In this issue:
- Applicants to Harvard College up 43% on last year
- ‘Welcome’ event for new admits and deferrals
- Assessing future applicants amid continuing school exam disruption
- Information for students who have received offers of admission to US colleges
- Information for students who will be applying to US colleges in the next three years
Applicants to Harvard College up 43% on last year
The Harvard Gazette reports that 1,968 applicants from around the world have been offered admission to the Class of 2025, who will start their studies in August 2021. The total number of applications was 57,435, nearly 43% higher than the 40,248 who applied last year. A similar increase in applicants was experienced in most other top US colleges, largely because the SAT and ACT standardised tests were made optional due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Harvard is also making the tests optional for this year’s application round.
This year’s class hails from all 50 US states and from 94 other countries, including an excellent group of candidates from the UK. Women account for more than half (52.9%) of those admitted, while international students make up 12.2% of the class.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said that Harvard decided to admit a full class despite the relatively high number of last year’s admits who have deferred their entry to this year. “Harvard is committed to opening doors of opportunity to all talented students, even if it means confronting the challenge of accommodating more students on campus next year,” she said.
Thanks to the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, families with annual incomes below $65,000 (around £47,000 at current exchange rates) will pay nothing towards their child’s Harvard education, and students in this group will also receive a $2,000 start-up grant to help with move-in costs and other expenses incurred in the transition to College. Director of Financial Aid Jake Kaufmann commented: “…we remain committed to investing in our core value of removing barriers to a Harvard education for outstanding students from all economic backgrounds.”
‘Welcome’ event for new admits and deferrals
The ‘Visitas’ welcome event normally held on the Harvard campus during April will be held virtually again this year. It will take place online from 17th – 23rd April 2021, starting with a welcome address from Larry Bacow, President of Harvard University, on 17th April at 7.00pm BST.
Just before President Bacow’s address, there will be a special welcome organised by the Harvard Clubs of the UK and Ireland for UK and Irish admits and their parents or guardians, including those who deferred from last year. Participants will be able to hear from Anne De Luca (Associate Dean, Admissions and Financial Aid), their interviewers, other Harvard alumni/ae from the Harvard Clubs of the UK and Ireland and to chat to their future classmates and current students in the various breakout rooms. The online event will take place on Saturday 17th April from 5.00 – 6.30pm BST.
Assessing future applicants amid continuing school exam disruption
Last month’s newsletter outlined Harvard’s plans for ‘charting a path for a full return for our students, our faculty, and staff’ to the campus in the Autumn of 2021, to include ‘as much in-person learning as possible’ for undergraduates in the new academic year.
The Admissions Office is aware that school exam schedules continue to be disrupted, and that while social distancing restrictions are gradually being lifted in some countries, full lockdowns are still in force in others.
In the sections below, we answer some FAQs about how to respond if you have just received the result of your applications to US colleges, and how Harvard will assess next year’s applicants. This advice is aimed at the final four year groups of a UK secondary school who have applied, or will apply, to Harvard or other US colleges.
Information for students in the final year of secondary school who have received offers of admission from Harvard and/or other US colleges
This information is relevant to UK year groups equivalent to the Senior Year of a US High School:
Year 13 (England and Wales)
Year 14 (Northern Ireland)
Firstly, many congratulations on receiving an offer of admission from one or more US colleges. You have until 3rd May to accept Harvard’s offer (other US colleges may ask for a reply by 1st May), decline or defer any offers you have received.
How do I respond to my offer from Harvard? To reply to your offer of admission, to apply for housing, and to find out about your financial aid decision, go to the online portal you have been using throughout your application and respond online. You should be able to join your classmates on campus later this year provided that travel and social distancing restrictions are lifted by August, when you are due to start your degree course. If it looks as if travel restrictions will still be in force at that time, the Admissions Office will advise you about alternative arrangements for starting your courses online.
What if I can’t take my A Levels, IB or Advanced Higher exams this summer? Many thousands of students are in the same boat and provided you carry on working as best you can online during the lockdown and when you return to the classroom, nobody will be disadvantaged if they can’t sit their exams and their schools have to assess their work by other means.
I have been placed on the waitlist for my first choice college but have also been given a firm offer from another college that is lower in my list of preferences. What should I do? You should accept the offer from the lower preference college before the 3rd May (or 1st May) deadline. Then, if you are subsequently offered a place at your first choice college you should accept it, and withdraw from the other college. It is perfectly acceptable to do this as your withdrawal from the other college will provide a vacancy for someone on their waitlist. But if you don’t get an offer from your first choice college, your place at the other college will be secure. Always keep your options open for as long as possible.
Information for students in the penultimate year of secondary school who will be applying to Harvard and/or other US colleges next year
This information is relevant to UK year groups equivalent to the Junior Year of a US High School:
Year 12 (England and Wales)
Year 13 (Northern Ireland)
Universities have made special arrangements to assess applications when exams and tests have been postponed or cancelled. The assessment process will not be significantly different in Harvard’s case, as the Admissions Office always carries out what it calls a ‘whole person review.’ It looks at everything about a candidate, not just grades and scores:
Exams / standardised tests are only one part of the assessment process and when they are unavailable extra weight is put on other elements shown in the diagram above.
Where can I find further information about the assessment process? Please read the Admission Application Considerations for the Class of 2025 on the Harvard College website. Although it was written for this year’s applicants, it is still relevant to the UK year groups named above. Here is a summary:
Standardised Tests. The SAT / ACT tests are optional for this year’s application round. You will not be disadvantaged in any way if you are unable to take them.
Summer Exam Grades. If your summer exams are cancelled and you have to rely on grades based on your coursework and online assignments, you will not be disadvantaged as a result.
Whole Person Review. Accomplishments in and out of the classroom, community involvement, and personal qualities are all taken into consideration, as well as academic performance. Students who find themselves limited in the activities they can pursue due to the lockdown will not be disadvantaged.
Financial Aid. Harvard’s generous financial aid program will not be affected in any way, as the undergraduate financial aid budget is ringfenced. Students from families with an income of less than around £47,000 per year with average assets are still likely to receive a free Harvard education.
Other US colleges will have a similar message on their websites, so be sure to check out all the colleges on your shortlist. For example, click here to see Yale’s message to prospective students, their families, and educators.
Where can I find information about Harvard’s application requirements generally? You will find excellent information in this article.
Do you have any application tips? Yes. This article contains many useful tips about how to fill out the main application as well as the Harvard supplement.
Can I still practise for the SAT or ACT even though I may not be able to take them? Yes. All the free online test coaching platforms, such as the Khan Academy and the ACT Academy are functioning as normal. The best way to ensure a good score is to do lots of regular practice.
Information for secondary school students who are thinking of applying to Harvard and/or other US colleges in two years’ time.
This information is relevant to UK year groups equivalent to the Sophomore Year of a US High School:
Year 11 (England and Wales)
Year 12 (Northern Ireland)
What if I can’t take my GCSE, IB, or National exams this summer? Carry on working as best you can whether online or in school. You will not be disadvantaged when you come to apply to university if you can’t sit your exams and your schools have to provide grades or scores based on your coursework.
What if I can’t continue with my usual extracurricular activities? It is recognised that most activities outside the classroom cannot take place during the social distancing restrictions, so you will not be disadvantaged when you apply to university if you have had to temporarily curtail your usual activities. But there is nothing to stop you expanding your online learning, creating virtual study groups or new online pastimes until the restrictions are lifted.
Information for secondary school students who are thinking of applying to Harvard and/or other US colleges in three years’ time.
This information is relevant to UK year groups equivalent to the Freshman Year of a US High School:
Year 10 (England and Wales)
Year 11 (Northern Ireland)
Although your university applications are not due for another three years, it is not too early to start developing the high academic profile you will need to make a strong application when the time comes. Use the opportunity provided by the extended period you have been working at home to develop your online learning techniques and continue to work hard at your lessons so that you receive good marks for all your assignments.