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SEP 02, 2021
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 57,435 applications for the Class of 2025 (compared with 40,248 for the class of 2024). The record-low acceptance rate plummeted to just 3.4%, or 1,968 accepted students for the Class of 2025.
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. Let’s take a brief look at Harvard and how it became one of the leading universities in the world. Then, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Harvard admissions, the application process, and how you can be one of the lucky few to experience this world-class university for yourself.
Do you want to study at Harvard but don’t know where to begin? Crimson helps students reach their ultimate university admissions goals. Our Strategists include former Harvard admissions officers and graduates who can help you put together a robust application that stands out from the crowd! Learn more about our US Admissions Support program.
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.
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.
The Harvard Crimson recently reported:
Harvard’s acceptance rate has gradually decreased throughout its history. In 1997, the acceptance rate for the Class of 2001 was 12.3 percent. Just a decade later, in 2007, the acceptance rate for the Class of 2011 had fallen to 9 percent. A decade after that, in 2017, the acceptance rate for the Class of 2021 had shrunk to 5.2 percent.
With this past year’s record-low 3.4% acceptance rate, it’s clear gaining admission to Harvard is increasingly more difficult.
|Total Applications||Overall Acceptance Rate||Regular Decision Applications||Regular Decision Acceptance Rate||Accepted International Students|
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.
A Day In The Life: Harvard Student | Class of 2023
Find out your chances of getting accepted into Harvard based on your profile using our free College Admissions Calculator!
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:
To learn more about how to make your application stand out, check out our free eBook on How to Crush Your US College Application
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.
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.
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.
Students who submit their SAT scores typically score between 1460-1580.
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.
Students who submit their ACT scores (with or without the writing component) typically have results that range from 33-35.
|Test||Score Range (25th & 75th Percentile)|
|SAT Math||[740, 800]|
|SAT ERW||[720, 780]|
|ACT Math||[31, 35]|
|ACT English||[34, 36]|
|ACT Composite||[33, 35]|
If you would like help with your SAT or ACT, Crimson offers online tutoring programs with the world's best teachers and tutors. We provide one-on-one test preparation with expert tutors, many of whom scored a perfect 1600 (SAT), 36 (ACT), and 800 (SAT II) on their college admissions standardized tests. Book a free consultation to learn more.
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 about something you care about instead of trying to write what you think Harvard Admissions wants to hear.
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.
Learn more on How to Write the Perfect Personal Statement with our free eBook
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.
For more ideas check out our free eBook containing successful activities from previous Crimson students who got into top universities!
Choose extracurricular activities you care about and ones that help make your community a better place.
Crimson's Admission Support program comes with extracurricular and leadership project planning, execution and reporting to make you a well-rounded candidate when applying to universities. Crimson Students are 4x more likely to be admitted to Ivy League universities such as Harvard. Find out more about how we do this in our Admissions Support program.
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 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|
While high grades and test scores should get you through the first round of application reviews, it’s your extracurriculars, essays, and how you explain your value to Harvard that will get you admitted.
Crimson offers a wide range of educational support services that will help you tailor your education and application, so it aligns with Harvard’s values and requirements. Through our admissions support programs, we walk with you through the application process. From online tutoring and extracurricular mentoring to essay review and even postgraduate admissions, Crimson can help you get into Harvard.
Harvard is 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.
Harvard’s total cost per year is about $73,800, but most students only pay a fraction of that cost. Harvard students are eligible for need-based aid and scholarships. The average price each student actually pays is $14,898, and 20% of Harvard families pay nothing for their student’s college education.
Harvard’s total cost per year is about $73,800, but most students are eligible for financial aid and scholarships. The average cost for Harvard is $14,898.
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