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Harvard College Admits 18 Percent of Early Applicants

By Justin C. Worland, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: Dec. 16 AT 12:42 a.m.

Harvard College announced Thursday that it accepted 18 percent of the 4,231 early applicants to the Class of 2016. These 772 students mark the first group to be admitted early since the College eliminated its early admission program four years ago.

“Their academic, extracurricular, and personal promise are remarkable by any standard, and it will be exciting to follow their progress over the next four years and beyond,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in a statement.

The Office of Admissions deferred 2,838 students, roughly two-thirds of the total number of applicants. Those applications will be reconsidered in the regular application process. It rejected 546 students.

When Harvard eliminated the early admissions program four years ago, admissions officials said they were aiming to make the College’s admissions process more equitable, arguing that the early program provided an advantage for students of more privileged backgrounds. But the University states that this year’s group is the College’s most diverse pool of early admits to date and its ethnic makeup is on par with the current freshman class.

Fitzsimmons has previously remarked that this early applicant pool was of a “very, very high” quality. He said last month that his office set a particularly high bar when determining which students to admit.

“If we’re 100 percent certain that we would take the person later, we’ll take the person early,” Fitzsimmons told The Crimson last month. “We have no quotas in our minds, no numbers. We don’t go there.”

Fitzsimmons said that all deferred applicants would receive “a complete review later in the regular process.”

“We’re not one of these places where one would expect that almost none of the deferred applicants would get in,” Fitzsimmons added.

Still, Amy Sack, president of college counseling company Admissions Accomplished, said that the numbers indicate that the chances are low for deferred applicants. Nearly 77 percent of students accepted to Harvard’s Class of 2015 matriculated, and the total class size is less than 1,700.

“Deferral means I’m acceptable to Harvard, but they’re still looking for better,” said college counselor Lucie Lapovsky. “The acceptance rate is going to be driven down for the rest of the class.”

Sack said she believes the admissions numbers are evidence that the College has been able to attract strong applicants to its early pool who might have applied elsewhere in previous years.

“I think they were trying to [create] a very strong class, and I think that’s exactly why they did it,” Sack said.

Though it is difficult to approximate the yield for early applicants, Sack said that students who are accepted early often become “psychologically committed,” which eventually leads them to accept their early offer.

Last week, Stanford admitted 755 of 5,880 early applicants. Numbers at most of Harvard’s peer institutions have not yet been released.

Though admitted, successful early applicants are not required to commit to Harvard until May 1, the same date all accepted students must indicate whether they plan to matriculate.

Fitzsimmons said Harvard plans to reach out to students admitted early in the coming months before the regular application decisions are released.

The admissions office has roped in students and faculty members to make phone calls to admitted students, as it has done in the past. Local Harvard alumni associations are also planning holiday parties.

New to the outreach, all early admits will receive free merchandise from the COOP and a handwritten note from the area representative who reviewed their applications.

“It’s a reminder to students that this is a process that is personal and that this is an institution that is personal,” said Fitzsimmons.

Still, Fitzsimmons said that students should take the time to make a careful decision.

“I would prefer to see people be 100 percent sure that they want to come to Harvard,” Fitzsimmons said. “And if that takes until May 1, that’s fine.”

Decision emails were sent to applicants after 5 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at

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