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25 MAY 2022
Harvard consistently ranks as one of the top colleges in the world. Its prestige and history date back hundreds of years. Admission into Harvard is notoriously difficult, and in the last few years, Harvard acceptance rates have decreased even more. While competition is fierce, it’s not impossible to get accepted. Find how you can stand out from the competition and what it takes to get into Harvard.
Established in 1636, and named after the college’s first benefactors, John Harvard, Harvard University is the oldest university in the United States and a member of the elite Ivy League. This private, liberal arts university is one of the most highly ranked and globally respected academic institutions in the world. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in an urban setting across the Charles River from Boston, Harvard offers unmatched student experiences within a broad range of academic programs.
Harvard’s 13 schools and institutes include their world-class Business School, Medical School, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Graduate Education School, Law School, and John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard also offers non-degree opportunities for professionals, including executive, continuing, and online education.
Harvard’s library is home to the oldest collection in the US and the most extensive private collection in the world. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are among the eight US presidents to graduate from Harvard.
Harvard has the largest endowment of any school globally and provides lucrative financial aid packages to students who cannot afford the cost of tuition. In the 2020 fiscal year, they granted $645 million in financial aid and scholarships.
A Day in the Life: Harvard Student
It is tough to get into Harvard. The university receives applications from more qualified applicants than they can accept, and most applicants have at least a 4.18GPA. Meeting GPA and SAT/ACT requirements (although these are now optional) will help you get through the first round of filters. If you don’t meet the minimum expectations, your chances of getting past the first selection round are nearly impossible. While the school is highly selective, your chances of getting in dramatically increase if your tests and grades are at the top of your class and your extracurriculars align with Harvard’s values. Your essay answers help Harvard admissions get to know you better.
Already considered one of the most selective schools in the world, Harvard became increasingly more selective in the last few years. In an average application cycle, Harvard accepts about 5% of applicants.
Due to the shifting world climate and making the SAT/ACTs optional, Harvard received 61,220 applications for the Class of 2026 (compared with 57,435 for the class of 2025). The record-low acceptance rate plummeted to just 3.1%, or 1,965 accepted students for the Class of 2026.
While these numbers may seem discouraging, don’t give up if you have your heart set on Harvard. Harvard accepts nearly 2,000 students each year, and one of those slots could be yours.
How Crimson CEO Jamie Beaton Got Into Harvard!
|Total Applications||Regular Decision Applications||Overall Acceptance Rate||Regular Decision Acceptance Rate||Early Action Acceptance Rate||Accepted International Students|
With this past year’s record-low 3.1% acceptance rate, it’s clear gaining admission to Harvard is increasingly more difficult. However, there are a few things you can start doing now to increase your chances of getting in!
When Harvard admissions officers review applications, they look for the following qualities and characteristics:
It’s important to show evidence of these characteristics as you put together your Harvard application. Try to integrate these characteristics throughout your application, build your story, be honest, and show them the REAL YOU!
Instead of talking about what you think they want to hear, be yourself, embrace your interests, and be passionate about your future dreams. You will stand out because of your authenticity and honesty.
Harvard is a highly competitive and highly academic college. Applicants are expected to meet the minimum GPA requirements. While grades and accolades are important to Harvard, they’re not all the school looks for in applicants. Harvard is interested in the whole person, including their extracurricular activities, personal interests, and future plans. Through essay questions and supplemental information, they want to understand how you’re going to make the most of your time at Harvard.
Harvard Admissions put together a helpful “Application Tips” section on their website that walks applicants through the entire application process, answering common questions and offering direction and guidance. In general, the Harvard application asks for the following:
Harvard applicants must be at the top of their class and meet the minimum GPA requirements for acceptance into the college. While there are a small number of exceptions, students with GPAs of 4.0 - 4.18 have the best chance of getting accepted. Additionally, if you’re planning on applying to Harvard, you should take AP or IB courses that show you can handle college-level coursework. Sometimes you can compensate for a less than perfect GPA in other aspects of your application, including test scores, essays, and extracurricular activities.
Students receive graduation credit for their Advanced Placement (AP) exams if they activate Advanced Standing. Students are eligible for Advanced Standing if they have 32 AP credits. They earn these credits by scoring five on at least four eligible AP exams.
In the 2021-2022 admission cycle, Harvard did not require applicants to submit standardized test scores due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students had the option to submit their SAT scores as part of their application package.
Harvard announced that they are still test-optional for the 2023-26 applications cycle.
The minimum SAT score required for admission into Harvard University is 1460 with students typically scoring between 1460 and 1580.
No, Harvard did not require the SAT essay in the 2021-2022 application cycle. Students had the option to submit the SAT essay if they wished.
*SAT requirements are subject to change in future application cycles.
Harvard recommends that students who choose to submit the SAT submit two SAT Subject Tests, with only one being the math test.
The minimum ACT requirement for admission into Harvard University is a composite score of at least 33. On average, admitted students typically score between 33-35.
|SAT Math||SAT ERW||ACT Math||ACT English||ACT Composite|
|[740, 800]||[720, 780]||[31, 35]||[34, 36]||[33, 35]|
Harvard invites applicants from all over the world but stresses that they must have a strong knowledge of English and express thoughts clearly in English. English proficiency exams are not required, but international students may submit scores (TOEFL, IELTS, etc.) to show their English proficiency.
Harvard's application essays are another way you can show Harvard admissions that you belong on their campus. There are three opportunities to tell Harvard more about you.
Essay topics are broad and may vary by application. These questions are designed to give you space to share something you care about instead of trying to write what you think Harvard Admissions wants to hear.
Check out our blog on How to Answer the 2022/23 Common App Essay Prompts
In addition to the personal essay, Harvard has their own set of questions. Your answers will help them get to know you better and learn how you plan to utilize your time as a student. They want to learn more about your academic interests and how you spend your time.
You can complete the Harvard Questions directly on the Common Application or Coalition Application.
The writing supplement section gives you one more opportunity to tell Harvard why you're the perfect fit for their college. In this section, you have the freedom to submit an essay you previously wrote, write on a topic of your choice, or use a suggested prompt to add more content to your personal statement. If you choose a prompt, pick one that fits best to your overall mission and goals.
Check out how to answer the Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts for 2022/23
The Essay That Got Me Into Harvard
Harvard wants to admit outgoing leaders who will positively impact their campus community and the world. They're not looking for cookie-cutter students who only understand complex theories and equations.
Harvard admissions officers ask that you submit a history of your extracurricular activities in school and out of school. While you have the freedom to choose what you want to show, Harvard tends to favor activities that align with their university values.
The following extracurricular activities demonstrate your commitment and passions. While not an exhaustive list, this is an excellent place to start.
Choose extracurricular activities you care about and ones that help make your community a better place.
Harvard offers two application programs: Restrictive Early Action and Regular Decision. Both programs allow you to compare admission and financial aid offers from other institutions. The final college choice deadline for both programs is May 1.
|Application Type||Application Deadline|
|Restrictive Early Action||Apply by November 1 and receive notification by mid-December|
|Regular Decision||Apply by January 1 and receive notification by April 6|
Explore and apply your passions to your areas of strength. But remember, Admission Officers, are always looking for impactful activities. Innovate and create your projects, measure the impact and mentor future leaders.
Take advantage of Early Action and apply to Harvard early. Early Action applications are non-binding but offer you a higher chance of acceptance.
The early action acceptance rate at Harvard for the Class of 2026 was 8% compared to the regular application acceptance rate of only 2.3%.
An excellent personal statement is first and foremost about you. It is subjective and specific and helps the admissions officer imagine your impact on campus. It should have smooth transitions, be grammatically sound, and show how you have grown as a person in your essay.
Your supplemental essay should answer the prompts, show you have done your research and showcase different aspects of your personality and interests. Most importantly, remember to make the essay very specific to Harvard, which shows that you have spent time researching Harvard well.
How Takenoshin Got Into Harvard With His Unique Passions
Applying to Harvard and other top universities takes time, planning, effort, and patience. It’s easy to overlook a step or miss a deadline.
Crimson recently released Pathfinder - a comprehensive in-app tool that not only helps you stay on track but helps you quantify the value of activities you do in preparation to apply to US universities.
Contained within the Crimson app, Pathfinder is a master list of everything you can do during school to increase your chances of admission to top US universities. Pathfinder includes over 280 goals, each with an assigned point value based on how much admissions officers will value that achievement.
Pathfinder ensures you stay on track between now and when you apply to university. It accurately predicts your admission results (based on your achievements) with unbelievable accuracy. Combined with guidance from your personalised strategist, you’ll become a master of your US university applications!
Introduction to Pathfinder
Harvard may be one of the best schools in the world, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best school for you. Before you apply to Harvard, ask yourself why you want to attend. Do your goals align with Harvard’s mission, or are you only applying because Harvard invokes name recognition and prestige? Also, consider the campus lifestyle and culture, the courses available, location, and financial support.
If you can honestly evaluate these criteria and your academics, goals, and expectations match Harvard’s, then you should apply! If not, consider one of the other Ivy League schools. They might line up better with your objectives.
Harvard offers students a foot in the door at many prominent global firms. Google, Goldman Sachs, and CitiGroup all look at Harvard for future employees. Newsweek also ranked Harvard as the #3 private college whose graduates earn the most money.
Not only are you almost guaranteed access to higher-paying jobs as a Harvard student, but you also gain access to an elite network of Harvard alumni. Some of Harvard’s most famous alumni include:
Harvard is looking for unique and diverse students who add value to its campus community. They’re looking for self-motivated students who will succeed in whatever field they choose. Not only do they want you to make Harvard a better college, but they also want you to proudly carry the Harvard name out into the world.
Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specializing in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities. We help you find the university that meets your goals. Crimson Students are 4x more likely to be admitted to Ivy League universities like Harvard. Learn more through our Admissions Support program.
Yes, Harvard has a 5% (or less) acceptance rate making it one of the toughest schools to gain acceptance.
It's no secret that Ivy League schools are expensive. Harvard is no exception. While the total cost per year is $73,800, nearly every Harvard student receives need-based aid and scholarships. The average price each student pays is $14,898, and 20% of Harvard families pay nothing for their student's college education.
Harvard is a need-blind school. It's also one of only five US colleges that offer need-blind college admissions to international students. "Need-blind" means that when Harvard reviews your application, they do not consider your financial situation when making their admissions decision. Harvard offers 100% of their students' demonstrated need-based aid. They base assistance on need, not merit. Harvard works with each student to provide them with affordable educational options.
Check out our blog if you are interested in learning more about need-blind and need-aware schools.
Harvard wants to make education as affordable as possible for all its students. International students receive the same financial aid options as American students! Harvard has the largest endowment in the world and uses this money to make education affordable to all its students.
Scholarships and financial aid come from various sources, including the Harvard endowment funds, gifts from alumni, tuition revenues, and federal and state grants.
Harvard’s freshman retention rate is 97%.
According to payscale.com, the average salary for a Harvard graduate is $95,000 per year.
Big Questions Ep. 2: Harvard