An Ultimate Guide: How to Get into Harvard University

Harvard is one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in the US. Founded back in 1936, this university has an acceptance rate of 4.6 percent only. This means that only a handful of applicants get to move in on admission day. It’s not impossible to get into Harvard. Keep reading to learn more on how to write and perfect your Harvard application.

How to get into Harvard University

What does your mind envision when you see or hear the word "Harvard?" A person? A brand? No, you see Harvard College. After all, many big names in various industries were students of Harvard University.

But Can you find your way into Harvard? Are you worthy of being part of the place where elite students study? Yes, you can. It's a challenge, but if the graduates can get in, why can't you? 

Although, you need to have an understanding of what are the requirements of Harvard. In this blog, I'll explain to you all the admission requirements of Harvard University. But before you know how to get into Harvard, let's take an overview of the University.

Harvard University Overview:

Founded in 1636, Harvard University always remained one of the most prestigious universities. The University is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. As per the "2021 US news ranking", Harvard is 2nd best University in the USA. As per the "QS World University Ranking," Havard is the 3rd best University in the World.

The tuition fee for students who get admitted to Harvard is $54002 (2020-21). The total enrollment in the college is 21,015. The student to faculty ratio in Harvard is 6:1. Thus, a Harvard student gets highly personalized attention from the faculties. 74% of classes in Harvard consist of fewer than 20 students.

Harvard University has big names in the World as its alumni. Some of the notable alumni are Franklin D. Roosevelt, Al Gore, Conan O'Brien, Michelle Obama. 

Harvard University

How difficult is it to get admitted?

As we said earlier, Harvard’s admission rate stands at 4.6 percent. And this makes it one of the most selective learning institutions in America and the world. Last year, close to 44000 students applied to study here. However, only 2009 were admitted. In the end, only 1650 students chose to attend the university. 4.6 percent sounds intimidating. However, you need to keep in mind that the strength of your profile largely determines the likelihood of being accepted. 

Many people share their tips on how to get into this prestigious university. However, only a few are completely honest. Some of their suggestions might reduce your chances of getting accepted. To increase your chances of getting accepted, you should consider consulting people admitted to Harvard successfully.

What Harvard University Looks For In Students?

Harvard says, "There is no such thing as a typical Harvard student." The admission process gives individual attention to each application. However, On their website, they mentioned what's in their mind while looking at student's applications. These four things they are looking for in the student:

  • Growth and Potential:

While looking at your application, 12 questions will come to their mind. These questions are primarily about what was your growth and potential till now? How are you going to grow further? Have you utilized your time? Hence, the college may consider everything you have done in your personal and academic life.

  • Interests and Activities:

Many colleges consider what a student did outside the classroom. Similarly, Harvard admission staff will also keep in mind what you did as your interest and activities. They want to know what was your achievements in the activities you have done. You should share your experience no matter you succeed or fail. \

  • Personal Character:

Here, some of the questions asked here will go from "What choices have you made for yourself?" to "How open are you to new ideas and people?" It is where Harvard wants to see who you are. You can't put some act and pretend to be someone that they'll later discover was a fake all along. 

So for this one, you must find from within who you are and how you can let Harvard see that you're someone who'll take the lead and see the positive in the situation.

Contribution to Harvard Community:

Every college wants a student not just to come to the college and learn, but also to contribute something. They want to know how you will be able to contribute to their community.

Therefore, keep these points in mind while applying to the college. Harvard also accepts the common application where you get the opportunity to show them who you are. You can use the activity section in the common application to define what activities you have done till now. Also, you are free to send a supplementary essay that could help you too.

After knowing what Harvard is looking for in a student, let's see how many scores you need to get qualified in Harvard.

Harvard SAT Score Requirements:

As Harvard College is one of the top-most colleges in the World, it is also highly competitive. The SAT 25th percentile of this college is 1460. It means only less than 25% of students admitted scores below 1460. The SAT 75th percentile of Harvard is 157representingts around 75% of students scoring less than 1570. With both these numbers, we can get the 50th percentile (average score) which is 1515.

There's also 25th percentile and 75th percentile for individual sections. The 25th percentile and 75th percentile of Math are 750 and 800, respectively. 

The 25th percentile and 75th percentile of EBRW are 710 and 770, respectively. Here, we can see you need to perform better in Math compared to EBRW. 

You can also try to gain more marks in one subject you will perform well. It's because if you get more marks than needed in one section and less in another, you will still get the required composite score.

Harvard Required SAT Scores

Harvard SAT score policy:

Harvard University considers the highest SAT score in all the attempts you have taken. Thus it's better to attempt SAT more than once before applying to the exam. Also, note that Harvard doesn't do any superscoring.

Harvard ACT score Requirements:

Harvard's composite 25th percentile for ACT is 33, and the 75th percentile is 35. Thus, the average composite ACT score for Harvard is 34.

In the ACT, the composite score is an average of all section scores. Thus, you have to get somewhere around the given ACT score in all sections to get the required composite ACT score. 

Harvard ACT score policy

Harvard considers your highest ACT score. Here, you can attempt the ACT exam multiple times and send only the highest ACT score. Thus, similarly to SAT, you should go for more than one ACT attempt. Note that Harvard doesn't do any superscoring of your score.

Harvard GPA Requirements

A student needs an exceptional GPA to get admitted to HU. The GPA required for Harvard is 4.04 on a scale of 4. It means you must be a topper of your class. If you know you may not get this much GPA score, then you need to focus on gaining more marks in SAT / ACT.

After knowing the requirements of the score of Harvard, let's see the application requirements.

Harvard Application Requirements

As the official website shows here, you'll have a lot to do. For general purposes, we'll show you the usual stuff needed: 

  • Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application
  • Harvard College Questions for the Common Application, Coalition Application, or the Universal College Application Harvard supplement
  • $75 fee (or request a fee waiver)
  • Optional: AP or other examination results
  • School Report and high school transcript
  • Teacher Report (2)
  • Midyear School Report (after your first semester grades)
  • Final School Report (for admitted students only)

Harvard setting and students

This section will help you have a clear idea of the location and culture and Harvard. This will help you determine whether it’s a good fit for you.


The prestigious university is nestled in Cambridge’s misty groves. It is quite a large school with 16000 staff members and 36000 students. However, within this group, the undergraduate class is small. Harvard is home to more than 6000 students each year. Class sizes are small, with an average length of 12 students.


Students come from different countries around the world to make the most out of Harvard’s resources. Harvard has focused on increasing the admission percentage of minorities. In recent years, an increase in diversity has led to debates on discrimination against specific applicants, particularly Asians, to preserve its admission percentages.

Economic status

You should keep in mind that Harvard’s student body is wealthier than the majority of Americans. Seventy percent of the students come from the top 20 percent of the economy. And the one percent is around 15 percent of Harvard’s population.


In most cases, students reside on campus since there is a residential house system. Students living on campus should be prepared to pay $11K for housing every year. University studio apartments charge an average of $2000 per month.

Chances of acceptance

While the acceptance rate of Harvard University is low, your chances are determined by you. If you have a weak academic profile, the committee might not look at your application. However, if your test scores and grades are strong and you participate in extracurricular activities, you’ll increase your chances of success.

There are lots of online admission calculators that will help you determine your chances of getting accepted. These calculators use test scores, grades, and extracurricular to decide on the odds of acceptance and share with you the best tips on improving your profile.

Harvard cost

This section will help you understand how much it costs to get into Harvard. You should keep in mind that the cost of any college is determined by government aid, financial profile, and several other factors. The expenses that we are going to cover here are for a single year:

  • Housing: $11364
  • Tuition: $49653
  • Health insurance: $3922
  • Meal plan $7025
  • Health fee: on-campus $1206 and $602 off-campus
  • Financial aid cost: $12000
  • Sum cost without financial aid: $72391

Three ways to make your application effective

After knowing all requirements, you can focus on making your application unique. It's necessary to create a particular application, as not everyone is going to get selected. For this, You'll need a few things to do

  • Excel with the Supplementary Material

As mentioned earlier, You have an option to submit supplementary material. Through this, you can show Harvard you're not an ordinary student. You can send supplementary material in video, audio, or handwriting, etc. 

A good thing to start with is composing an essay about today's events and letting Harvard know what you can do. You can also make an essay giving them an idea that they never thought about on a particular issue. 

You can even make a documentary with some good video-editing software. Show Harvard that you want them to feel the essay in a way not written by anyone before.

  • Address your strengths

As you're arranging your profile, be confident in addressing all your strengths. It is where you let Harvard know your best achievements, the things that make you awesome. 

You can show your activities, interest and also if your work as a leader anywhere. The best place to show this is the activity section of the common application. To know more about it, see this: Fill The Common App Activities Section Best Way Possible

  • Consult the experts

When you're close to arranging everything, you need to consult the experts. The expert can give their verdict on everything before submitting it. You can ask your counselors, teachers, etc., to help you with your application.

Harvard acceptance rate 

After knowing everything, one last thing you need to know is the acceptance rate. The acceptance rates tell us how many percentages of students get admitted. The prestigious college is very selective while choosing the applicants. And as Harvard University is the top-most in the World, the acceptance is pretty low.

The current regular acceptance rate of Harvard is 5%. It means, in every 100 applicants, only five get selected. 

The early application acceptance rate of Harvard is 13.9%. So we can see more students get selected while applying early. However, keep in mind that this may be because the brighter students apply early.

Both of these acceptance rates are substantially decreasing year after year. It may go lower in the upcoming years. 

In short: many apply, but a few get selected. You can still be among a few who can become part of this great college. The rates are lower every year, but you can get in if you work hard.

Have an idea on the way they interview applicants

Harvard's way of interviewing applicants is rigid and thorough. Jillian Bayor, a former Harvard admission interview, did a lot of discussions. She told Business Insider: "They have a very disciplined way of doing this and they're training you to do it, so you're going to be able to write that report, that statement, and have it highlight things that the admissions — the ones who sit around the table and make the final decision — are looking for. You want that report to best represents the student." She has also said Harvard does all this to let her and the other staff understand why they're doing it this way. 

Jillian has also said that as an interviewer, "You have to be selective and choose students who are going to be able to handle the academic rigors and the emotional aspects of going to a school like that and be able to think on a new level. That's what you look for." The questions she's asked in her time may not be the same, but it all boils down to finding out the core of what makes the student who they are. 

If you're still wrapping your head around this, we'll explain you. The meaning of it is: interviewers got a system that will help them determine a student is worthy of Harvard or not. They'll do what they can to find out what they're all about and how their overall character and other factors will contribute to the future of Harvard's legacy.

What if you are Not Accepted? 

So you finally got your application in, and after all the hard work, you got rejected. Does this mean there's no chance anymore? Luckily, you have two alternative options to try out if you're still determined to get into Harvard. They're not standard options, but if you're willing to explore the unusual, why not? Here they are.

Alternative Option A: Attend a different college and transfer to Harvard later

Now this one is optional and isn't mandatory. But if Harvard doesn't welcome you with open arms yet, you can try attending a different college and study there for a while. Then midway through your course, you can try applying for a transfer.

 It is where you can do much of what we've talked about here and go for it. It will give Harvard a clearer picture of who you are and why you're going for it. Skeptical? Here are Harvard's requirements for transfer applicants

Alternative Option B: Apply again after going through a gap year

Another way to gain admission into Harvard is applying again after you've gone through a gap year. A year-long break after college to pursue other activities for further development. It's more or less like having a nice little break after going through high school. If you're a bit stumped about how it can work for you, here's something to show you the benefits.

This alternative is a risky option to do because Harvard will already see you apply again. It means they'll see most of what you've added to your application with some new additions. But this is where you can also showcase what you've done in your gap year journey. You can let Harvard have a second look at you. 


Getting into Harvard is no walk in the park. With the requirements and things they're looking for, along with the data showing how so many applications but few get picked, it's like it's not even worth the effort. 

But how can you say you're not worthy of this place if you don't even give it a try? That's why, with the steps and tips we've written for you above, you have a chance at being one of the few that gets selected. 

From assessing yourself and knowing what the admission requirements for Harvard to making your application stand out are, you'll be able to see that there's a way to get there.