How to Get Into Harvard: Stats + Admissions Advice (2023)

Situated just outside of Boston in beautiful Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, Harvard University is a private Ivy League institution. Boasting graduates including Helen Keller, Henry David Thoreau, and eight U.S. presidents, this university has a long history of excellence. Founded in 1636, it was the first college established in the American colonies.

How to Get Into Harvard: Stats + Admissions Advice (1)

Harvard is known far and wide for its selectivity and prestige, and the prospect of a Harvard application can be daunting. Never fear – this article will guide you through everything you need to know about the application process.

Harvard University Statistics

How Selective is Harvard University?

With a record-low acceptance rate of 3.19% for the Class of 2026 last year, Harvard College is certainly one of the most selective institutions in the nation.


Harvard University is currently tied with Stanford for the #3 spot in the lineup of United States higher education, according to the U.S. News. However, with a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, an undergraduate student body of 7,103, and robust need-based financial aid programs, Harvard ranks #1 for best value schools.


The average GPA for accepted students hovers around a 4.0 unweighted, meaning that those admitted pretty much achieved A’s and maybe a few A-’s throughout high school.


The middle 50% of accepted applicants for Harvard either scored between 33-36 on the ACT or between 1480-1580 on the SAT. This means that over a quarter have a perfect or near-perfect score, but another quarter gained admission with scores below these ranges, too.

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Tuition and Financial Aid

The cost of an education at Harvard is $76,763 per year. However, it is important to consider that Harvard’s financial aid program meets 100% of demonstrated need, with 55% of undergraduate families receiving financial aid and an average parent contribution of only $13,000 per year. Financial aid is assessed for each applicant regardless of nationality or citizenship status, and the admissions process itself is need-blind.

What is Harvard University Looking For?

The High School Experience: Expectations

Overall, admissions officers at Harvard expect to see that you’ve challenged yourself with your coursework throughout high school. Ideally, the strongest applicants will have taken classes in these subjects for the corresponding number of years:

  • English – 4 years, with extensive practice in writing
  • Math – 4 years
  • Science – 4 years, including biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course in one of these subjects
  • History – 3 years, including American and European history
  • Non-English Language – 4 years of one language

While these recommendations outline the paths taken by some of the strongest applicants, Harvard College recognizes that there is no single academic path that is fitting for every student. Following a rigorous course schedule that aligns with your passions and goals is encouraged.

Additionally, the courses you take will be considered in the context of your school – you will not be penalized for not taking courses unavailable to you. For example, if your school does not offer calculus, you will not be punished for not taking calculus.

If your school offers AP courses, IB programming, or other advanced academic opportunities, challenge yourself with them. Harvard looks for students who push their own boundaries and explore new areas of study, even beyond their primary interests. For instance, taking AP European History, even as a prospective pre-med student, demonstrates well-roundedness and motivated academic curiosity.

Taking accredited coursework offered online or by local community colleges also demonstrates motivation and will bolster your application.

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Extracurricular Activities and Leadership

There is no one ideal set of extracurricular activities that Harvard looks for in its applicants. Instead, admissions officers value students who have committed themselves to exploring their passions and developing skills and values like leadership, community building, and service.

Some successful applicants are well-rounded students who have explored a variety of activities and responsibilities, whereas others have dedicated themselves wholeheartedly to one or two main extracurriculars. Developing a “spike” or two, as opposed to maintaining a well-rounded set of experiences, allows some students to stand out among their peers and demonstrate dedication and continuity that other applicants may not possess.

Regardless of whether you have dedicated time to one or several activities, it is important to remember that you will be most motivated to invest in activities that you are passionate about. As you move through high school and beyond, feel free to try new things and explore – extracurriculars are a wonderful way to discover new joys. Don’t be afraid to be proactive, too: if you love to crochet, but your school doesn’t have a fiber arts club, try starting one yourself! Admissions officers love to see individuals actively pursuing their interests and taking initiative.

Supplemental Materials

Harvard includes a Supplemental Materials section in their application, which gives applicants the opportunity to submit additional materials of their own creation that they feel will significantly improve their application. Supplemental Materials can include:

  • Scholarly articles
  • Creative writing
  • Research
  • Other documents authored by the applicant
  • Videos (e.g. dance, choreography, theatrical performances)
  • Audio recordings (e.g. music recordings)
  • Images (e.g. artwork, visual arts)

Harvard notes that the standard application materials typically provide more than enough information to make an admissions decision, and supplemental materials are entirely optional. Choosing not to submit additional materials will not harm your application. However, some students may feel that the basic application does not fully encapsulate their achievements or talents, so they choose to share additional materials here.

The submissions may be evaluated by Harvard faculty if the Admissions Committee deems appropriate, so be sure to put your best work forward if you decide to submit supplemental materials!

(Video) how i got into harvard + the tips that can get you in too!

The Interview

At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, applicants may be assigned an interview with a Harvard alumnus/a. These assignments are partially based on the availability of volunteer interviewers in your area. If an interviewer reaches out to you to schedule an interview, it is highly recommended you meet with them. Interviews are unlikely to be the deciding factor either way for your application, but a positive interaction with an interviewer reflects well on you as a prospective Harvard student. Prepare some thoughtful questions for your interviewer beforehand, and let your personality shine!

Harvard University Application Requirements

Application Checklist

The Application

Harvard College accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application, without a preference for either. Be sure to submit the application in a timely manner so it can be reviewed fully and completely. Harvard provides a helpful Application Tips page to guide you through the particulars of their Common Application.


In addition to the standard personal statements included in the Common and Coalition Applications, Harvard has three supplemental essays: two short responses (one required, one optional) and one essay (optional). Check out this Next Admit blog post for more information about How to Write the Harvard Supplemental Essays.

Application Fee

Harvard requires an $85 application fee or the submission of a fee waiver.

What You Need from Your School

Midyear School Report

At the time of your application, your counselor will likely submit your transcript to Harvard without senior year grades. The Admissions Committee will require a Midyear School Report from one of your school officials to confirm that your grades are maintained at a high level halfway through your final year of secondary school. Be sure to request this report and check that it is submitted by your school counselors.

Teacher Evaluations

Harvard requires two evaluations from teachers in different core academic subjects. Choose teachers with whom you have a connection – teachers who know you well will write much more memorable and impactful letters than those who only know you in passing. Consider which teachers can showcase your best qualities in their writing. If you haven’t built close relationships with any of your teachers, schedule a time to meet with some of them and discuss your goals, motivations, and any other personal qualities you feel are relevant to your application. Meetings like these can be helpful to set the tone for the letter of recommendation they will write, even for teachers you may know well.

(Video) Asking Harvard Students How They Got Into Harvard | GPA, SAT/ACT, Clubs, etc.

Final School Report and Transcripts

A Final School Report and transcript are required of all admitted applicants who choose to enroll. As soon as your final grades become available, your school counselor or official should submit your records to the College, no later than July 1.

What’s the Deal with Test-Optional?

Harvard College applications have recently become test-optional. Applicants have the choice of whether to submit ACT or SAT scores, with or without the essay portion, along with the rest of their application materials. Choosing not to submit standardized test scores will not harm a student’s chances of admission, but a solid score has the potential to strengthen them. Thus, it is highly recommended to study and sit for the exams and try for a good score.

If taking either the SAT or the ACT is an option for you, we recommend trying your hand at the exam that is the best fit for you. If your scores are reflective of your achievement and comparable to the median scores for Harvard (or any other test-optional school you are considering), then submitting them will likely strengthen your application.

Harvard recognizes that these numbers alone do not encapsulate a person’s potential, and regardless of whether an applicant submits test scores, their application will be reviewed holistically and thoroughly.


The deadline for Harvard Restrictive Early Action applications for the Class of 2027 has already passed (November 1, 2022). Decisions for this cycle of applicants will be, or have been, released mid-December.

(Video) 5 Harvard Students Answer the Web's Most Searched Questions 👀

The deadline for Harvard Regular Decision applications for the Class of 2027 is January 1, 2023. However, financial aid applications for the Regular Decision cycle are not due until February 1, 2023. For this cycle, scores from exams as late as the December SAT and the February ACT can be submitted, but earlier dates are recommended so the review of applications can begin in a timely manner. Decisions for the Regular Decision cycle will be released at the end of March, 2023, and admitted students must respond to the offer by early May (no deposit required).

When applying to Harvard, bear in mind that each application cycle, thousands of well-qualified applicants are denied admission. Whether or not you are accepted into Harvard is not a reflection of your academic merit or personal promise – the admissions process is a difficult one that must sort through many bright applicants who are ready to excel. Wherever you end up, your education is what you make of it. Chase your goals, nurture your passions, and throw your hat in the ring: the only way to gain admission is to apply!


How to Get Into Harvard: Stats + Admissions Advice? ›

To get to Harvard your GPA has to be at least a 4.0 and even then if you get in your lucky but they require at least a 4.18 GPA only .

What is the lowest stats to get into Harvard? ›

To get to Harvard your GPA has to be at least a 4.0 and even then if you get in your lucky but they require at least a 4.18 GPA only .

What are my chances of getting into Harvard? ›

With an acceptance rate of 4.5%, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. Based on our analysis, to have a good chance of being admitted, you need to be at the top of your class and have an SAT score of at least 1560, or an ACT score of at least 35.

Can I realistically get into Harvard? ›

If you recall, the Harvard acceptance rate is just 3.19%. It's an extremely difficult school to get into. On top of stellar grades, Harvard university requirements include: 4 years of a foreign language.

What are the stats of people who get into Harvard? ›

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in the U.S. as well as one of the most prestigious. But with an acceptance rate under 4%, precious few applicants get to pull up into the Yard on move-in day.

What high school sends the most kids to Harvard? ›

AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal) — The public Texas high school that sends the most students to Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is right here in Austin. Westlake ranked No. 4 in the entire state for the number of students who matriculated to those elite East Coast universities and No.

What is the lowest SAT Harvard has accepted? ›

There's no absolute SAT requirement at Harvard, but they really want to see at least a 1460 to have a chance at being considered.

How many AP classes should I take for Harvard? ›

Be cautious of overloading your schedule: Harvard would rather see a high GPA with 4 AP courses each year than a low GPA and a daunting 8 AP courses. Consider your AP, honors, and regular options carefully each semester based upon your own self-knowledge, schedule flexibility, and course offerings.

Can I get into Harvard with a 1400 SAT? ›

While a 1400 makes you eligible to apply to places such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, it won't make you a competitive candidate.

Who is most likely to get into Harvard? ›

If you don't pass their SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, they'll likely reject you without much consideration. To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1580 SAT or a 35 ACT. You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher.

Does Harvard look at middle school grades? ›

No, Harvard does not look at middle school grades. However, developing good study habits and work ethic during middle school can build the foundations for your high school marks and academic achievements that Harvard will look at.

What makes Harvard so hard to get into? ›

Why Is It So Difficult? It's so difficult to get into Harvard because of the sheer number of well-equipped and well-educated students trying to get in! The school regularly ranks in the top 5 in the country and employers are impressed if you have a degree from there.

Does Harvard take AP credit? ›

Harvard only accepts AP® scores of 5 for course credit. If you have 4 scores of 5, you can opt to obtain Advanced Standing. You can use AP® credits to opt-out of lower-level classes. Harvard has general academic requirements that all students must take.

How big is Harvard waitlist? ›

With 5,327 students waitlisted, it is clear that the university is highly selective and that the admissions process is incredibly competitive. This statistic serves as a reminder that even those who are highly qualified may not be accepted to Harvard. The waitlist for the class of 2022 had 6,316 students.

What is the hardest school to get into? ›

Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, unsurprisingly, are America's toughest colleges to get into in 2023, according to Niche's most recent rankings.

What percent of Harvard is the top 1%? ›

OutcomesHow Harvard students fare later in life
...for men$96,000
...for women$70,200
Average income percentile77th
Share who end up in the top 1%21%
9 more rows
Jan 18, 2017

What is the most famous class at Harvard? ›

CS50 is Harvard's most popular class, and you can take it for free online. This introductory computer science course covers algorithms, data structures, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development.

Who was the youngest kid accepted to Harvard? ›

HARVARD A.B. AT 16.; William James Sidis the Youngest Student to Get That Degree There.
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What high school classes does Harvard look for? ›

What classes should I take in high school to get into Harvard?
  • Four years of English with a strong writing component.
  • Four years of mathematics.
  • Four years of science, including biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course.
  • Three years of history, including European and U.S. history.

Will one C ruin my chances of Ivy League? ›

Just one bad grade in an advanced level course is not going to ruin your chances at an Ivy League. However, consistently underperforming in advanced classes in your area-of-interest classes will penalize you in the applications process.

What is easiest Ivy League to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

Which Ivy League has the prettiest campus? ›

The Ivy League with the best campus is Princeton. It's reputed as having the prettiest campus. But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Do Ivy Leagues prefer AP or dual enrollment? ›

Taking advanced placement courses is not required for admission into any school, but elite colleges such as Harvard and Yale prefer that students take the most rigorous classes that are offered at their schools, including AP courses. AP students are the ones you'll be competing with for admission.

What is the hardest AP class? ›

The following table presents the hardest AP classes by exam pass rate.
Top 10 Hardest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate.
AP Class/ExamPass Rate (3+)Perfect Score (5)
1. Physics 151.6%8.8%
2. Environmental Science53.4%11.9%
3. Chemistry56.1%10.6%
4. U.S. Government and Politics57.5%15.5%
6 more rows

Does Harvard prefer AP or IB? ›

Does Harvard prefer IB or AP courses? Harvard does not explicitly state a preference for IB or AP courses. To receive credit for IB classes, accepted students must earn an IB diploma. Incoming students must earn a score of 5 on at least four AP exams to earn college credit at Harvard.

Does Harvard accept Superscore? ›

You may choose to send your ACT superscores to Harvard. When you do so, we will also receive the full results from your best sitting, including highest composite from a single test date. We will review all of these scores if you choose to apply with consideration of tests in your application.

Should I retake a 1390 SAT? ›

Does the SAT score of 1390 fall within the upper 50% range? If so, your score is considered to be "good enough." If your score falls below the 50% range, you might consider taking the SAT again. For example, my state university has a SAT middle range score of 1340.

Is 1580 a bad SAT score? ›

A 1580 SAT score puts you in the 99th percentile. This means you outperformed 99% of test takers. In other words, you're in the top 1%. As you can see, any way you say it, the results are super impressive!

Who gets a full ride to Harvard? ›

Scholarships for Harvard University

Harvard does not offer any merit-based aid and no full-ride scholarships. However, they do meet 100% of students' demonstrated financial needs. Almost half of the batch at Harvard University avails need-based scholarships or financial aid every year.

How does Harvard pick students? ›

Our admissions process values academic excellence, but never reduces applicants to any one factor, such as grades or test scores. Decisions to admit an applicant are made by the full, diverse, 40-person admissions committee through which each member has one vote.

What is the Harvard Z list? ›

A small number of applicants are accepted at Harvard every year via a little-known side door: the Harvard “Z-list.” A deferred admissions program, the Harvard Z-list promises a place at the renowned university, after a gap year, for just a select few applicants.

What kind of students does Harvard like? ›

In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.

Does Harvard want well rounded students? ›

CalTech Stanford and Harvard all are super selective school and generally super selective schools look for in a word uniqueness. The cliche of not a well rounded student but a well rounded class applies. This typically comes from ECs and essays.

What does Harvard look for in essays? ›

No matter what you write, be sure that your essay is specific and descriptive. It should reveal information about you and your personal growth, and it should show Harvard University why you would be a great addition to their campus.

What is the easiest majors to get into Harvard? ›

SAT, ACT, GPA, and class rank of accepted Harvard applicants. Admissions trends.
The intended majors of those admitted to the Class of 2025 were:
  • Humanities: 15.3%
  • Social Sciences: 28.1%
  • Biology: 18.3%
  • Physical Sciences: 7.6%
  • Engineering: 10.3%
  • Computer Science: 8.1%
  • Math: 6.0%
  • Undecided: 6.3%
May 26, 2022

What is the easiest class at Harvard? ›

The Easiest Courses At Harvard
  • Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 33: Ancient Fictions: The Ancient Novel in Context. ...
  • Anthropology 1010: The Fundamentals of Archaeological Methods and Reasoning. ...
  • Culture and Belief 16: Performance, Tradition and Cultural Studies: An Introduction to Folklore and Mythology.
May 1, 2017

Do Ivy Leagues accept 4s on AP exams? ›

An AP Score of 3 or 4 will likely not get you any college credit or respect at a top school like Stanford/Ivies/MIT. A score of 5 may not either — top colleges like to think that their courses are more rigorous than APs and thus should not be passed out of, and earning a 5 is simply expected for top admits.

How many APs should i take junior year for Ivy League? ›

Aim for four to eight AP exams in your junior and senior years. For competitive Ivy League schools, admission officers also want to see AP courses for core subject areas and additional courses. If possible, aim to pass about seven to 12 AP exams if applying to these highly selective schools.

How many AP classes should I take for Ivy League? ›

Ivy League

To be a competitive candidate for admission, you will need to take at least 8 AP® classes, more if you can. It is a good idea to take 1 AP® course in each of the following core disciplines: English, Foreign Language, History, Math, and Science to impress the admissions officers.

Who gets off the Harvard waitlist? ›

Harvard's waitlist isn't ranked, so each waitlisted student has an equal chance of getting accepted. Generally, students are admitted off of the waitlist to fill institutional needs and ensure that the upcoming class year has a diverse array of interests, ambitions, and backgrounds.

How often do people get off the Harvard waitlist? ›

That said, over the last 30 years, about 39% of students who first come to Ivy Coach after being waitlisted by Harvard have earned admission. Some students have earned admission within a few days of submitting a compelling Letter of Continued Interest, while for others, it took months.

How many full rides does Harvard give out? ›

Harvard does not offer any merit-based aid, and no full-ride scholarships.

What is the toughest year of high school? ›

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

What is the hardest high school in America? ›

The Most Challenging American High Schools
  1. International Academy*, Bloomfield Hills, Mich. ...
  2. Stanton College Prep*, Jacksonville, Fla. ...
  3. Paxon*, Jacksonville, Fla. ...
  4. Alabama School of Fine Arts, Birmingham. ...
  5. Jericho, N.Y. ...
  6. George Mason*, Falls Church, Va. ...
  7. Eastern Sierra Academy, Bridgeport, Calif. ...
  8. Myers Park*, Charlotte, N.C.

What majors is Harvard known for? ›

According to U.S. News, the most popular majors at Harvard include Social Sciences, Biology, Mathematics, Computer Science, History, Physical Sciences, Psychology, Engineering, and Foreign Languages and Literatures. Most of the popular majors at Harvard also find themselves ranking high on many “Best Of” lists.

What percent of Harvard grads are millionaires? ›

Here's the list of schools and the share of centi-millionaires that graduated from each: Harvard University - 7% Massachusetts Institute of Technology - 5%

What is the average income of Harvard parents? ›

The median parental income for Harvard students was $168,800—more than three times the national median.

What is the lowest ever Harvard GPA? ›

The average self-reported unweighted GPA on a 4.0 scale was 3.94. Fifty-four percent of students reported a perfect 4.0, and the lowest score reported was a 3.0.

Is 3.8 GPA too low for Harvard? ›

If you achieve a 3.8 GPA, your grades are likely above many of your peers. However, classing a 3.8 GPA as “good” depends on your chosen colleges and the difficulty of your courses. For example, Harvard's average GPA is 4.18, so you'll have to get straight As in nearly all of your classes to be a competitive applicant.

Can you get into Harvard with 85%? ›

There is no GPA cutoff for Harvard University graduate schools or Harvard College.

Is 4.5 GPA enough for Harvard? ›

The average high school GPA for admitted students at Harvard University is 4.18 on a 4.0 scale. (You can calculate your high school a GPA here.) This is a very competitive GPA, and Harvard University is clearly accepting students at the top of their high school class.

Do the bottom 2% of GPAs get kicked out of Harvard? ›

If your GPA falls below 2.0, you are in poor academic standing. If you remain in poor academic standing for the following two terms, you are required to withdraw from the degree program.

Is a 6.0 GPA good for Harvard? ›

The average GPA at Harvard is 4.18. (Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What was the lowest GPA accepted to a Ivy League school? ›

None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply regardless of their GPA.

Does Harvard prefer SAT or ACT? ›

Harvard, like the rest of the Ivy League and most other colleges, requires either the SAT or ACT for admission. They have no preference between them, so choose the test that's a better fit for you, thoroughly prepare for it, and plan to take it multiple times.

How do you get a 5.0 GPA? ›

Students in an AP class with weighted grading receive a five-point weighted average for each of the four-letter grades: As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. As a result, a student who only takes AP classes and receives A's will have a 5.0 GPA.

Does Harvard look at senior grades? ›

When you apply, your school counselor will often send your transcript with few or no senior year course grades included. That is why the midyear school report is required - to allow us to review your performance in the first half of your senior year coursework.

Is it possible to have a 6.0 GPA? ›

Not All GPAs are Created Equal

There is wide variability in the scale used to calculate GPA. GPAs can be based on a 4.0, 5.0 or 6.0 scale.

What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.


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