Harvard University has received a record 39,044 applications for next fall's freshman class, a nearly 5 percent increase over last year.

The university attributed the rise to efforts to reach out to lower income students.

This year, nearly a quarter of applicants had their application fees waived due to financial hardship.

Director of Financial Aid Sally Donahue said applications have soared in the past decade since the university launched a financial aid program that charges students based on family income.

A fifth of current undergraduates are from families earning less than $65,000 a year. For these families, Harvard covers costs of attendance.

Applicants will find out if they have been admitted March 31. They have until May 1 to accept.

Last year, Harvard accepted about 5 percent of 37,307 applicants.