Harvard, Princeton, U.Va. admissions deans tour with accessibility message

The deans of admission for Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia will team up next month for a recruiting tour that will focus on efforts to make their institutions more accessible for all families, especially those with modest incomes. The deans also will explain the impact of decisions last year to end early admissions practices at the three schools.

The deans will lead a joint recruiting tour that will send teams of admissions staff from each of the universities to speak to families from high schools in the Southeast, Midwest, Washington, D.C., region and areas of Southern California. Admissions officers will focus on their institutions' financial aid efforts, in addition to sharing information about the quality of their academic programs.

"We are specifically traveling together because our three institutions have chosen a single application deadline," said Janet L. Rapelye, Princeton's dean of admission. "A single admission process allows us to look at the broader pool of students at one time, and it allows us to sustain our efforts to make this as fair a process as possible. We're serious about bringing students from every economic background into the pool and to our campuses, and this recruiting trip is one of the many ways we're doing it."

Rapelye will travel with Harvard's Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons and U.Va.'s Dean of Admission John Blackburn, while members of their staffs will travel to other locations. The schools have built a joint website to promote the tour, listing the dates of visits to 19 cities beginning Nov. 4 and ending Nov. 19. 

The deans said the scheduling of the tour coincides with the time of year when prospective students who may have fewer preparatory advantages are beginning their college searches in earnest. Many of these students must balance financial options before deciding on a school, and a common criticism of early application programs has been that they increase the admission chances for those in the early pool, many of whom are affluent, but present an obstacle for families dealing with financial considerations.

"We have worked aggressively over the past several years to expand financial aid," Harvard's Fitzsimmons said. "An early admission program that is less accessible to students from modest economic backgrounds operates at cross-purposes with our goal of finding and admitting the most talented students from across the economic spectrum."

The time and staffing capacity previously dedicated to holding two admission processes now will allow Harvard, Princeton and Virginia to focus more aggressively on outreach and recruiting efforts, the deans said.

All three schools announced the move to a single admission cycle in September 2006. Princeton and Virginia's early decision programs required a binding acceptance of admission, while Harvard's early action program did not.

"We found that few, if any, low-income students applied to U.Va. for early decision, and the results of that program were inconsistent with the goals the University has for enrolling students from low-income backgrounds," Blackburn said. "These tours should send a clear signal to students and parents from low-income backgrounds that selective universities are serious about reaching out to them and that we have committed large sums of financial aid to them."

The deans said the recruiting effort is important to address national disparities in access to quality college counseling. The recruiting teams on the tour will host an evening program targeting their message to parents and students at each site, and also a morning breakfast for invited guidance counselors from neighboring high schools.

Admissions officers highlighted a finding from the U.S. Department of Education that indicates there is an average of 315 students for every 1 counselor in public high schools, and in such states as California, the ratio is almost 500 to 1. Among the 19 tour sites are Los Angeles and San Diego in California, in addition to Baton Rouge, Detroit, Chicago, Little Rock, Memphis, Milwaukee and other cities.

The full tour schedule is:

Nov. 4 - Detroit, Mich.
Nov. 4 - Shreveport, La.
Nov. 5 - Indianapolis, Ind.
Nov. 5 - Little Rock, Ark.
Nov. 6 - Memphis, Tenn.
Nov. 6 - Chicago, Ill.
Nov. 7 - Chicago, Ill.
Nov. 7 - Jackson, Miss.
Nov. 8 - Baton Rouge, La.
Nov. 8 - Milwaukee, Wis.
Nov. 11 - San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 12 - Riverside, Calif.
Nov. 12 - Abingdon, Va.
Nov. 13 - Anaheim, Calif.
Nov. 13 - Bluefield, W.Va.
Nov. 14 - Parkersburg, W.Va.
Nov. 14 - Los Angeles, Calif.
Nov. 15 - Los Angeles, Calif.
Nov. 15 -  Charleston, W.Va.
Nov. 18 - Washington, D.C.
Nov. 19 - Prince George's County, Md.

Members of the news media requesting more information should contact: Robert Mitchell, Harvard University, robert_mitchell@harvard.edu; Cass Cliatt, Princeton University, ccliatt@princeton.edu; or Dan Heuchert, University of Virginia, danh@virginia.edu.