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Harvard Offers Financial Aid for Pre-Frosh

By Robert C. Boutwell, Contributing Writer

For the second year, Harvard offered financial assistance to admitted students who could not afford to buy tickets to Cambridge for Pre-Frosh Weekend.

And this year, administrators with the College’s Office of Admissions and Financial Aid said, the program met more success than last year, when only 25 of the 84 students who were offered the help accepted it.

Though final statistics for this year have not been compiled, “we offered the service to around 90 students this year and it certainly seems like a majority of them accepted the offer,” said Director of Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue.

“We found last year that the service was of great assistance to families who wouldn’t regularly be able to afford to travel to revisit Harvard for the weekend,” Donahue said.

Under the new program, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid assesses accepted students’ financial abilities to travel to Cambridge from their homes.

“The way we awarded travel assistance [funds] was by looking at students that had already been accepted for financial aid and assessing the situation again on a need-based basis,” Donahue said.

Overall, approximately 1,200 students registered for Pre-Frosh Weekend this year out of the 2,054 accepted students for the fall of 2003.

By helping more students get to Cambridge, the program helps move the College further towards making its admissions program accessible to all regardless of need, said Gena Ciccone ’04, a member of the Undergraduate Admissions Council, which offers tours to prospective students and helps run Pre-Frosh Weekend.

“I think it’s a fantastic program,” Ciccone said. “What the Harvard Admissions Office really wants to get across to students is that finances should have nothing to do with choosing whether or not to go to Harvard, and instead it should be just about whether or not Harvard is the right school for that student. Harvard becomes more need-blind with this program and that is a really good thing.”

Some universities offer travel aid as a way to woo highly-desired accepted students, but according to Donahue, Harvard’s program is need-based.

While Donahue said she was unsure if the travel assistance program would result in a higher yield for the College, she said the program would help prospective students to make more informed decisions.

“We just feel very strongly that we want students from lower income families to have the opportunity to come and experience Harvard first-hand as a pre-frosh,” Donahue said. “I think one of the best things about the revisit weekend is that students are able to meet other people from their class, and we don’t want anyone to miss out on that experience because of financial strain.”

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