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Early Action Admits Increase Again

NEWS ANALYSIS

By Jason M. Goins, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

For regular action applicants to the class of 2003 it will be harder than ever to slip behind Johnston Gate and into Harvard Yard. With an early action matriculation rate hovering between 85 and 90 percent--sure to be the envy of admissions offices nationwide--Harvard's admissions offer to 1,186 students effectively fills more than 60 percent of the entering class.

Harvard officials seem to be unmoved that the effect of filling so much of the class with early applicants ultimately forces students to apply early, saying they are committed to accepting the most talented students whenever they apply.

"We'll end up admitting about 2,100 people," says Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67. "The real question for us is, `When will those people apply?'"

David L. Evans, a senior admissions officer, views the situation more starkly, likening the job of an admissions officer to that of a "card counter in Vegas."

"We know the cards that have been dealt and those that are left in the deck," hesays. "Harvard is the loser if we make thosestudents wait."

Admissions officials point to everything, froma revamped financial aid program to an increase inthe college-aged population to word-of-month, asthe cause of the continually increasing numbers ofearly action applicants.

Early admission programs have their detractors.Long viewed as the domain of the well-heeled andwell-counseled, early application has tended toattract a more affluent pool of students thanregular action applicants.

But senior admissions officers see the issuedifferently.

"Usually the ones saying that are wealthy andnot diverse," Evans says. "From the way werecruit, we have targeted students from allbackgrounds based on quality."

Students who participate in minority recruitingalso say they were pleased with the effectivenessof increased targeted outreach.

"The Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program(UMRP) has worked harder and more efficiently thisyear," says Monica M. Ramirez '01, a UMRPrecruiter and the incoming president of RAZA, thelargest Latino student organization on campus."Recruiting efforts were very rewarding."

Harvard administrators maintain that its earlyaction system, which does not require admittedstudents to matriculate, represents the bestcompromise between forcing students to commit andlosing step with peer institutions.

Early application programs "galvanize students,counselors and families very early in the game,"Fitzsimmons says. "If we decided not to have [anearly application] program we'd be at adisadvantage."

Still, administrators acknowledge that somepeople apply early because of the perceivedcompetitive advantage--an advantage the admissionsoffice denies--and not because they have a clearpreference for one institution.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles lamentsthe "sad acts of our peer institutions...to moveto early decision programs" saying that attemptsto "capture students and constrain their choice[are] not beneficial."

Fitzsimmons acknowledges that the earlyapplicant population continues to be moreaffluent, but he says that is changing.

"This year is clearly the most diverse andleast affluent of any early admitted group we'vehad," he says.

Fitzsimmons maintains that early action"doesn't mean poor students will get shut out.People have been predicting that we'd get richerand richer [by accepting more students earlyaction], and that's just not the case."

The fact that black and Hispanic students madethe greatest gains in this year's early actioncycle would seem to signal progress in theCollege's attempt to have the early action poolmore closely match the demographic make-up of theentering class.

Fitzsimmons says Harvard has long been anattractive destination for minority students.

"We have the strongest group of minoritystudents in the country here--all kinds of studiesshow that the quality of the student bodygenerally, and the strength of the minoritystudents specifically, has been a big draw,"Fitzsimmons says.

His feelings are seconded by student leaders.

Dionne A. Fraser '99, president of the BlackStudents Association, says "Harvard offers aspecial environment for blacks because many ofstudents here are at the top of their game."

Referring to a Black Enterprise poll scheduledto appear in the magazine's January issue, whichplaced Harvard 28th in a list of the top 50institutions for black students, Fitzsimmons saidHarvard should strive to do better.

"Harvard should not congratulate itself onbeing 28th. Better that than being lower, but thatpoints to what we need to do," he says.Fitzsimmons singled out the need to intensifyrecruiting efforts for minority students

Admissions officials point to everything, froma revamped financial aid program to an increase inthe college-aged population to word-of-month, asthe cause of the continually increasing numbers ofearly action applicants.

Early admission programs have their detractors.Long viewed as the domain of the well-heeled andwell-counseled, early application has tended toattract a more affluent pool of students thanregular action applicants.

But senior admissions officers see the issuedifferently.

"Usually the ones saying that are wealthy andnot diverse," Evans says. "From the way werecruit, we have targeted students from allbackgrounds based on quality."

Students who participate in minority recruitingalso say they were pleased with the effectivenessof increased targeted outreach.

"The Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program(UMRP) has worked harder and more efficiently thisyear," says Monica M. Ramirez '01, a UMRPrecruiter and the incoming president of RAZA, thelargest Latino student organization on campus."Recruiting efforts were very rewarding."

Harvard administrators maintain that its earlyaction system, which does not require admittedstudents to matriculate, represents the bestcompromise between forcing students to commit andlosing step with peer institutions.

Early application programs "galvanize students,counselors and families very early in the game,"Fitzsimmons says. "If we decided not to have [anearly application] program we'd be at adisadvantage."

Still, administrators acknowledge that somepeople apply early because of the perceivedcompetitive advantage--an advantage the admissionsoffice denies--and not because they have a clearpreference for one institution.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles lamentsthe "sad acts of our peer institutions...to moveto early decision programs" saying that attemptsto "capture students and constrain their choice[are] not beneficial."

Fitzsimmons acknowledges that the earlyapplicant population continues to be moreaffluent, but he says that is changing.

"This year is clearly the most diverse andleast affluent of any early admitted group we'vehad," he says.

Fitzsimmons maintains that early action"doesn't mean poor students will get shut out.People have been predicting that we'd get richerand richer [by accepting more students earlyaction], and that's just not the case."

The fact that black and Hispanic students madethe greatest gains in this year's early actioncycle would seem to signal progress in theCollege's attempt to have the early action poolmore closely match the demographic make-up of theentering class.

Fitzsimmons says Harvard has long been anattractive destination for minority students.

"We have the strongest group of minoritystudents in the country here--all kinds of studiesshow that the quality of the student bodygenerally, and the strength of the minoritystudents specifically, has been a big draw,"Fitzsimmons says.

His feelings are seconded by student leaders.

Dionne A. Fraser '99, president of the BlackStudents Association, says "Harvard offers aspecial environment for blacks because many ofstudents here are at the top of their game."

Referring to a Black Enterprise poll scheduledto appear in the magazine's January issue, whichplaced Harvard 28th in a list of the top 50institutions for black students, Fitzsimmons saidHarvard should strive to do better.

"Harvard should not congratulate itself onbeing 28th. Better that than being lower, but thatpoints to what we need to do," he says.Fitzsimmons singled out the need to intensifyrecruiting efforts for minority students

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