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Freshman Survey Part II: An Uncommon App

The Crimson’s Survey of Freshmen Shines Light on Admissions, Financial Aid, and Recruiting

By Laya Anasu and Michael D. Ledecky, Crimson Staff Writers

Part II of a four-part series on Harvard’s incoming Class of 2017, based on data collected by The Crimson in an online survey conducted in the month of August. Part I ran on Tuesday, Part III ran on Thursday, and Part IV will run on Friday.

In Harvard Yard, 14 percent are the 1 percent. In a Crimson survey of the Class of 2017, about 14 percent of incoming freshmen said they come from families with reported incomes above $500,000 a year, putting them among the top roughly 1 percent of earners in the United States.

More than half of Harvard freshmen reported coming from households that make more than $125,000 a year. In comparison, the median household income in America is just over $50,000, according to recent U.S. Census data.

This year Harvard reported that it will spend $182 million on undergraduate financial aid. But even given need blind admissions and Harvard’s expansive financial aid program, survey results suggest that Harvard freshmen still disproportionately represent America’s economic elite.

The Crimson conducted its email survey of the freshman class from Aug. 5 to Aug. 28. A total of 1,311 incoming students responded—nearly 80 percent of the Class of 2017—although not all of them finished the survey. Part II of a four-part series on the survey’s results looks at statistics related to admissions, financial aid, and athletic recruiting.


Eighty-one percent of freshman respondents said they are at their first choice college. On average, freshmen applied to 6.57 schools, and were accepted to 4.68.

Two students reported applying to a class-high 25 schools. The highest number of reported acceptances was 24.

Overall, about 50 percent of respondents said that they were accepted to Harvard early, in line with statistics released by the College.

On average, freshman respondents took the SAT 1.85 times, earning an average highest composite score of 2237. Students were more likely to take the SAT, and most respondents never took the ACT.

Standardized test scores varied along racial lines. East Asian and Indian respondents reported SAT averages of 2299, the two highest of the seven ethnic groups considered in the survey. Respondents who identified as Black and Native American reported the lowest average scores, 2107 and 2142, respectively.

Respondents’ highest SAT scores tended to go up with an increase in income bracket. Of the six income brackets represented in the survey, respondents who reported household incomes of more than $500,000 or between $250,000 and $500,000 earned the highest average SAT composite scores.


When Harvard announced that it would eliminate early action in 2007, then-President Derek C. Bok argued that early action programs “advantage the advantaged.” With the program now reinstated, the numbers suggest that this concern could still be justified.

Respondents from the two highest income categories were more likely to say they had been admitted early. Meanwhile, respondents from the two lowest income categories were underrepresented among early action admits.

In the top income bracket, the 14 percent of surveyed freshmen who reported that their parents earn more than $500,000 constituted 18 percent of early admits.

Within the lowest bracket, freshmen who said their families earned less than $40,000 per year comprised 15 percent of the overall number of respondents but represented only 9 percent of respondents who identified themselves as early action admits.

It is unclear whether this disparity is a result of low-income applicants’ limited access to college counseling and other admissions resources. Other factors may contribute to the underrepresentation of low-income applicants in the early admit pool.


The survey results reflected the College’s wide-reaching financial aid program. Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported that they will receive financial aid from the University, a number that is in line with the College’s reports.

Of respondents whose parents earned less than $80,000, 97 percent said that they would receive aid from Harvard. The survey suggested that the majority of the Class of 2017 in the $125,000 to $250,000 income bracket also receive assistance from the University.

The proportion of respondents on financial aid varied widely by geographic region and school type.

Eighty-six percent of freshmen who said that they are from a rural community reported that they would receive financial aid. In contrast, only 54 percent of urbanites and 56 percent of suburbanites said that they would receive financial aid.

Public and charter school respondents reported the highest proportions of freshmen on financial aid by secondary school type. Seventy percent of public school respondents and 68 percent of charter school respondents said that they would receive financial aid. Thirty-four percent of respondents from non-denominational private schools and 53 percent of respondents from parochial schools also said that they would receive assistance from the University.

Respondents who will receive Harvard financial aid reported slightly lower standardized test scores than respondents who will not receive aid. Surveyed financial aid recipients posted an average SAT composite score of 2209. Respondents who will not receive college-based financial aid reported an average SAT composite score of 2275.


Recruited athletes navigate through a different admissions process than non-recruited students, a reality reflected in the survey results.

More than 80 percent of surveyed recruited athletes were accepted via early action as opposed to just 46 percent of non-recruited athletes.

Respondents who identified as recruited athletes had an average composite SAT score of 2082, more than 170 points lower than the 2255 average of respondents who were not recruited for a varsity sport.

Recruited athletes reported an average unweighted high school GPA of 3.88, roughly equivalent to the 3.94 average of students who were not recruited.

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @layaanasu.

—Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.

The interactive feature accompanying this article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:

CLARIFICATION: Sept. 8, 2013

The title of a graph in an earlier version of the interactive feature accompanying this article has been changed to indicate that the graph describes students admitted early by income, not early admission broadly.

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