Harvard College announced this morning that it will restore its early admissions program starting this fall to better recruit talented students -- four years after it eliminated the option to much fanfare on the basis of equity because it tended to attract better prepared students from families with higher incomes.
At the time, college admissions officials thought that other elite universities would follow, but few did. Many sought-after students continued to apply to schools with early admissions programs, in hopes of securing a spot early in their senior year and getting peace of mind months before their classmates.
Today, university president Drew Faust said Harvard will structure the early admissions program to maximize access as interest among students from all socioeconomic backgrounds has risen.
“We piloted the elimination of early action out of concern that college admissions had become too complex and pressured for all students, and out of particular concern for students at under-resourced high schools who might not be able to access the early admissions process,” Faust said in a written statement.
She added, “over the past several years, however, interest in early admissions has increased, as students and families from across the economic spectrum seek certainty about college choices and financing. Our goal now is to reinstitute an early-action program consistent with our bedrock commitment to access, affordability, and excellence.”
The decision was made after years of study, which the university had said it would conduct in 2007 when it first moved to a single admissions deadline. Many highly talented students, including those from low-income and underrepresented minority backgrounds, continued to choose colleges with early admissions programs, said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Those students “were missing out on the opportunity to consider Harvard,” Smith said in a written statement. “We have decided that the college and our students will be best served by restoring an early option.”
Harvard’s early admissions program will remain non-binding, so students who are admitted early will be under no obligation to attend. Students who apply by Nov. 1 will be notified by Dec. 15 of their status – whether they have been admitted, rejected, or deferred for consideration with the regular pool of applicants.
The deadline for regular applicants remains Jan. 1, with admission results available on April 1. All admitted students, whether they apply early or in the regular admissions pool, will have until May 1 to decide whether to enroll.
Harvard has made a commitment in recent years to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds, even as it increased financial aid to help middle and even upper income families pay for college.
College officials say that the return to early admissions will be accompanied by enhancements to its recruitment of a diverse pool of students, including visits to high schools where few students apply early to college.
“We continue to be concerned about the pressures on students today, including those associated with college admission,” said William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, in a written statement.
He added, “in all of our work, we will do everything possible to level the playing field in admissions and encourage all students to make thoughtful choices about how they can best contribute to society.”’
The university also announced today that it will increase undergraduate tuition by 3.8 percent for the 2011-12 school year to a total of $52,650. It will also increase financial aid to more than $160 million. More than 60 percent of Harvard undergraduates receive need-based scholarships.
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