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Harvard Sees Increase in International Applications

The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.
The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. By Amy Y. Li
By Edith M. Herwitz and Sonia Kim, Crimson Staff Writers

Contrary to national trends, Harvard College reported that it received an increase in the number of international applications while other colleges across the nation continue to experience decreases in foreign applicants.

Robin M. Worth ’81, the director of international admissions, wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard has not seen a decline in the number of undergraduate international applicants. Indeed, William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, dean of admissions and financial aid, said the College has seen “an 8.9 percent increase in people applying from other countries.”

But other U.S. colleges and universities are experiencing an overall decrease in foreign students. This past fall, reports by the Institute of International Education found that the number of newly arriving foreign students declined an average of 7 percent. In total, 45 percent of campuses reported a decrease in new international enrollment.

In its own data, the College distinguishes between individuals who apply from a foreign country and those who apply with a non-United States passport. In the recent record-setting admissions cycle, Harvard saw a 10.4 percent increase in applicants with a foreign passport, according to Fitzsimmons.

According to State Department data, the number of F-1 visas issued to foreign students seeking to attend college and other types of academic institutions in the United States decreased by 17 percent from Sept. 2016 to Sept. 2017.

Harvard’s applicants to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences similarly defied the downward trend in international applicants to graduate schools. In 2018, GSAS observed a 2 percent increase in international applicants while graduate schools across the country saw a 3 percent decline in international applicants since fall 2016, according to a survey released in January by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The study found that applications from the Middle East and North Africa notably declined for the second consecutive year in the wake of the Trump administration’s proposed travel bans from those regions.

“Since the issuance of the travel ban, the graduate education community has carefully monitored changes in the flow of international graduate students from the Middle East and North Africa region,” the report reads. “The 175 institutions contributing data for both Fall 2016 and Fall 2017 reported, in aggregate, a decline in both final applications (-17%) and first-time graduate enrollment (-5%) from this region.”

President Donald Trump signed three iterations of travel bans against Muslim-majority countries between January and October 2017. Federal judges have since blocked all three.

—Staff writer Edith M. Herwitz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @edith_herwitz.

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