You Still Can’t Get Into Harvard

They set a record low by admitting 5.8 percent of their undergraduates

What are we to think of Harvard’s newly released rate of admission for the class of 2017?

From  35,023 applicants, Harvard managed to choose 2,029 admits. At 5.8 percent  it’s their lowest admit rate ever, lower than their peer schools, and if you’re in high school and have dreams of Cambridge, probably pretty disheartening. But at this point, what were you expecting? The rate inches lower every year. The causes—more kids trying to go to college, Harvard’s undergraduate population remaining the same, more kids filing more applications than ever—all get trotted out and picked over every time a new record is set which, again, is every year.

Harvard might be more sensitive to these trends than other schools, because its cultural cache and use of the common application are such that people who can afford another application fee often apply on a whim, because hey, it’s Harvard. And in some ways, that’s a burden for the admissions officers who want to build a class that wants to go to Harvard, not as a concept but as an actual place. People who might not do as well in a big university or might not like the urban setting as much don’t self-select by not applying like they might at another big, urban campus. Other schools like Boston College have actually tried to combat this trend by raising the requirements necessary to apply in the hopes that they’d get a pool of applicants who had considered the school more carefully. Their applications dropped in number, which is exactly what they were hoping would happen.

And just because Harvard has the lowest admissions rate doesn’t mean it’s the most dramatic admissions story this season. (That’s not that high a bar, we realize.) Boston University is aiming for smaller class sizes, and as a result, their rate dropped by 9 percentage points to 36 percent. Man, nice not to be in high school anymore, huh?