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Harvard University needs no introduction. Synonymous with academic excellence, it's one of the world's most prestigious and selective universities. Understandably, getting into Harvard is no easy feat. The university receives thousands of applications each year and accepts only a small percentage of applicants.
So, what does it take to get into Harvard? There’s no magic formula for admission, but certain strategies can increase your chance of success.
This blog post is a comprehensive guide on how to get into Harvard. We cover everything from Harvard’s admission requirements to crafting a winning application.
If you're a high school student or a parent of a high schooler just starting to think about college, this guide will give you the information you need to put your best foot forward and pursue your goals.
To put it bluntly, it’s extremely difficult to get into Harvard. The university receives applications from far more qualified applicants than they can accept.
For the class of 2026, Harvard received 61,220 applications and only accepted 1,954 students — that’s an acceptance rate of 3.2%. Refer to the table below for a complete breakdown of Harvard’s acceptance rate.
|Number of Applications||Accepted Students||Acceptance Rate|
The SAT and ACT are now optional, but scoring within or above the average range of admitted students will help you get through the first round of filters. If you don’t meet the minimum expectations for GPA and standardized test scores, 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 essay answers help Harvard admissions officers get to know you better.
But it goes further than grades and test scores. Harvard values a passion for learning beyond the classroom and engagement in activities such as research, internships, or independent projects.
Harvard values leadership and community involvement. They look for applicants who have positively impacted their communities through participation in extracurriculars, school clubs, athletics, volunteering, or leadership positions in community organizations.
They want to see a passion for making a difference in the world.
Harvard values authenticity and effective communication. Admissions officers want to get to know applicants through their essays and letters of recommendation.
They look for candidates who can paint a clear picture of their unique experiences, perspectives, and aspirations. Harvard wants to see who you are, beyond your achievements and qualifications.
Remember that Harvard has a holistic admissions process, meaning they consider every aspect of an applicant's profile. Harvard weighs grades and test scores, but they also value personal qualities like creativity, intellectual curiosity, and growth potential.
The following information has been gathered from Harvard’s 2021-22 Common Dataset.
The average high school GPA of admitted students at Harvard is around 4.2.
73% of students had a GPA of at least 4.0, indicating that students who were admitted typically earned A grades in high school.
If you’re studying the IB, this translates to scoring mostly 7s and achieving a minimum score of at least 42.
While Harvard remains test-optional for the 2022/23 admissions year, your SAT and ACT scores are considered if you submit them. They can help your application stand out if you’ve scored well.
For the class of 2025, 54% of applicants submitted their SAT scores, and 31% submitted their ACT scores.
Admitted students typically have very high standardized test scores.
|25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
|25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
These score ranges show that students who get into Harvard have extremely high academic achievements, with most scoring in the top 1-5% of all test takers in the US.
While these scores are impressive, note that the admissions process at Harvard is holistic. It takes into account factors other than academics, such as extracurricular activities, personal essays, and letters of recommendation.
Admitted students typically have taken a challenging and rigorous high school curriculum. This may include advanced or honors courses, as well as courses in areas such as math, science, English, history, and foreign languages.
Strong extracurricular activities are essential for students hoping to get into Harvard. Harvard is looking for students who are more than just academic achievers. They seek leaders who can positively impact their campus and the world.
Admitted students tend to have a strong record of involvement in extracurricular activities such as sports, music, theater, community service, or other pursuits. They may have also demonstrated leadership skills or a commitment to a particular cause or issue.
The essays are a crucial part of your application. They are your chance to showcase your personality and fit with the university.
Harvard admissions officers are looking for authentic and unique essays that reveal who you are, what matters to you, and what makes you stand out.
Successful essays can take many forms — from personal anecdotes to academic essays to creative writing. The best essays reveal your unique voice and perspective.
There is no one way to write a college essay, but it is essential to be authentic to yourself. When writing an essay, consider what you want to convey about yourself and how you want to be remembered by the admissions committee. The essay is a chance to show the admissions team who you are beyond your grades and extracurriculars and to demonstrate their potential to impact the community at Harvard positively.
For Harvard admissions officers, recommendation letters provide a more holistic view of you. They can highlight your strengths, achievements, and unique qualities, which can help set you apart from other applicants.
A strong recommendation letter can also help to strengthen your application. It can vouch for your academic potential and demonstrate that you have the support of respected professionals in your field.
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 7.9% compared to the regular application acceptance rate of only 2.3%.
Applying early has several benefits. First, it can help to reduce competition. The early application pool is typically smaller than the regular decision pool, which can increase your chances of acceptance. The admissions committee has more time to review each application in the early pool, which can result in a more thorough and nuanced review of your application.
Secondly, it shows the admissions committee that Harvard is your top choice and that you’re committed to attending if accepted. This can demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the university, which can be a positive factor in the admissions decision.
Applying early can help you receive your admissions decision sooner. This ease the stress and uncertainty of the admissions process and allow you to plan for the future more effectively.
Note that applying early does not guarantee admission — but it can significantly improve your chances of acceptance.
Harvard is looking for students who have challenged themselves academically. Take the most rigorous courses offered by your school, if you can do well in them. This typically includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.
Maintain high grades throughout high school and take advantage of opportunities for academic enrichment. Recall that the average GPA of students applying to Harvard is 4.2, with more than 70% scoring at least 4.0. Aim to achieve a GPA of at least 4.0 to maximize your chance of acceptance
While Harvard is test-optional, your SAT/ACT scores are considered if submitted. There are several benefits to submitting your scores, even though they have a test-optional policy.
If you decide to submit your SAT/ACT scores, ensure you score higher than the average scores highlighted earlier. For Harvard, you should attain a score of at least 1580 on your SATs or 35-36 on your ACTs.
Harvard values students who have demonstrated leadership skills and have made a positive impact in their communities. Participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer in your community. Seek leadership positions to showcase your ability to make a difference.
Your college essay is the perfect way to help you stand out from the thousands of other applicants. A strong and unique essay can differentiate you from applicants with similar academic profiles. Think outside the box. Find ways to integrate your passions and let your unique personality shine through.
Harvard’s supplemental essays have two required prompts and one optional prompt. We recommend you answer all three to stand the best chance.
Ensure you display the following in your Harvard essays:
Harvard may be one of the best schools in the world, but that doesn’t 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 recognition and prestige? Also, consider the campus lifestyle and culture, the courses available, location, and financial support.
After honestly evaluating these criteria, your academics, goals, and expectations match Harvard’s, then go ahead and 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:
Getting into Harvard is difficult, but it's not impossible. By focusing on your academic achievements, demonstrating leadership and community involvement, showcasing your unique qualities, and preparing thoroughly for standardized tests, you can increase your chances of acceptance to Harvard.
You can also improve your chance of acceptance by crafting a strong personal statement, seeking letters of recommendation from the right people, and applying early.
The keys to getting into Harvard are to:
With hard work, dedication, and a well-prepared application, you can position yourself as a competitive candidate for admission to one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
If you could use guidance on your journey to getting into a top Ivy League school, book a free consultation with our experienced college counselors. They can provide you with personalized advice to help you reach your goals.
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