(The Faculty Committee on Admissions and Scholarships begins meeting today to select the Class of '67. This article is the first of a three-part series on College admissions policy.)
One day last March, a CRIMSON reporter attempted to get an interview with Fred L. Glimp '50. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aids at Harvard. Glimp is usually one of the easiest men in the University to talk to, but this time it was impossible.
"I'm afraid Mr. Glimp won't be able to see you at all for several weeks," his secretary explained. "The Committee is meeting."
The Committee is the Faculty Committee on Admissions and Scholarships, which convenes each year to sift the applications of some 5000 young men who want to come to Harvard.
The Committee has about 20 members, divided half and half between Admissions Office staff and administrative officials, like Deans Monro and von Stade on the one hand and teaching faculty members like Eric A. Havelock, professor of Greek and Latin, and Edward M. Purcell, Gerhard Gade University Professor and a Nobel prize winner, on the other.
Committee Often Meets Until Midnight
From March 20 to April 15, this group sits in almost continuous session until the sifting is completed. The Committee's deliberations begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 6 p.m.; often the group will adjourn for dinner and then return to sit until midnight. Like most committees the FCAS usually makes a decision by reaching some kind of consensus. Heated discussions on the merits of a candidate are not uncommon, however, and if the Committee is split the decision is made by a formal vote.
Although the Committee must pass on each applicant individually, much of the actual evaluating of candidates is done beforehand by the regular admissions staff. Each folder is read by three different staff members, and each candidate receives a numerical rating from one (high) to nine (low) in such categories as academic potential, extracurricular activities, and the recommendations of high school principals and teachers. These evaluations are then combined in an overall numerical rating which indicates the applicant's chances for admission.
Majority of Decisions Difficult
For some obviously outstanding--or obviously hopeless--candidates, two readings are enough, and approval or rejection by the Committee is automatic. But the majority are in-between cases--the kind which cause a dean of admissions to throw up his hands in despair.
The reason for the despair is obvious enough: in terms of academic capabilities there is often little to choose from among applicants. Humphrey Doermann '52, Director of Admissions, estimates that 95 per cent of the candidates could do the work at Harvard--which means there are three qualified applicants for every place in the freshman class.
College board scores are not much help in differentiating among applicants. There are so many high scores that admissions officials cannot use them as a criterion for weeding out "inferior" applicants. Further, Glimp and his aides feel that the value of scores in predicting future performance is strictly limited.
When the Admissions Office says that it turns down "literally hundreds of good candidates" with scores in the 700's, it is not boasting about the abundance of talent so much as it is explaining the inadequacy of test scores as a basis for admissions.
"I will probably bet on a group of 800's to perform better than a group of 700's," says Dean K. Whitla, Director of the Office of Tests and Associate Director of Admissions. "But I am unwilling to say that a particular 800 will perform better than a particular 700."
Could Fill Class With 700 Scores