Freshman Survey Part II: The Gilded Envelope

The Crimson’s Annual Survey Digs into Admissions, Financial Aid, and Athletic Recruiting

UPDATED: September 3, 2014, at 2:00 p.m.

Part II of a five-part series on Harvard’s incoming Class of 2018, based on data collected by The Crimson in an email survey conducted in the month of August. Part I ran on Tuesday.

Last February, the College reported a 38 percent increase in requests for application fee waivers by prospective members of the Class of 2018, suggesting “even more economic diversity for the incoming class than for previous ones.”


The Harvard Crimson’s survey of the Class of 2018, however, finds indication that the class is no less disproportionately wealthy than last year’s. Seventy-two percent of respondents reported that their annual family income exceeds $80,000. The median American household income is just over $51,000, according to U.S. Census data.

The survey also reveals several potential reasons for why this imbalance exists. Students whose annual family income exceeds $500,000, for example, on average score higher on their SATs and are more likely to hire private admissions counselors. They are also more likely to have a parent who attended the College and to be admitted early compared to their lower income peers.


The email survey, conducted by The Harvard Crimson, was sent to all incoming freshman on Aug. 6 and closed on Aug. 28. Of the 1,667 students in the incoming freshman class, 1,172 filled out the survey, representing around 70 percent of the class. The Crimson did not adjust the survey results for any possible selection bias.

The Thick Envelope

Reflecting the fact that very few applicants gain admission to the College, most respondents reported exceptional standardized test scores and grade point averages.

Respondents reported taking the SAT on average 2.14 times and scored an average composite score of 2237, a figure consistent with last year’s average and placing the average surveyed College student in the top 1 percent of all SAT test takers, according to CollegeBoard. Around 8 percent of respondents reported a perfect 2400 score on their SAT.

Surveyed students from Northeastern states tended to perform better on their SATs, with an average score of 2253. On the other hand, students hailing from outside of the United States averaged the lowest test scores based on reported data, obtaining an average of 2197 on their SAT exams.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said that Harvard was their top choice, and, on average, students applied to 6.7 schools and were accepted to 4.6 . Sixteen percent of surveyed students said they used a private admissions counselor.

Thirty percent of surveyed female students said that they considered the culture and policies surrounding sexual assault when deciding whether to go to Harvard, while only 8 percent of male respondents said the same.

The highest number of schools any respondent applied to was 35, and the highest number of acceptances was 30.  

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they were admitted to Harvard early, a nearly six percentage point increase compared to last year’s survey.