Admissions Recruits Abroad on Tight Budget

Penny pinching recruiters go abroad to recruit potential students

Director of International Admissions Robin M. Worth ’81 spent one of her nights in Tanzania sleeping on the floor, dining on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, during Harvard’s three-week recruiting trip to Africa at the beginning of the year.

“It wasn’t glamorous,” Worth said of her travel arrangements.

But her frugality paid off.

Worth spent a total of $500 visiting high schools in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and South Africa—a recruiting trip she said has cost Harvard and its peer institutions roughly $10,000 in past years.

When the admissions office slashed its travel budget in half to meet mandatory cuts last spring, Worth said that she feared international travel would not be possible this year.

But thanks to generous alumni donations and penny-pinching on the part of admissions officers, Harvard has been able to maintain a normal international travel schedule, reaching out to students in the U.K., Africa, Turkey, Italy, and Germany, on a tight budget of around $6,000, Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said.

“At the moment we are in good shape,” Fitzsimmons said of the office’s cost-effective international trips.

But if the international travel budget reduction is permanent, Fitzsimmons said that there will likely be a “negative effect” on recruitment efforts.

“There is no question that there is a cause and effect relationship between where we recruit and who applies,” Fitzsimmons said.

This year’s tight budget constraints have forced the admissions office to be strategic in recruiting, cutting virtually all domestic high school visits.

But Fitzsimmons said that sustaining Harvard’s international outreach efforts remains a top priority.

“We have not just a national student body and University but an international one,” Fitzsimmons said.

Admissions officers increasingly rely on Skype and the admissions Web site to connect with students in countries they are unable to visit. The office is planning to hold conferences with schools in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia via Skype in the near future, Worth said.

Two weeks ago during a trip to Munich, Germany, Associate Director of Financial Aid Jonathan M. Kaufmann visited the country’s Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS), which serve primarily children of U.S. military, marking Harvard’s first visit to these schools.

“Historically, perhaps, they have not been on the radar,” Kaufmann said. “DoDDS are just high schools—we want to continue to visit schools where there are high quality students.”

At the schools, Kaufmann fielded questions from crowds of over 200 students, parents, and faculty.

“These kids in particular have had wild lives geographically,” Kaufmann said. “But interestingly, the questions these students had were not different from questions all students have about H Harvard—will I fit in? Can I afford to attend?” arvard—will I fit in? Can I afford to attend?”

—Staff writer Jillian K. Kushner can be reached at