Rise in Females Reflects U.S. Trend

The College hit a milestone this year, albeit a small one.

Three more women than men were offered admission to Harvard, marking the first time in its history that more women than men were accepted to the College.

And yesterday the Office of Admissions announced another first: Harvard is expected to have more women than men in its incoming first-year class.

Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73 says that while numbers are too close right now to tell for certain if women will outnumber men—it will come down to final enrollment decisions next September—she is pleased with the response from women admits this year.

“We are pleased to see that the appeal of Harvard College remains very strong (for men and women both) and heartened by the evidence that women are this year at least as likely to accept our offer as men are,” McGrath Lewis writes in an e-mail.

While next year might be the first time women outnumber men at Harvard, more women than men nationally have been entering higher education for several years.

Director of the Ann Radcliffe Trust Judy D. Fox says she expects in upcoming years that Harvard will follow the larger national trend.

Fox says she hopes the acceptance numbers will change perceptions of Harvard as a male-dominated school.

“It may take a few years for the total College population to reach 50-50, but it will certainly be interesting to watch the trend and exceedingly important for all of us to make this a welcoming place for women,” Fox writes in an e-mail.


Of the 19,750 applicants to the College this year, 1,016 of students accepted this year were women, while 1,013 were men. Not only were more females than males accepted in regular admissions, but they also made up the majority of early acceptances.

McGrath Lewis says while the College does not set quotas, the admissions office has been actively recruiting women since Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges—and their admissions offices—merged in 1975.

Such recruitment includes search mailings and asking local alumni to identify particularly strong candidates.

McGrath Lewis says that current male-female split can be attributed to the attitudes of prospective students—the College in recent years has been more attractive to qualified male candidates.

“We’ve been more popular among strong men than women and we’ve tried to bring the interest of strong women up to that level,” says McGrath Lewis.

Harvard’s male draw stands out nationally. Overall enrollment in higher education for men has declined since 1992 and federal projections show the percentage of men in college will shrink to 42 percent by 2010, according to a 2000 article in Time Magazine.