Harvard College received 17% fewer applications for early admission from high school seniors this year, according to the school’s website.

The drop comes after incidents of antisemitism on campus in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Applications were due Nov. 1, before university President Claudine Gay gave widely derided testimony on antisemitism and free speech at a congressional hearing Dec. 5.

Harvard received 7,921 applications this year for non-binding early admissions, compared with 9,553 last year. By contrast, Ivy League rival Yale University received 7,856 early applications this year, a 1.4% increase and the second-highest number of early applicants in its history, the school reported.

It’s the first early enrollment period since the Supreme Court’s decision in June to prohibit race-based admissions in higher education, which raised questions about the impact on diversity and enrollment in US colleges.

Following the attack by Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist group by the US and European Union, Jewish students at Harvard reported incidents of harassment, and Harvard leaders came under fire from alumni, donors and others for failing to keep them safe.  

Antisemitic incidents on US college campuses have soared since the attack and Israel’s subsequent invasion of Gaza, and the conflict has bitterly divided dozens of campuses including Harvard.

Bob Sweeney, a retired college counselor at Mamaroneck High School in New York, said the incidents of antisemitism may be one of the factors in the admissions decline.

“That’s possibly one of several reasons, about the concern of safety on the campus,” said Sweeney, who worked as a counselor for almost 30 years. “There might be other factors as well as students are being more realistic about their expectations and chances for acceptance.”

Harvard, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is under investigation by the Department of Education and the House Committee on Education after Gay’s testimony. 

Harvard announced in March it would again increase its financial aid program.

The establishment of a new launch grant gives students receiving full financial support – those whose annual family income is $85,000 or less — $2,000 in the fall of their junior year to help with the costs associated with getting ready for post-Harvard life. 


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Published: 20 Dec 2023, 12:30 AM IST