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Harvard College Admissions
May 7, 2012
If you’ve heard the expression, “the most difficult thing about Harvard is getting admitted,” this is a most accurate statement. In reality, it’s very difficult to fail out of Harvard. Sure, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out, but they didn’t fail out. Neither did Robert Frost, Matt Damon, or William Randoph Hearst. Failing out of Harvard is not an easy feat – you have to really work hard at that. Harvard College Admissions makes it another story entirely to get in, however, as this, too, is no easy feat.
Getting into Harvard is as tough as it gets in highly selective college admissions. Staying in is easy (photo credit: chensiyuan).
With Harvard’s grade inflation, about half of the grades awarded are either A’s or A-‘s. In fact, Harvard has a rule that not more than 50 percent of any graduating class can graduate with honors. So for every graduating class, the top 5% graduate summa cum laude, the top 15% graduate magna cum laude, and the top 30% graduate cum laude. Harvey C. Mansfield, a Harvard professor of government, acknowledges that professors award a preponderance of A’s because they don’t want to discourage students who are accustomed to getting A’s throughout high school. As ridiculous as that may sound, this is nevertheless the case.
In the aftermath of 9/11, administrators at Harvard College considered eliminating grade inflation, but professors took a stance and decided that because of 9/11, the student population needed to recover and that the timing was wrong. Can you imagine this national tragedy impacted the conversation at Harvard about grade inflation? Since then, the issue of grade inflation has not been revisited.
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest post-secondary institution in the U.S. In 1977, Harvard College merged with Radcliff College, a nearby women’s liberal arts school and became coeducational. Prior to that, beginning in 1963, students who attended Radcliffe College earned a Radcliffe-Harvard degree. In 1999, when Radcliffe was formally merged with Harvard, female undergraduates then earned a Harvard degree.
With approximately 10,000 students, Harvard College has the third highest undergraduate population in the Ivy League, trailing only Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania. The campus is centered on Harvard Yard, where most of the freshmen live. The charming, New England town of Cambridge is the home of two of the world’s best colleges (Harvard and MIT). When students run out of what to do in town, they’re only 3 miles away, and a quick T from downtown Boston, the home of approximately 50 colleges and universities. While Harvard students don’t necessarily interact with students from other area colleges, the city of Boston is ranked as one of the best college towns in the nation.
Harvard has a work hard, play not-so-hard mentality. The university has its share of talented athletes and, as a result, athletics are big time at Harvard as students come out to cheer for their favorite Crimson teams. While fraternities and sororities don’t dominate the social scene, the residential houses host most of the parties.
Harvard has state of the art facilities, a brilliant and accomplished faculty who are world-class scholars, and ambitious, accomplished, and talented students. Since only the best and the brightest are accepted at Harvard, students meet their challenges head-on. The program in general education requires that students pass one half-course in each of eight categories: Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding; Culture and Belief; Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning; Ethical Reasoning; Science of Living Systems; Science of the Physical Universe; Societies of the World; and United States in the World. During the first week of each term, students enjoy the shopping period where they can sample courses they wish to take.
For the Class of 2016, out of a total applicant pool of 34,285 and with 3,846 students accepted, the overall Harvard College admissions rate was 5.9%, the lowest in Harvard’s history and the lowest of all the Ivy League colleges.