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Asian American, International Admits Accepted Harvard Admissions Offers at Highest Rates

The College's admissions office is located on 86 Brattle Street.
The College's admissions office is located on 86 Brattle Street. By Jacqueline S. Chea
By Camille G. Caldera, Crimson Staff Writer

Asian American and international admits have consistently accepted their offers to attend Harvard College at the highest rates, while African American and Hispanic American admitted students accepted their offers at lower rates, according to data from 2018 court documents.

The yield rate for Asian American and international students only fell below 80 percent one time each from the Class of 2000 to the Class of 2017 — the only 18 admissions cycles included in the documents.

In contrast, the yield rates for African American and Hispanic American admitted students stayed roughly between 60 and 75 percent.

White admitted students fell between the other four demographics, only falling below 75 percent one time and topping out around 80, with a maximum yield rate of 83 percent yield for the Class of 2017.

The College’s admissions practices have come under increased scrutiny as a part of the lawsuit brought against Harvard by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions. SFFA alleges that the College’s race-conscious policies illegally disadvantage Asian American Harvard hopefuls. The case went to trial in fall 2018, leading to the public release of previously undisclosed information and data about the College’s admissions process.

During the trial, a dataset released by Harvard’s legal team documented the number of applicants, admits, and matriculants to the College broken down by race between the Class of 2000 and the Class of 2017. In the document, which appears to be sourced from internal Harvard records, eight categories were used: white, Asian American, African American, Hispanic American, Native American and Native Hawaiian, international citizen, “Other,” and “Unknown.”

The Crimson calculated yield rates by finding the percentage of admitted students who then decide to matriculate to the College.

The yield rate for Native American and Native Hawaiian students saw large year to year fluctuations, likely due to the small number of Native American and Native Hawaiian admitted students. Over the eighteen years included in the dataset, their yield rate changed on average by 18.2 percentage points from one year to the next, and the rate itself ranged from 45 percent to 94.7 percent. The College admitted an average of roughly 24 Native American and Native Hawaiian students per year in that time period.

Experts said the differences in yield rates between demographics may arise from a combination of cultural, financial, and institutional factors.

Julie J. Park, a professor at the University of Maryland College of Education who is a consulting expert for Harvard in the SFFA lawsuit, wrote in an email that she is not surprised to see the higher yield rates for Asian Americans compared to other domestic groups.

“While the Asian American community is incredibly diverse (over 40% of Asian Americans attend community college), there’s some evidence from research that many Asian Americans have a particular preference for more prestigious institutions, which may influence their yield patterns,” she wrote. “Among some sections of the Asian American community, Harvard is really seen as the ‘golden ticket’ to success, for better or worse.”

Though she wrote that she is unsure about other groups, Park theorized that some high-achieving African American students may be inclined to attend historically black colleges and universities.

“It may also be a byproduct of questions about whether Harvard has a supportive campus racial climate for Black, Latinx, and Native American students, and also an issue of affordability,” she wrote.

Manuel S. González Canché, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, said he has observed that “being [an underrepresented minority] and high achieving means having options.”

“I think that high achieving Hispanic and African American students will go wherever they receive the highest financial aid package, if financially constrained,” he wrote in an email. “I can see this being extrapolated to the Harvard case: gaining admission to the most prestigious university also means gaining admission to other highly selective institutions that may be more willing to offer better packages.”

For the Class of 2023 nearly 83 percent of students who were offered admission chose to attend the College. The overall yield rate has only exceeded this number once since 1969, in 2017, when 84 percent of admits joined the Class of 2021.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in an emailed statement that a number of groups work to convince admitted students to attend Harvard, including the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, Harvard First Generation Program, Harvard College Connection, and the Undergraduate Admissions Council.

“These groups have made invaluable contributions to Harvard College’s ability both to admit and yield minority students,” she wrote.

In the Class of 2023, 25.6 percent of students attending the College are Asian American, while international students make up 13.1 percent of the incoming class. African American and Latinx students make up 13.1 and 11.8 percent of the class, respectively.

—Staff Writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.

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