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Record-High 84 Percent of Admitted Students Will Join Class of 2021

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 By Jessica M. Wang
By William S. Flanagan and Michael E. Xie, Crimson Staff Writers

Roughly 84 percent of students invited to join the Class of 2021 accepted their offer, a marked uptick from the Class of 2020’s 80 percent yield for admitted students rate last year.

“It was the largest number of applications in our history, it was a great yield on admitted students. Everything we could possibly hope for happened in this class,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said.

Nearly 40,000 students applied to Harvard’s Class of 2021 this cycle, and 2,056 were admitted to the College in March—a 5.2 percent acceptance rate.

A press release credited a variety of factors in attracting the students to Harvard in recent years, including new arts programs, updated engineering and science facilities, and the “One Harvard” concept, in which the resources of Harvard’s graduate schools are integrated into the undergraduate experience.

“We made a big change on the financial aid program now over 10 years ago. I said at the time you will see the effect of this over time,” Fitzsimmons said, “I would say this might have been one of those year when things combine and maybe this is a jump up to a new level.”

According to the press release, the incoming freshman class is more socioeconomically diverse than in previous years: Of the two-thirds of the incoming class that applied for financial aid, approximately 24 percent were classified as low-income and 17 percent were eligible for Pell Grants.

Additionally, 15 percent of students accepting admission will be the first from their family to attend college. After rejecting a proposal for a summer program for low-income and first generation students, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana announced that he planned to appoint a “student advocate” to assist those students.

For the Class of 2021, the Office of Financial Aid plans to continue its start-up grants, which were first offered to the Class of 2020. The grants will provide students from families earning under $65,000 per year with $2,000 to assist in the transition to college.

Despite uncertainty over President Donald J. Trump’s immigration policies, the incoming class will be composed of 12.3 percent foreign passport holders, up from 11.7 for the Class of 2020. Canadian students will make up 2.0 percent of the incoming class.

Within the United States, students from the Mid-Atlantic comprise 21.9 percent of the incoming class, while students from New England will make up 17.2 percent. 18.2 percent of the Class of 2021 will hail from the South, 14.2 percent from the Pacific, and 15.9 from the Midwest, Central, or Mountain regions.

As a lawsuit accusing Harvard of discrimination against Asian-American applicants continues, Asian Americans comprise 21.7 percent of the incoming class, marginally down from a record high last year. Overall, the racial diversity of the Class of 2021 slightly increased, Director of Admissions Marlyn E. McGrath said in the press release—a record 13.2 percent of students self-identified as African-American. Additionally, Latino, Native American, and Native Hawaiian students represent 10.8, 1.6, and 0.5 percent of the Class of 2021, respectively.

According to the press release, the academic interests of the incoming class are similar to those of previous classes, with an increased interest in the social sciences.

“I think one of the thing Harvard has tried very hard to do over the past 10 or 20 years is to remain a very balanced institution,” Fitzsimmons said. “Our students today are very savvy about what it is that they are going to do.”

Approaching gender parity, women comprise 49.6 percent of the incoming class, up from 47.8 percent in the Class of 2020.

The College’s policy penalizing members of single-gender final clubs, sororities, and fraternities is set to go into effect with the Class of 2021.

In part due to the high yield, Fitzsimmons believes it is “highly unlikely” that any students will be admitted from the waitlist.

“The class is full at this point,” Fitzsimmons said. “As far as we can see, we’re not going to be admitting people off the waitlist for August.”

—Staff writer William S. Flanagan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @willflan21.

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