Harvard College’s most selective early action admissions year for Class of 2021
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
December is the first time of the academic year high school senior’s heart’s get broken as they discover of they are offered early action or decision admission to the university of their choice. No colleges are more selective in the process than the Ivy League. Harvard University released their Class of 2021 data on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, announcing they admitted just 938 students or 14.5 percent of their early applicant pool.
As has been the trend, Ivy League, and elite universities are becoming more selective, and their early action admission rates are falling even though some might be accepting more students after receiving, even more, applications. This year is no different if Harvard’s numbers are an indication the Ivy League and elite universities are on track for their most selective year as they choose the Class of 2021. So much so they last year’s most selective school Stanford University refused to even release their early admissions data for the Class of 2021.
On Tuesday, Harvard announced they admitted just 938 students out of 6,473 applications to their early admissions program for the Class of 2021. Their admissions represented just 14.5 percent of the applicant pool down only 0.3 percent from last year. Harvard admitted a smaller percentage of students than last year to the Class of 2021 when they admitted 914 students out of 6,167 applicants representing 14.8 percent. In total, Harvard only accepted 5.2 percent of applicants in the regular admission cycle to the Class of 2020 out of 39,000 applicants.
William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, commented on the record number of early admissions’ applicants and the process. Fitzsimmons expressed, “Early admission appears to be the ‘new normal’ now, as more students are applying early to Harvard and peer institutions than ever before.” The Admissions Dean explained the perfect recipe for a Harvard acceptance, “At the same time, we have continued to stress to applicants, their families, and their guidance counselors that there is no advantage in applying early to Harvard. The reason students are admitted — early or during the regular action process — is that their academic, extracurricular, and personal strengths are extraordinary.”
Harvard’s Class of 2021 is even more diverse than last year. More women were accepted representing 48 percent up from last year’s 47.4 percent for the Class of 2020. More minorities were admitted as well, 12.6 percent of African-American applicants were admitted this year up last year’s 9.4 percent. Fitzsimmons commented, “It does appear, say relative to the time when we gave up early admission, that there is greater ethnic and greater economic diversity in early pools these days, and therefore, in the admitted pool.”
There were, however, a decrease in diversity among other minority groups. Only 8.8 percent of Hispanics were admitted this year while last year 9.5 percent were admitted. Only 1.1 percent of Native American and Native Hawaiian were admitted down from last year’s 1.8 percent. The largest minority group accepted last year; Asian-Americans also saw a decrease in admissions with only 24.1 percent accepted down from 24.2 percent admitted last year through early action.
Early decision is binding, meaning a student who applies and then is accepted is required to attend the university or college, while early action is non-binding, a student can be accepted and then decide against going to that particular school and can turn down their admission offer. Applying for early admission is not without its risks either, some schools have policies where if a student is rejected in the early admission cycle, cannot reapply for regular admission, however, some universities who do not accept students that applied for early admission, automatically consider them for regular admission.
Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS, is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor with a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.