How to get into Harvard University

Harvard Acceptance Rate | Stats, Scores & Requirements

How to get into Harvard University

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So, you’re thinking about applying to Harvard, and you’re curious about your chances of admission. Of course, there are a lot of factors in the admissions process. However, the most important factors in the admissions game are your GPA and test scores. So, using those as a measure, we can give you an estimate of your chances.

With an acceptance rate of 4.5%, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. 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.

Not quite there? You still have a chance of getting in, check out our ACT prep course to better your chances of getting admitted. Let’s take a closer look at Harvard admission statistics.

Similar Universities

Prep Expert has a complete guide to acceptance rates for most universities in the United States. Below, you can click on universities similar to Harvard in terms of academics and value.

Acceptance Rates of Academically Similar Universities

Acceptance Rates of Similar Value Universities

More about Harvard

Want to find out everything you can about getting into Harvard? The blogs below will be helpful to everyone, whether you are just now looking into Harvard for the first time, or you have been researching Harvard and want in-depth information.

2019 Harvard Admissions Statistics: Class of 2023

  • Harvard’s acceptance rate in 2019 was 4.5%
  • 43,330 applicants, 1,950 were accepted
  • The average GPA of admitted applicants was 4.04
  • The average ACT score was a 34
  • The average SAT score was 1540

For students who took the ACT, the 25th percentile score of successful applicants was 32, and the 75th percentile ACT score was 35.

For students who took the SAT, the 25th percentile score was 1480. The 75th percentile score was 1600, and the average score was 1540.

If you’re somewhere in the middle of these numbers, remember that a high test score can compensate for a slightly lower GPA, and vice versa. If you’re at the lower end, it helps if you’re a diverse applicant, the child of an alum, or have incredible personal achievements.

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Other aspects of your application, such as athletics, extracurricular and recommendations, are important, but will ly only make a difference for admission if you’re in the 75th percentile range for your GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

As we said, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. Even with a perfect SAT score of 1600 and a GPA of 4.0, your chances of admission are about 10%. With a perfect ACT score of 36 and a 4.0, your chances are about 13%.

OK, so you’ve decided to apply. We took a look at Harvard’s application requirements to help you get everything in order.

2020 Harvard Application Requirements: Class of 2024

Here’s a full list of the application requirements:

  • Fill out the Common Application, answer Harvard’s supplementary questions, and pay an application fee of $75 (or apply for a fee waiver)
  • Submit an ACT or SAT score, along with your writing score
  • Submit two SAT Subject Test scores
  • Submit your high school transcript and a school report
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from your teachers
  • As a senior, send in a mid-year school report and a final school report

Here are the deadlines to be aware of:

  • The application deadline is November 1 for Early Action
  • The application deadline is January 1 for Regular Decision
  • November 1 is the Early Action financial aid application deadline
  • March 1 is the Regular Decision financial aid application deadline
  • Early Action decisions are released in mid-December
  • Regular Decision Letters are mailed in late March
  • May 1 is the reply date for admitted students

Have you been admitted to Harvard? Congratulations! Below is a glimpse of what your fellow classmates will be .

2019 Harvard Admitted Students Profile: Class of 2023

If you matriculate at Harvard, you’ll be joining a diverse class, with students from all over the U.S. and the world, and have a chance to study in dozens of fields.

Here’s a breakdown of where the class of 2016’s admitted applicants come from:

  • New England: 16.8%
  • Mid-Atlantic: 20.9%
  • South: 18.8%
  • Midwest: 9.4%
  • Central: 2.1%
  • Mountain: 3.2%
  • Pacific: 15.6%
  • US Territories: 0.4%
  • International: 12.8%

Harvard has a diverse class, as well, with a large number of people of color. The ethnicities of admitted applicants are:

  • African American, 15.2%
  • Asian American, 22.9%
  • Hispanic/Latino, 12.3%
  • Native American/Pacific Islander, 2.3%

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What do these admitted students plan to study? Harvard calls its majors “concentrations,” and students matriculating there have a wide variety of interests:

  • Humanities: 16.9%
  • Social Sciences: 22.3%
  • Biosciences: 18.8%
  • Physical Sciences: 7.2%
  • Engineering: 13.9%
  • Computer Science: 7%
  • Math: 7.5%
  • Undecided: 6.4%

Now, how are you going to pay for this?

Harvard Tuition Figures

At $66,950, Harvard’s tuition is astronomical. With its generous financial aid, the average family can expect to pay about $14,000 per year.

Here’s a fuller look at the average tuition/financial aid package in 2016:

  • Total budget: $66,950
  • Parents’ contribution: $12,000
  • Student asset/summer work expectation: $1,150
  • Harvard/Federal/outside scholarships: $52,050
  • Term-time work expectation: $1,750

For the latest numbers and to learn more about financial aid numbers, click HERE.

Now, what is life at Harvard? Let’s take a look.


Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, centered around the famous Harvard Yard, which dates to 1636 (Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States). Various schools and programs are located across Charles River, in Boston.

The 209-acre main campus, which includes the Yard, is located in Harvard Square. All Harvard freshman live on campus, in the Yard, Apley Court, and Union Dormitories.

Many of the dorms are in eighteenth-century buildings (some of which housed George Washington’s troops!). Dining is in Annenberg Hall, a stunningly beautiful and historic building.

Remember, you’re going to Harvard for its excellent academics! Below is a look at what academic life will be .


Students choose their concentrations (Harvard’s term for majors) during their third semester (so, the beginning of the sophomore year).

Students can choose from 49 concentrations, in which they’re required to complete between 12 and 14 half-courses (around 40% of the total course load). General Education requirements comprise 30% of students’ course loads, leaving about 30% for electives.

The General Education component requires students to take courses in four areas:

  • Expository Writing,
  • Foreign Language
  • Quantitative Reasoning, and
  • Three departmental courses across the three main parts of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences: Arts and Humanities, Social Science, and Science and Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Harvard’s academic year begins in early September and ends in mid-May, with fall and spring semesters. Full-time students are expected to complete four half-courses per term.

Now, let’s take a look at life outside the classroom at Harvard.

Student Life at Harvard

Harvard has over 100 student organizations, covering academic interests, creative and performing arts, cultural and racial initiatives, gender and sexuality affinity groups, government and political interests, and various media and publications.

Here’s a look at three Harvard student groups:

  • The Harvard Crimson, the oldest student-run newspaper in the country
  • The Harvard Lampoon, a comedy organization that has seen many alums head off to Saturday Night Live, and comedy writing in Hollywood
  • The Advocate, a literary magazine that has published work by T.S. Eliot, Norman Mailer, e.e. cummings, Jack Kerouac and Tom Wolfe.

Are you an athlete? Harvard’s got plenty of options for you:

Harvard Athletics

The Harvard Crimson is in the NCAA Division I Ivy League and competes in 42 intercollegiate sports. If you’re not up to varsity level, there are plenty of club and intramural sports, as well.

Some of Harvard’s intercollegiate teams are:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Crew
  • Cross Country
  • Fencing
  • Field Hockey
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Ice hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Sailing
  • Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Squash
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Volleyball
  • Water Polo
  • Wrestling

Harvard has a big-time rivalry with Yale, and each year there is a famous football stand-off called “The Game,” which is a big event for Harvard and Yale students (it is played on each campus every other year). The Harvard-Yale Regatta, which occurs before the football game, is also a big deal.

What might you become with a Harvard degree? Let’s take a look at some well-known and successful alums:

Notable Alums

Harvard has produced U.S. Presidents, Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winners, governors, U.S. Senators and Representatives, Supreme Court Justices, cabinet secretaries, business tycoons, military leaders, media figures, and leaders in dozens of other fields.

Here’s a list of some particularly well-known alums:

  • United States Presidents, including John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy (Rutherford B. Hayes, Barack Obama, and former First Lady Michelle Obama got law degrees at Harvard, and George W. Bush got an MBA there)
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
  • Nobel Prize in Literature winner T.S. Eliot, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Vice President Al Gore, and former Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger
  • Pulitzer Prize winners, including John Updike, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Nick Kristof, and Linda Greenhouse
  • Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Business gurus Lloyd Blankstein, J.P. Morgan Jr., Sumner Redstone, and Sheryl Sandberg
  • Supreme Court Justices, such as Harry Blackmun, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., and Chief Justice John Roberts
  • U.S. Cabinet Secretaries, including Robert F. Kennedy, Michael Chertoff, and Loretta Lynch
  • Legendary writers such as William S. Burroughs, John dos Passos, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Frank O’Hara
  • Entertainers, including Matt Damon, Rashida Jones, Tommy Lee Jones, Colin Jost, John Lithgow, and B.J. Novak
  • Musicians, including Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma

And this is only a partial list!


Getting into Harvard is extremely competitive. Don’t despair if you get a no.

If you have a strong GPA and high test scores, you have a great chance of getting into at least one of the Ivy League schools. And if you don’t, remember: where you go is NOT who you are. If you work hard, you’ll end up at a school that’s right for you, and still get a great education.

For more test strategy, college admissions, and scholarship application tips sign up for our FREE class happening right now!



What Does it Take to Get into Harvard? (From a Harvard Grad)

How to get into Harvard University

Harvard itself publishes the core values it holds for evaluating student applications at What We Look For. We’ll break down their categories in a moment, but the core quality of a competitive Harvard application is that it demonstrates a zeal for life and learning.

Growth and Potential. It should come as no surprise that a large part of your potential boils down to your past academic performance. The 25-75th percentile of Harvard admitted freshmen last cycle earned SAT scores of 1470-1570. For the ACT, those numbers were 33-35. The average GPA of admitted students was 4.18.

But growth indicates that there is more to your profile than just academic success. Harvard wants to see that you are on your way to ever increasing heights. Your essays, letters of recommendation, and even a positive grade trend (higher grades in your later years of schooling) all demonstrate that you have a desire and willingness to improve.

Interests and Activities. Harvard does not have strong opinions on the direction in which your passion leads you. All they want to see is gobs of it, applicants dripping with the drive to make an impact in a domain they love.

The officer evaluating your application will ask, “What did this person do with the time and resources at hand?” So lead when you have the chance, look for high-impact opportunities in the fields that you love, and in particular keep your eye out for the things that need doing which no one else seems interested in tackling.

Character and Personality. Thankfully, there is not one correct character to display on your application.

Demonstrating initiative is key, and avoiding negative signaling is also crucial (no one wants to share their community with a jerk). Beyond that, being specific is more important than what you say.

So do some soul searching and ask loved ones to figure out exactly who you are, then introduce that person to the selection committee in your unique way.

Contribution to the Harvard Community. Some of this is outside your control. Harvard builds a diverse class each year, both in terms of interests and backgrounds.

If you bring an under-represented personal history, you are more ly to secure a favorable decision. However, this value has more to do with what you will do on campus than who you will be, so take time to cast a vision for your admissions officers.

How do you see yourself improving the lives of classmates, professors, and the broader Harvard network?

How to Make Your Application Stand Out

A lot of the students who come to us dreaming of Harvard have a hard time believing that they, of all people, really will stand out to an admissions committee. In our experience, there is a lot you can do to persuade Harvard that you have the drive needed to thrive on campus.

Showcase your excellence. Address all of your greatest academic, extracurricular, and personal accomplishments in the most favorable light possible. This may sound bragging, but in reality you simply are introducing the school to your professional self. If you can quantify your success (e.g.

“raised $30,000 for UNICEF” instead of “hosted UNICEF fundraiser”), that’s ideal. If concrete numbers are not within reach, use your words to help admissions officers understand exactly how you have enriched your community (e.g.

“created video series to foster global awareness at my school” instead of “took a cinematography class”).

Wow them with your essay. Harvard has plenty of applicants with stellar profiles. Use your essay to demonstrate a unique voice and character.

If the admissions officer can’t get you their mind, they are much more ly to advocate for you when it comes time to make difficult decisions between equally qualified candidates.

Read CollegeVine’s post on How to Write the Harvard University Supplemental Essays 2018-2019 for more advice.

Discuss your application theme with recommenders. If you want to shoot for Harvard, it’s important to put your very best foot forward. Your grades, essay, test scores, and letters of recommendation all come together to paint a picture of who you are.

any good painter, you want to be in control of the whole work. There are compliments and aspects of your personality that only your recommenders can share, so make sure you talk to them first about what you would put in that letter if you were the one writing it.

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

While Harvard’s acceptance rate is incredibly low, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower. If your academic profile is weak, Harvard may not look at the rest of your application at all. On the flip side, if your grades and test scores are strong, and you have outstanding extracurriculars, you may have a better shot of getting in.

To better understand your chances at Harvard, we recommend using our free admissions calculator. Using your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile.

You can also search for best-fit schools your chances, and on other factors size, location, majors and more. This tool will make it a lot easier to create a strategy for your college application process.

What If You Get Rejected?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Even top applicants are not guaranteed a slot at Harvard. Speaking as a graduate myself, I guarantee you that hard work, talent, and a little bit of business savvy will secure the same opportunities as someone with an Ivy League degree. The world is still your oyster.

Harvard does not accept admissions appeals due to their long list of qualified applicants on the waitlist. We do not recommend petitioning your decision. Some students transfer into Harvard, but the transfer admissions rate is extremely low and requires a lot of extra work. However, students who maintain a strong academic and extracurricular profile will always have a shot.

You can reapply after taking a gap year, but this path is riskier than simply committing to another school and requesting to take a gap year there. To see if a gap year is right for you, visit our posts, What Are the Pros of Taking a Gap Year? and What You Need To Know When Applying to Colleges After a Gap Year.

If Harvard closes its doors to you, we recommend moving on. Perhaps you want to find a similar school, and if so another Ivy League institution will ly provide very similar resources and opportunities.

If you already know your target industry, consider attending a top-ranked university for that field. Geographic proximity to where you want to work also helps. Again, speaking as a Harvard grad, when I go toe-to-toe with students who graduated from other schools, the ones with the greatest strategic advantage are those who already have roots in my field.

For help adjusting to a different dream, read our post, Envisioning a New Future: Preparing for Life at Your Second-Choice (or Third, or Fourth) School.

For more resources on Harvard and other Ivies, check out these CollegeVine posts:

At CollegeVine, we’re passionate about making college guidance accessible to all. That’s why we took the guidance that’s helped 100,000 students and made it free.

On our college applications platform, you can use our chancing engine, build a best-fit school list, and learn how to improve your profile—all for free.

Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.


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