Harvard College Applications Increase

Applications rise slightly more than 2 percent from last year.

Harvard College today reported receiving 35,022 applications for the class of 2017—a total more than 2 percent above the number of students who applied to the class of 2016. In a news release, dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons attributed the increase to “historic levels of financial aid,” which he cited as a major factor in students’ decision to apply to Harvard.

“Students and their families have many questions about the affordability of college in challenging financial times,” Fitzsimmons said, according to the release. “Students, as always, contribute to the cost of their own education through term-time and summer work—and have the option of loans as well. Alumni generosity enables the College to provide $172 million this year to meet the financial needs of our remarkable undergraduates.” 

According to director of financial aid Sarah C. Donahue, more than 60 percent of Harvard students receive need-based aid, and on average their families pay $11,500 annually. In addition, Harvard’s financial-aid program requires no contribution from the 20 percent of families with annual incomes below $65,000, and asks an average of no more than 10 percent of income “from the majority of families receiving financial aid.” Families with incomes greater than $150,000 are also eligible for aid, Donahue said, depending “on their particular circumstances, such as having multiple children in college or unusual medical or other essential expenses.”

The demographics of this year’s and last year’s applicant pools are generally similar, Donahue said, but she noted that this year’s pool seems to have greater economic diversity than last year: “We see a 37 percent increase in the number of students requesting a fee waiver” (the fee sent in with the application)—“an indication of more applicants from low- and modest-income backgrounds.” 

Director of admissions Marlyn E. McGrath also noted similarities with last year’s applicant pool. “Minority students remain a significant segment of the applicant pool, the gender breakdown is still about 52 percent male, and geographical distribution is about the same, except for a slight decline in the number of applicants from Canada,” she reported. But a review of applicants’ stated academic preferences, she said, showed more students interested in mathematics, physical sciences, and engineering than last year, as well as a 26 percent increase in prospective computer scientists. “The pattern of increases in these four areas began with the establishment of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” she explained, “and it is clear that SEAS has raised the level of visibility of our superb and expanded offerings in these fields of study.”

Regular applicants as well as early applicants whose applications were deferred  will be notified of admission status on March 28. The College announced in December that 895 students were granted admission to the class of 2017 under the early-action application program—an increase of 16 percent from the 774 admitted early last year.



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