Early Action Applications Ebb This Fall

Nearly 4,000 applications received, compared to last year’s 4,214

Applications for early admission to Harvard College dipped slightly this fall, with nearly 4,000 students vying for spots in the Class of 2010 under the school’s nonbinding Early Action program.

Although the admissions office has only made a preliminary assessment of the applicant pool, this fall’s cohort appears to hold much in common with last year’s group in its ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic composition.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said he was pleased that the number of candidates has held relatively steady since the College changed its early admission policy in 2003.

“Now that we’ve had three years to look at it, it appears that we’ve been able to stabilize the Early Admission program,” he said.

In the fall of 2002—when, in an effort to comply with national guidelines, the admissions office allowed students to apply simultaneously to Harvard and to other Early Action schools—more than 7,600 applicants sent in early admission applications.

After Harvard reinstated its policy of single-choice Early Action—meaning that students who apply early to Harvard under the school’s nonbinding program cannot apply early to any other colleges—the College saw a sharp drop in the size of its early applicant pool, handling 3,889 applications in 2003 and 4,214 applications in 2004.

Fitzsimmons said that the College has admitted just over 20 percent of the students who applied early during each of the past two years, but noted that “it’s way too early to determine the quality of the applicant pool.”

The admissions office does not admit a fixed number of its Early Action applicants, he explained. Instead, it considers each application on a case-by-case basis.

Columbia, Duke, and Stanford all saw slight increases in the size of their early applicant pools this fall.

Spokespeople for several other peer schools were not available for comment last night or said that they had not yet released their early-admission figures.

Fitzsimmons said the number of students this fall requesting fee waivers on their applications is almost identical to the number last year, when the fraction of students asking for waivers jumped nearly 50 percent from 2003, to 215.

The admissions office attributed the sustained increase principally to the new Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, under which the College no longer requires parental contributions from families with annual incomes below $40,000. The initiative also reduces the cost to families earning under $60,000 per year.

According to Fitzsimmons, the number of students requesting fee waivers is “a pretty good indication that they will be eligible for the new initiatives.”

In addition, slightly more minority students applied early to Harvard this fall, with small increases among Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinos, he added.

“We’re encouraged by the diversity of the pool,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said Harvard’s early applicant pool this fall is “stunningly close” to last year’s group with respect to its geographic composition and likely academic interests.

The Early Action Admissions Committee will begin considering the candidates today and plans to finish its deliberations on Dec. 9.

Students who have requested electronic notifications will receive e-mails from the admissions office on Dec. 14. Letters informing the applicants of their admissions status will be sent out the following day.

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at