The Crimson’s recent scrutiny on regional diversity at Harvard highlighted the disproportionate representation of students from a few select states on campus. While we certainly do not believe in any type of zip-code quota system, it is also clear that there is value in a student body that draws from all parts of the country and all around the world. Applications to Harvard are concentrated in regions that already send a disproportionate number of students here, and the College should continue increasing its outreach—especially its people-to-people recruitment efforts—in areas like the Midwest and Mountain regions, which are underrepresented in both the applicant pool and on campus. This year saw a marked increase in applications from this region—with admissions decisions coming out Tuesday, we hope that this trend will result in greater geographic diversity.
According to the scrutiny on regional diversity at Harvard, over half of American freshmen are from New York, New Jersey, California, or Massachusetts. Additionally, while only 4.6 percent of the U.S. population calls New England home, 21.3 percent of this year’s non-international freshmen hail from these six states.
One method for Harvard is to shift resources from schools with which Harvard already has strong relationships to schools that do not routinely send students here. The seven high schools that sent the most students to Harvard this year—all of which are in either New England or New York City—appear to have more than enough Harvard recruitment resources. Other elite schools like the Groton School, a private boarding school in Massachusetts, enjoy the same advantages, yet four to five Harvard alumni travel to Groton each year to interview prospective students. This kind of effort should be made to recruit at underrepresented schools.
In part because of this, students from underrepresented schools have noted that their schools do not prepare them to apply to Harvard through Early Action (or even at all, because in-state scholarships are very attractive). To remedy this, Harvard needs to send more resources to locations that do not traditionally send students to Harvard, with particular emphasis on publicizing the University’s financial aid policy. Though Harvard’s recent recruitment efforts like Harvard College Connection are commendable, getting admissions officers to represent Harvard’s benefits (financial and otherwise) in person at these schools would be more effective than just keeping resources available online.
Further recruitment efforts can come from encouraging the establishment of Harvard clubs and other alumni organizations in parts of the country where fewer students apply to Harvard. This will help cull qualified applicants from these areas, and ameliorate cultural problems at school that arise from disproportionately drawing students from certain regions.
It is vital that Harvard makes these efforts to increase the presence of students from these underrepresented regions, as it has clear adverse effects on our community. Because students from New York or Boston often know classmates even before Opening Days, students from areas with few fellow students can sometimes feel isolated from the start, unable to participate in pre-set regional friend groups.
This regional disparity on campus and in social spaces encourages segregation along state lines, and getting more students from underrepresented places could help the issue. To improve geographic diversity and community cohesion on campus, we encourage Harvard to better its recruitment efforts in these areas.