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Harvard applications drop 5% after year of turmoil on the Ivy League campus

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Four New England universities top $90,000 per year starting this fall


Four New England universities top $90,000 per year starting this fall

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Harvard said it received 5% fewer undergraduate applications this year compared with a year earlier, a dip that follows a tumultuous year for the Ivy League school that included the resignation of President Claudine Gay and a backlash over antisemitic incidents on the campus.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school received 54,008 applications for the class of 2028, according to the Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper. The undergraduate college at Harvard University accepted 1,245 of those applicants, giving the incoming freshman class an acceptance rate of 3.59% — the highest admission rate in four years, the publication noted.

The decline at Harvard stands in contrast to rising student applications at other Ivy League establishments, with Yale’s admission pool jumping 10% and Columbia University reporting an increase of 5.4%. Because of their larger applicant pool, Yale said its 3.7% acceptance rate was its lowest ever, while Columbia’s admission rate narrowed to 3.85% from 3.9% a year ago. 

Harvard has drawn ferocious public criticism over the past year, including from some alumni and major donors, over its handling of antisemitic incidents tied to the Israel-Hamas war. At the same time, the dip in applications comes after Harvard lost a Supreme Court case over using race-conscious admissions policies, a ruling that has affected college admissions policies after effectively ending affirmative action in higher education. 

The university didn’t release data on race and ethnicity for its incoming class, data that it has provided in previous years, the Harvard Crimson noted. 


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Harvard didn’t immediately return a request for comment about the decline in applicants. 

Although Harvard’s acceptance rate is its highest in four years, the college remains one of the most competitive universities in the U.S. Some wealthy families are now paying consultants as much as $750,000 to prepare their children for college admissions, hoping that the extra expense will pay off with an acceptance letter to a top-ranked university.

There’s some evidence that a bachelor’s degree from a competitive college can boost a person’s lifetime earnings. Graduates of Ivy League and other elite institutions are 60% more likely to have incomes among the top 1% compared with those who didn’t attend those colleges, Harvard economists found in a 2023 study.

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