UPDATED: February 6, 2015, at 7:24 p.m.
Harvard College received an all-time high of 37,305 applications for admission to the Class of 2019, an increase of 3,010 applications from last year.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 speculated that the Admissions Office’s use of a new low-income student outreach program called Harvard College Connection and last year’s news that Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 donated at least $125 million in support of undergraduate financial aid may have contributed to the 8.8 percent increase in applications for early and regular admission.
“I think that when Ken Griffin’s gift came, the timing was perfect and lots of things came together,” Fitzsimmons said in an interview Thursday. “It allowed us to once again reinforce that if you’re someone of excellence, we’re open to you.”
The number of applicants reporting interest in financial aid increased this year to nearly 75 percent, Fitzsimmons said.
There was a 38.9 percent increase in prospective Computer Science concentrators in the applicant pool, the greatest increase of any field. Director of Admissions Marlyn E. McGrath ’70 credited that boost to the rise of the popular course Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science I” in a press release.
Fitzsimmons added that the College saw an 11.7 percent increase in the number of prospective students considering studying the arts and humanities. He cited the recent opening of the renovated Harvard Art Museums and the recent proposal of a “Theater, Dance, and Media” concentration as catalysts for interest.
The ethnic composition of the applicant pool was similar to last year, according to Fitzsimmons, with 21.1 percent of applicants identifying as Asian, 10 percent as African-American, 12.5 percent as Latino, 1.6 percent as Native American, .4 percent as Native Hawaiian, and 12.3 percent as multiracial.
According to Fitzsimmons, 18.4 percent of applicants are international citizens.
The Admissions Office saw the largest jump in applications from the Midwest and Mountain regions this year, posting 13.6 and 16.1 percent increases, respectively, Fitzsimmons said. While crediting the growth to expanded recruiting efforts in rural areas, Fitzsimmons said that the number of applicants from underrepresented regions was still relatively small.
“In every one of these geographic areas, they’re almost identical to last year,” he said. “I could try to puff it up and say there’s a 16.1 percent [increase this year] versus an 8.1 percent change in Mountain states [last year], but that’s from 1,277 to 1,483 applicants. It’s not a big jump.”
Despite the record-high number of applications, Fitzsimmons said the Admissions Office is more concerned about the quality, rather than quantity, of its prospective students.
“It isn’t about your yield rate and it isn’t about your admit rate; it’s all about the excellence and the character,” he said. “It’s about how terrific are the people you’ve admitted this year in terms of educating one another, inspiring each other and faculty members.”
The College has already accepted 977 students to the Class of 2019 from an early applicant pool of 5,919 people under its restrictive early action program, marking the program’s lowest acceptance rate—16.5 percent—since it was reinstated in 2011.
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Yale saw 30,227 undergraduate applications, the second-largest number in the university’s history, according to the Yale Daily News. Princeton received 26,993 applications to its class of 2019, also its second-largest applicant pool. Dartmouth, recovering from a 14 percent drop in applications last year, saw just short of 20,500 applications, a boost of more than 6 percent. Brown received 30,360 applications, roughly consistent with the previous year.
The Crimson was granted early access to application figures and an interview with Fitzsimmons under the condition that it not publish its story until Friday morning. Anna Cowenhoven, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, sat in on the interview.
—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.
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