Saturday, 2:15 PM
By Tracy Jan, Globe Staff
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, thousands of high school students will check their e-mail to learn whether they got the nod from Harvard University. Only 7 percent will get in, school officials said today, the most selective year yet at one of the world's most selective universities.
Last year, 7.9 percent of Harvard applicants were admitted. The stiffer competition is not surprising, given the record 29,112 applications this year for the Class of 2013, a 5.6 percent increase from last year that Harvard officials attributed in part to its financial aid initiative. The university announced it has admitted 2,046 students for the 1,655 spots in next year’s freshmen class.
The applicant pool reached an unprecedented level of achievement, university officials said. More than 2,900 scored a perfect 800 on their SAT critical reading test, and 3,500 scored perfectly on the SAT math test. Nearly 3,700 were ranked first in their senior class.
’’We had never had so many good choices,’’ said William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid. ‘‘Our new financial aid program encouraged so many people who might not have ever thought about applying to get into the pool.’’
Members of the incoming freshman class come from diverse backgrounds. A record 10.9 percent are Latino, Fitzsimmons said; 10.8 percent as African-American; 17.6 percent are Asian-American; and 1.3 percent are Native American. Another 8.9 percent are international students.
About a quarter of the admitted students come from families earning less than $80,000, making them eligible for a nearly free ride at the university.
Two years ago, Harvard instituted one of the most generous financial aid initiatives in the country waiving tuition, room, and board for students whose parents earn less than $60,000 and capping tuition, room and board at 10 percent of income for those whose families earn up to $180,000.
Nearly 60 percent of the incoming class will receive aid, Fitzsimmons said.
In response to increased demand from families struggling through the recession, Harvard plans to boost its undergraduate aid program to $147 million — an 8 percent increase over last year.
‘‘Certainly, it’s a measure of the pain in the economy, not just among the families of the incoming students but of the families that are here now,’’ Fitzsimmons said. ’’This has been a very tough year for people to think about college. Parents have lost jobs and houses.’’
The average financial aid package is likely to total more than $40,000. The cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, will be $48,868 next year.
Fat envelopes congratulating students on their selection will arrive by snail mail in the coming days. Those who ended up on the waiting list should not fret, as Fitzsimmons anticipates taking more than 200 students from the list.
It remains to be seen how many students will choose Harvard now that Harvard has chosen them. Last year, 76 percent of admitted students decided to enroll.
The university will now dispatch an army of students, faculty, and staff to encourage the chosen to commit by May 1. Professors will personally call as many students as possible. Current Harvard students and alumni will too. The admissions office will also host on-line chats to connect admitted students to current undergraduates.
Tracy Jan can be reached at email@example.com.