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Admissions Counselors: After Visitas Cancellation, Yield Likely Steady

By Zohra D. Yaqhubi, Crimson Staff Writer

Despite the cancellation of Harvard’s admitted student weekend in the wake of a week of chaos following the Boston marathon bombings, admissions counselors and prospective students agree that the yield for the Class of 2017 will likely be consistent with that of years past.

Visitas, Harvard’s visiting weekend program, attracts more than 1,000 prospective students to campus annually for a weekend of events meant to acclimate them to life at Harvard. The College canceled last weekend’s programming in the midst of a lockdown of the greater Boston area as police sought a suspected terrorist, leaving some admitted students unable to make it to campus and learn about the social, academic, and extracurricular offerings at Harvard.

Friday night, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson that “it’s absolutely impossible to know” how the cancellation of Visitas might impact the yield for the Class of 2017.

“This is an unprecedented event,” Fitzsimmons said, “and it’s very difficult to know how it might go.”

But less than a week after last Friday’s events, Michael Goran, director and educational consultant at California college counseling firm IvySelect, said he did not think the atypical visiting weekend experience for the Class of 2017 would “make any sort of appreciable difference” on Harvard’s yield.

“[It’s] not to say that security issues aren’t a piece of what families consider when they’re looking at where to send their kids or where the student wants to go, but...these are isolated incidents that I don’t think it will have any dramatic repercussions on whether students decide to attend the school,” said Goran.

Last year, 81 percent of students admitted chose to attend Harvard. In 2011, nearly 77 percent of students chose to attend.

Anna Ivey, founder of the college admissions consulting firm Ivey Consulting, said she also thought there would likely be little impact on Harvard’s yield.

“[Prospective students] still will want to go [to Harvard] as much as they did before,” she said, adding that she believes “the people who applied to Harvard were quite motivated to attend” from the start.

Students interviewed by The Crimson agreed that last weeks event did little to influence their opinion of Harvard.

Lejla Skokic, a high school student accepted to the class of 2017, said that if anything, she was impressed by the University’s handling of the uncertainty created by last week’s lockdown.

“After what happened with the bombings, and the manhunt, I was worried people would get the wrong impression of Boston,” Skokic said. “But I think they did a really good job handling it. It goes to show that the [administrators] really do care about the people who live here.”

For Rosa Bonilla, another prospective member of the class of 2017, the cancellation of Visitas was “disappointing” but did not impact her decision.

“Not having Visitas didn’t impact my decision, but it’s definitely disappointing. I really don’t think it changes anything in the long run,” Bonilla said. “It’s just more unfortunate that I didn’t get to spend any time [at Harvard] while school was in session.”

Both Bonilla and Skokic said they plan to attend Harvard in the fall.

—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at zyaqhubi@college.harvard.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @zohradyaqhubi.

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