them to agree to enroll at educational institutions like Harvard after high school, he argued.

The College did not share the number of students placed on Harvard’s waitlist for the class of 2017.

Fitzsimmons said that although numbers vary from year to year, Harvard has offered admission to anywhere from zero to 228 wait-listed students in recent years.

Selective schools across the nation saw similar declines in the acceptance rates this year. Seven of the eight Ivy League schools reported lower acceptance rates.

Following behind Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton Universities saw 6.7, 6.8, and 7.3 percent acceptance rates, respectively. Dartmouth College admitted roughly 10 percent of applicants, an increase from last year’s 9.4 percent acceptance rate.

—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at zyaqhubi@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter @zohradyaqhubi.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTIONS: March 29, 2013

An earlier version of this article and an email news alert disseminating this article incorrectly stated that a record low number of applicants received offers of admission to Harvard College. In fact, a record low percentage of applicants were admitted to the Class of 2017. The article and the news alert also misstated the time that Harvard sent out its admission decision emails. In fact, those emails went out at 5 p.m., not 5:30 p.m. In addition, the caption of the photo accompanying this article incorrectly stated the number of rejection letters that were sent out by Harvard's admissions office.

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