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Harvard Accepts Record Low of 5.9 Percent to the Class of 2016

By Elizabeth S. Auritt, Crimson Staff Writer

UPDATED: March 29, 2012, at 6:22 p.m.

An all-time low 5.9 percent of applicants received offers to join Harvard College’s Class of 2016 on Thursday. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Harvard’s admission rate has fallen.

At 5 p.m., 1,260 students received notifications of their acceptance by email. In total, including the 772 students admitted in December in the early action acceptance round, a total of 2,032 initial offers, more than 100 fewer than last year, were extended to applicants. The admit rate for those considered under regular decision, including the 2,838 early action candidates who were deferred to the original round, was 3.8 percent.

This year’s accepted students were selected from an applicant pool of 34,302, down 1.9 percent from last year.

The percentage of black, Latino, and Native American students accepted to the class decreased slightly, while Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians were accepted at slightly higher rates.

Black students make up 10.2 percent of the accepted students, and 11.2 percent are Latino—down from last year’s 11.8 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively.

Ten percent of the accepted students hail from foreign countries.

More than 60 percent of students accepted this year will benefit from a record financial aid budget of $172 million; families receiving aid will pay an average of $12,000 of the total cost of Harvard undergraduate education, which next year will rise to nearly $55,000. Under the recently modified guidelines of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, students from families that earn less than $65,000 will attend Harvard at no cost.

“It’s a big commitment, and it’s aimed right at the people that need the money the most,” said Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons ’67.

Last year, even with a slightly larger applicant pool, the acceptance rate was a bit higher, at 6.2 percent.

Fitzsimmons said in a press release that the return of early action admissions, discontinued at Harvard in 2006 and revived for the Class of 2016, made it more difficult for the admissions office to predict the number of students who will ultimately matriculate. Thus, officers were conservative in the number of students they accepted.

Furthermore, good press might spur accepted students to choose Harvard in higher-than-usual numbers. “There’s been some very, very good publicity about Harvard this year,” Fitzsimmons said.

“Not simply the Harvard basketball team and ‘Linsanity,’ but that’s certainly out there,” he added.

Harvard placed an unspecified number of students on the waitlist, and these students will receive notice of their status later in the spring. Fitzsimmons said that the office expects to admit more waitlisted students than usual this time around, since it was cautious in its initial offers.

With the emails sent and the letters in the mail, Fitzsimmons said the admissions office will now turn its focus to reaching out to admitted students.

“The most important thing is that students get to the right match,” Fitzsimmons said.

Admissions officers will send personal notes and make phone calls to admitted students, and alumni will host events for admitted students across the country and internationally.

All students, whether they were accepted in the early or regular cycle, must respond to their offers of admission by May 1.

Admission rates at some other Ivy League schools decreased as well this year. Yale’s admission rate was 6.8 percent, down from 7.4 percent last year, and Princeton’s dropped to 7.9 percent from last year’s record-low 8.5 percent.

—Staff writer Elizabeth S. Auritt can be reached at eauritt@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: March 29, 2013

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Harvard’s admissions rate dropped for the seventh consecutive year in 2012 for the Class of 2016. In fact, 2012 marked the sixth straight year in which the rate had fallen.

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