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This is Part II of our Freshman Survey series. Part I is here. Parts III and IV will be released later this week, along with full data and visualizations.
As admitted students around the world celebrated admittance into Harvard’s Class of 2025, the University boasted about the diverse backgrounds and experiences of its incoming students.
“We have the most diverse class in the history of Harvard this year, economically and ethnically,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson in April.
Despite those declarations, one major subset of the Class of 2025 — recruited athletes — is more predominantly white than in previous years, according to the results of The Crimson’s annual freshman survey.
Last year, the Class of 2024’s recruited athlete class was slightly more diverse than the year before — the proportion of white athletes dropped to 72.9 percent from 74.5 percent, alongside increases in the share of athletes identifying as Hispanic or Latinx, Asian, and Black or African American. This year, however, white students represent 82.9 percent of freshman recruited athletes.
Athletes identifying as Hispanic or Latinx dropped from 14 percent to 7.5 percent this year, while those identifying as Asian fell from 13.1 percent to 8.2 percent. Similarly, only 10.3 percent of athletes identified as Black or African American, compared to 12.1 percent last year, and no athletes who answered the survey identified as American Indian or Native American.
Just before starting their first semesters at Harvard, roughly 78 percent of freshmen responded to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The anonymous survey explores topics ranging from political ideology to sexual experience to Covid-19’s impact on their mental health. Of 1,965 students comprising the Class of 2025, 1,537 freshmen responded. The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the results. Due to rounding, reported statistics may not total exactly 100 percent.
This second segment of The Crimson’s four-part survey of the Class of 2025 examines the academics and extracurriculars of this year’s freshmen, looking at both their time in high school and their expectations for years ahead at Harvard.
The Class of 2025 has its eyes on the Economics, Government, and Computer Science departments — marking the sixth year in a row these concentrations have emerged as the top picks of the incoming class. Students interested in these fields of study constitute over one-third of respondents, with 13.2 percent favoring Economics, 12.1 percent favoring Government, and 9.5 percent looking to Computer Science.
Yet, the frosh broke several years-long trends, including the previous rise of concentrations in the Social Sciences division and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, along with the steady decline in the popularity of Arts and Humanities concentrations. After years of increasing interest, the proportion of students hoping to study within Social Sciences dropped from 39.1 percent to 33 percent, and those favoring Engineering and Applied Sciences fell from 24.8 percent to 21.3 percent. Meanwhile, Arts and Humanities saw a small bump from 6.9 percent last year to 7.1 percent.
Breaking from last year’s results, students identifying as female were more likely to lean towards the Sciences, clocking in at 34 percent interest, and male-identifying students were most drawn to Social Sciences concentrations, with 36 percent. The plurality of non-binary students — 31.8 percent — indicated a preference for Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Regardless of concentration, members of the Class of 2025 look forward to long study hours. The vast majority of surveyed students — 83.2 percent — anticipate studying 20 or more hours each week, compared to 84 percent in the Class of 2024 and 81.4 percent in the Class of 2023.
Interest in secondary concentrations decreased for the second year in a row, dropping down from 38 percent last year to 27.3 percent. Language citation popularity sank to 5.5 percent from 11 percent in 2020.
After finishing high school amid calls for social distancing, freshmen are keeping their distance from Harvard’s social clubs. Interest in final clubs jumped to 33 percent last year following the University’s decision to remove its social group sanctions, but fell to 31.6 percent this year, with only 8.4 percent indicating they were “very interested.”
Interest in final clubs and Greek groups was closely linked to alcohol consumption habits. Students who said they drink twice a week or a few times a week showed more inclination towards joining Harvard’s social scene, with 62.8 percent and 59.1 percent, respectively, indicating interest. Among those who said they never or very rarely drink, only 20 percent and 27.6 percent, respectively, were drawn to joining social clubs.
Recruited athletes were more likely to consider joining social groups, with 43 percent noting some level of interest — 12.6 percentage points higher than non-athletes.
Interest in final clubs and Greek groups also varied by income bracket. Nearly half — 48 percent — of students from families earning $500,000 or more indicated some level of interest, compared to only between 21 and 32 percent of students from all other wealth brackets.
Social clubs were particularly popular among male-identifying respondents — 36.5 percent of males demonstrated interest, as opposed to 28 percent of females and 16 percent of non-binary students.
Recruited athletes in the Class of 2025 are eager to represent Harvard. Nearly all — 99.1 percent — listed Harvard as their top choice university, compared to 76.5 percent of non-athletes. While other students were accepted into an average of 6.8 schools, recruited athletes averaged 1.7.
The proportion of the members of the freshman class accepted into Harvard as recruited athletes — 10.4 percent — stayed relatively consistent with last year, marking only a 0.2 percent decrease.
Athletes demonstrated a higher preference for Economics than non-athletes. Marking a nearly two-fold increase from last year, 36.6 percent of athletes reported interest in the concentration, compared to 10.7 percent of non-athletes.
Only 5.5 percent of Class of 2025 plans to walk on to a varsity sports team. Of this group, male students compose 71.4 percent.
Admitted students from the Class of 2025 had an average SAT score of 1494 and an average ACT score of 34. These numbers varied significantly along athlete and income status. Recruited athletes had an average SAT score of 1397, whereas non-athletes averaged 1501. The average SAT score of students with family income under $40,000 was 1443, while those with a family income of more than $500,000 averaged 1520. Legacy students also had a higher average SAT score than non-legacy students, at 1523 for legacy students and 1491 for non-legacy students.
Most respondents anticipate spending more hours studying at Harvard than they did in high school. The plurality of respondents — 30 percent — reported studying 11 to 19 hours per week in high school, consistent with reports from Class of 2024.
Just under a fifth of respondents — 19.5 percent — reported cheating in high school. The wealthiest students reported the highest rates of cheating, with 25.2 percent of students with families making more than $500,000 a year having engaged in academic dishonesty.
Cheating also broke down along partisan lines. While 19.8 percent of respondents who supported Joe Biden in the 2020 election reported having cheated, 30.2 percent of those who backed Donald Trump said they had cheated.
Tracking with last year’s trends, 63 percent of respondents have experience with math courses at a BC Calculus-level or above, whereas 10.1 percent of respondents have not exceeded pre-calculus level math.
Also matching the Class of 2024, 80.1 percent of this year’s freshmen said their greatest source of pressure was themselves, while 10.7 percent experienced the most pressure from parents or family members.
Members of Harvard’s incoming class packed their high school schedules with extracurriculars and leadership positions. Community service, athletics, and student government were among the most popular extracurriculars for the Class of 2025, with 60.6 percent, 44.2 percent, and 32 percent involvement, respectively. Academic clubs were the next most popular, with science clubs at 26.3 percent and math clubs at 21.5 percent involvement. Music clubs were also popular with a participation rate of 23.2 percent.
The vast majority of respondents — 87.1 percent — reported that they held leadership positions in at least one club. Several freshmen — 2.3 percent — indicated they led more than five high school clubs.
Similar to last year, 10.4 percent of the Class of 2025 led their high school newspapers as Editor-in-Chief, while another 20.7 percent served as student class presidents.
Amid the pandemic, a significant number of students deferred their enrollment by a year. While 11.3 percent of last year’s freshmen entered following a gap year, 21.9 percent of Class of 2025 took a year off prior to starting college.
—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.
—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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