Harvard announces lowest ever acceptance rate after surge in applications

The college had to delay decisions by a week.

Students and visitors mingle in Harvard Yard on September, 06, 2020. Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe

Harvard University’s undergraduate school has admitted 1,968 students out of a record-breaking 57,435 applicants to the class of 2025, the university announced Tuesday.

That adds up to only a 3.43 percent acceptance rate to Harvard College, breaking the record-low rate of 4.5 percent in 2019. There were nearly 30 percent more applicants this year over 2020, and the school had to delay decisions by a week because of the surge.

“These applicants have faced and overcome unprecedented challenges over the past year,” dean of admissions and financial aid William R. Fitzsimmons wrote in a statement. “Their applications and personal stories revealed a window into their resilience, their intellectual curiosity, and their many positive contributions to family, school, and community. They are truly inspiring.”


The shift in higher education to make standardized testing optional during the coronavirus pandemic has seemingly helped break application records for large selective schools around the country, including several in the Boston area.

MIT reported 33,240 applications (up 66 percent over the previous year), Tufts had 31,190 applicants (a 35 percent increase), Boston University had 75,559 applicants (up 24 percent), and Northeastern reported 75,233 applications (up 17 percent). Each of the schools, including Harvard, made standardized tests optional for the year.

The class of 2025 at Harvard is slightly more diverse than previous years, with several more Black and Asian American students and slight increases in Latino, first-generation, and lower-income students.

Over 60 percent of offers went to students of color, up from 54.4 percent last year. Fitzsimmons described the class as “the most diverse class in the history of Harvard… economically and ethnically” to The Harvard Crimson.

Among admitted students, 18 percent are Black (up from 14.8 percent last year), 27.2 percent are Asian American (up from 24.5 percent), and 13.3 percent are Latino (up from 12. 7 percent).

First-generation students make up 20.7 percent of the admitted class (up from 19.4 percent), and 20.4 percent qualify for federal Pell grants (up from 19 percent). Fitzsimmons told the Crimson that this year is the first time that Harvard broke 20 percent for both first-generation students and Pell Grant recipients.


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