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Admits Request More Fee Waivers

Admissions officers say early admit pool is more economically diverse

By Michael M. Grynbaum, Crimson Staff Writer

Almost a quarter more of the students accepted early to Harvard’s Class of 2009 requested fee waivers on their applications than last year, a promising sign for University President Lawrence H. Summers’ financial aid initiative.

The fraction of early applicants requesting those waivers jumped 50 percent from last year’s pool, while 23 percent more of these students were accepted in comparison to last year, the admissions office said. Early admission decisions are being sent out today.

Still, Harvard’s early admits remain overwhelmingly affluent—the 43 admitted students who requested waivers make up just under 5 percent of the 885 applicants accepted early to the Class of 2009.

Overall, Harvard’s early statistics remained similar to last year’s. Slightly fewer students were accepted from a slightly larger applicant pool, for an acceptance rate of 21 percent.

The numbers are welcome news for Byerly Hall, which has made a goal of accepting more students from the bottom half of the American income distribution.

“This is pretty encouraging for early,” Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons ‘67 said.

Fitzsimmons said past numbers point to a 70 percent chance that applicants requesting fee waivers would also qualify for a new financial aid initiative Summers launched last February. The program waives all parental contributions for students from families with annual incomes of less than $40,000, and reduces payments for families earning less than $60,000 per year.

But the real test for the initiative, which has garnered positive national press for Harvard, will come this spring, when regular application demographics are announced.

The majority of low-income applicants appear in the regular pool, according to Fitzsimmons, and admissions officials are hoping for a substantial increase in applications from those students targeted by the initiative

“That’s where the truth will come in,” Fitzsimmons said. “That will be the measure of whether we’ve been able to show progress in [the initiative’s] first year.”He added that Harvard admissions officials would be “very disappointed if we don’t show progress this year.”

Fitzsimmons said that other indicators of the success of the initiative were also promising.

The number of students accepted early from families with no higher education background increased almost 30 percent, Fitzsimmons said. Smaller gains were also seen in numbers of accepted students with only one college-educated parent.

While last year’s early pool was the first in Harvard’s history to accept more women then men, the gender divide tipped back in the opposite direction this year. Females made up 46.3 percent of the early admit pool, similar to the rate for the Class of 2007.Fitzsimmons said the decrease was the result of normal fluctuations in demographics, which he said also accounted for a slight increase in African-American (up 1.8 percent from last year) and Hispanic admits (up 1.1 percent). The regional breakdown of accepted students remained stable.

Deliberations weren’t completed until yesterday, and Fitzsimmons said the committee is still scheduled to meet this morning to iron out a handful of final decisions. E-mail notifications will be sent today at 5 p.m., and letters are scheduled to be mailed tomorrow.

Almost 72 percent of this year’s early pool applied for financial aid, a slight increase from last year. Byerly also deferred 3,120 students and rejected 135.


Figures at peer institutions for the Class of 2009 point to a stabilization of the early admissions process, after a year of fluctuations stemming from widespread changes in the schools’ admission procedures.

Harvard, Yale and Stanford all switched last year to single-choice early action programs, a non-binding system that limits students to one early application. Harvard’s early application pool plummeted, while Yale and Stanford, which previously used a binding early decision policy, both saw substantial increases.

This year, Harvard’s early pool bounced back with a 7.2 percent increase in applications. Yale’s pool dipped slightly, by 3 percent.Repeated inquiries at Yale’s admission office were not returned. Prospective Elis will receive their decisions online this Thursday.

Meanwhile, Stanford’s early figures nearly mirrored those of Harvard. The West Coast school, similar in size to Harvard, admitted 20 percent of its early pool this year and also saw a comparable increase in applications.

A Princeton spokesman said the admission office did not have figures available as of last night, though decision letters were mailed to applicants last Friday. Princeton, which has retained its early decision program, saw its applicant pool rise 10 percent this year, after a substantial dropoff for the Class of 2008.

—Staff writer Michael M. Grynbaum can be reached at

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