Approximately the same number of freshmen have gained eligibility for sophomore standing as last year, but fewer students accepted the offer this fall, according to figures from the first filing deadline.
So far more than 500 entering freshmen qualified for sophomore standing, and 147 accepted by the September 23 deadline, said Georgene B. Herschbach, assistant dean of the College and director of the Office of Special Programs. Last year out of the 531 students eligible for sophomore standing, 208, or 39 percent accepted.
Herschbach would not specify the exact number of students eligible for sophomore standing, explaining that her office has not received all freshmen placement test scores and more students may still qualify.
Students qualify for sophomore standing if they get scores of four or five on three or more Advanced Placement exams. If students accept advanced standing, they can graduate in three years or stay a fourth year, often to complete a senior thesis or a master's degree.
In recent years both the number of eligible students and students who opt to accept sophomore standing has increased. About one-third who qualify usually accept the offer.
Many students eligible this year say they have been discouraged to take sophomore standing by Harvard's requirement for advance standing freshmen to declare their major and file a plan of study by October 31.
"Because I wasn't sure about my major, I declined sophomore standing," said John Hwang '92. "I wanted to explore."
Peter Richards '92, who turned down sophomore status, said, "I want to take it easy. I just want to enjoy the full college experience."
Students who accept sophomore standing can withdraw from the program in the next month but are rarely able to regain the status, said Carol Thorn, a spokesman for the Office of Special Programs.
Eligible freshmen accept the program for several reasons. "About one third graduate in three years, several take a year off either to work or travel abroad, many opt to write a thesis intheir fourth year, and about 12 to 15 receivemasters degrees after four years," said Thorn.
Herschbach said that large numbers of studentshave qualified for advanced standing in recentyears because "they have very rich A.P.backgrounds or international experience. Harvardstudents are very well prepared."
Carrie Suzawa '92, who accepted sophomorestanding, explained that for her "the programmerely opens options. I knew I would declarebiochemistry as my concentration, and so my classschedule is not affected."
"I won't leave after three years," said JoelHornstein '92, another sophomore standingbio-chemistry major. "I am considering a yearabroad, and the program is very flexible--I canalways withdraw from it, but if I decline theoption, I can never pick it up. I am notoverwhelmed by jumping into sophomore year.