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While Byerly Hall officials are burning the midnight oil to evaluate 18,687 applications to the College, their counterparts at Yale will have a lighter workload this spring.
The total marks a new record number of College applicants--the ninth such record in ten years.
"We really are very pleased," said Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67. "To have a record level at this point is obviously a sign that things are going well."
Fitzsimmons said there were three principal reasons for the continuing expansion of interest in Harvard: the expanded financial aid program announced last year, innovative recruiting efforts and continued improvement to Harvard's physical facilities.
Yale, meanwhile, received only 12,809 files, down 410 from the previous year.
Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Shaw said that publicity from the high-profile murder of student Suzanne Jovin last year could have been one factor leading to the smaller applicant pool at his school.
"If there was widespread national press, it could have an impact on people's perceptions on issues of security," Shaw told the Yale Daily News. He said separately that he does not believe the smaller pool will decrease quality of the accepted class.
According to the Harvard admissions office, more than 55 percent of Harvard's applicants had scores of 1,400 or higher on their SATs. Nearly 1,700 scored a perfect 800 on the verbal portion of the exam, and almost 1,900 scored 800 on the SAT math section. Just under 3,000 were valedictorians of their high schools.
This year, women make up 48.2 percent of the pool--the highest percentage ever.
Fitzsimmons said that the number of international applicants is also up by 8.2 percent, and African-American applicants are up 8.6 percent.
"The Undergraduate Minority Recruiting program has been very helpful to our diversity numbers--not just this year and last year, but over a very long period of time," Fitzsimmons said. "Essentially what you're doing is building a relationship with schools, counselors, families."
Continuing a decade-long trend, more Harvard applicants expressed interest in engineering, computer science, mathematics and the physical sciences than last year, though interest in the biological sciences showed a slight decline.
"If you go back several decades, you'll see the majority of students interested in majoring in the social sciences or humanities," Fitzsimmons said. "In the last 10 years, we've seen closer to a 50-50 split, and more recently we've seen closer to 55 percent in the sciences."
He said that while Harvard tends to be stereotyped as dominated by the social sciences and humanities, the school is a leader in recruiting science students, even measured against competitors like MIT.
"Since the 1970s, we have quite consciously positioned ourselves to compete against anybody in the science fields," Fitzsimmons said. "That's part of the reason why the numbers have gone up over time."
This fall, the admissions office also received 6,042 early applicants--another record number. Harvard accepted 1,137 applicants, turned down 220 and deferred the rest for the regular admissions cycle.
As a result, admissions officers have 17,330 applications remaining from which to extend offers for the 1,000 or so places left in the Class of 2004.
But Fitzsimmons said that the hard work is worthwhile in ensuring that the best applicants end up at Harvard in the fall.
"If you come by Byerly Hall at night, you'll see the lights on late," Fitzsimmons said. "We're vying with the students to see who can keep later hours."
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