Harvard, the world's richest university, said on Monday 29,112 students applied for a spot in the Class of 2013. Of those, just 7 per cent were accepted, the lowest in the history of the school and down from 7.9 per cent last year.
Many US universities are seeing a surge in enrollment as the baby-boomer generation's kids graduate from high school. But unlike Ivy League peers Princeton, Yale and Stanford, Harvard has not significantly expanded the size of a freshman undergraduate class in more than two decades.
It has, however, rolled out a series of financial aid incentives in recent years.
The Class of 2013 will receive the most financial aid in Harvard history, with $147 million in scholarships alone. That is up 8 per cent from last year.
Seventy per cent of Harvard students receive some form of financial aid. The Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which was announced in 2004, slashed the amount low-income students must pay to attend the oldest US institute of higher learning.
Under the program, students from families earning less than $60,000 a year do not have to contribute to the cost of tuition, which together with room and board, reaches $47,000 a year.
Those from families earning between $60,000 and $80,000 also pay far less than they would have in previously.
About 25 per cent of the Class of 2013 are eligible for the program.
Harvard also caps tuition at 10 per cent of income from families earning up to $180,000.
The school said it would mail out acceptance letters on Tuesday. Nearly 18 per cent of those accepted to the Class of 2013 are Asian, a record 10.9 per cent are Latino and 10.8 per cent are black.