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GSAS Applications Reach Record High

By Omer Awan, Crimson Staff Writer

The Graduate School of Arts and Science received nearly 12,000 applications during the 2009-2010 admissions cycle, the largest number in GSAS history, the school announced last Thursday.

GSAS also reported the highest collective yield rate since the 1950s, with the humanities and social sciences averaging a record 75 percent yield. The natural sciences, including the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, saw an unprecedented yield of 60 percent.

The new class is composed of a record number of students who have won the National Science Foundation award and other prestigious external fellowships. Last year, the University accepted 21 students who had received NSF awards, compared to this year’s 48. GSAS currently has 138 new and continuing students with NSF awards, doubling last year’s total.

“These remarkable numbers really speak to the strength and character of our graduate programs,” GSAS Dean Allan M. Brandt wrote in a statement to the Crimson. “They reflect our ability to attract the best students, and they highlight the care that our departments are taking as they build their programs. To meet—and even exceed—admissions targets in a highly competitive academic environment requires excellent recruitment processes that fully engage admitted students. Clearly, our departments are hitting the mark when it comes to recruiting the students they’ve chosen to admit.”

Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an e-mail that the increased numbers can be attributed not only to a lack of available jobs but also to the caliber of Harvard’s graduate programs.

“The difficult job market is driving up application numbers across higher education,” Neal wrote. “But we also experienced an extraordinarily high yield, which means that students who were accepted not only wanted to attend graduate school, they wanted to attend Harvard’s graduate school. As Dean Brandt indicated, this is a sign of the overall strength of our graduate programs, as recently reaffirmed by the National Research Council.”

Evaluations released on Sept. 28 by the National Research Council ranked 27 of the 52 Harvard graduate programs first in the nation in at least one of the categories assessed. Ninety percent of the University’s programs placed fifth or higher in at least one of the two ranking systems, which evaluated approximately 5000 programs at 212 institutions.

Neal attributed GSAS’s high yield rate to the intense effort the departments put into attracting potential students. “The typical yield for graduate programs is between 50 and 55 percent,” Neal wrote. “So, to have yields in the humanities and social sciences of more than 75 percent is remarkable. And to yield 60 percent in the natural sciences—the most competitive area—is dramatically successful too. This is where credit is due to the departments, and to efforts to recruit/support the best students in their decision to come here.”

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