Harvard Extends Application Deadlines for Students Affected by California Wildfires

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As California faces the deadliest wildfires the state has ever seen, the Harvard admissions office announced Wednesday it will offer extensions on application deadlines for high schoolers, teachers, and counselors affected by the disasters.

“The Harvard community is deeply saddened to witness the devastation caused by the wildfires throughout California,” the office’s statement reads.

The College is offering affected students extensions beyond the Jan. 1 regular decision application deadline. Teachers and counselors may also request extensions on the set deadline for submitting transcripts, letters of recommendation, and other supporting documents.

The 2018 wildfire season in California is unprecedented in the size and scope of its devastation. Several fires — which ignited earlier in November near Los Angeles and the Sierra Nevada foothills — have burned around 400 square miles of land and killed at least 79 people, while over 1,000 people are still missing. The largest of these wildfires, known as the Camp Fire, decimated the entire town of Paradise, Calif. and become the deadliest fire in recent history.


The fires have destroyed tens of thousands of homes and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of residents. Amid the destruction and disruption, those who work in college admissions at Harvard and elsewhere say many students in California will likely need more time to complete their applications.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling wrote in an online statement that it recommends colleges adopt “flexibility and accommodations” for high school seniors affected by the wildfires.

“It would be wonderful if all campuses — both public and private — let students and counselors in the impacted communities know that their institutions will work with them as they deal with recovering from these natural disasters in the midst of the stressful college application process,” Marc McGee, the president of the Western branch of the Association for College Admission Counseling, wrote in an email to members.

Harvard's move to extend the deadline is not without precedent. The College has previously offered special accommodations to students whose hometowns were hit by natural disasters.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said last fall that standardized test cancellations and administrative delays seen by affected schools can have “a major effect” on students’ application progress. Some may be more inclined to to consider colleges closer to home in light of the crisis, he said.

“We want to be fair to these students and give them the most complete hearing we can give them,” Fitzsimmons said in a Sept. 2017 interview soon after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey.

The University of California system is also offering affected students an extension on application deadlines. Upon request, UC hopefuls will be granted a 15-day delay.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @delanofranklin_.

—Staff writer Samuel W. Zwickel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @samuel_zwickel.