Harvard Admissions Guide

How’s it going future Crimson?

Are you dreaming of becoming a Harvard student? Well, you’ve come to the right place! This guide is designed to help you navigate the ins and outs of the Harvard University admissions process, and give you the best possible chance of achieving your dreams.

Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and we know that applying can be a daunting task. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back. From crafting the perfect essay to acing your interviews, we’ll guide you through every step of the way.

Let’s get started on your journey to becoming a Harvard student!

Harvard Admissions Statistics at a Glance

An overview of harvard admissions statistics

The Facts About Harvard Admissions

Harvard is arguably the most prestigious school in the country. Its alumni include former presidents such as John F. Kennedy, Nobel Prize winners such as Ralph Bunche, and well-known authors such as Lauren Slater. It is also known for its highly competitive and stress-ridden atmosphere, with the cream of the crop competing for the top grades and favor of professors. Most of the students admitted have SAT scores ranging from 600 to 800 on each section of both the SAT I and SAT II subject tests. Over 90% of the Class of 2022 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, so competition among over 19,000 applicants for 2,000 lusted-after spots is undeniably fierce. The overall acceptance rate at Harvard in 2022 was 3.19.

Harvard is known for favoring applicants with a legacy, or parents who have attended. The Dean of Admissions personally reads through every legacy application, so a lot of extremely qualified students with straight As and perfect test scores get turned down.

Harvard is a decentralized school, with ten different colleges offering 40 different majors or concentrations. A unique feature of the university is that it allows students to combine major fields of study or devise their own special concentrations. They are world-renowned for their political science program, which draws many elite politicians as guest lecturers, and even as faculty. Some of the most popular majors at Harvard are within the areas of psychology, economics, political science and government, English language and literature, and biology.

Harvard is set in the renowned college town Cambridge, which lies just on the edge of Boston proper. The center of Boston is easily and quickly accessible; it is just a few minutes’ ride on the inexpensive “T” (train) system.

Student Life at Harvard

Harvard’s campus is beautiful and is kept in top shape due to its large endowment. Most freshmen are all housed together in a building that circles the Harvard Yard, and in a city as expensive as Boston, many students are relieved that housing is guaranteed for all four years. Non-freshmen live in one of the several different “houses,” each with its own unique qualities. Each “house” holds around 400 students, and contains its own dining room and library.

Many students agree that Cambridge is the ideal college town, and rarely venture into Boston, as there is no need. Cambridge is quite expensive; however, it is filled with great bookshops, restaurants, bars and cafes. The campus itself is wooded and charming; everything is within reasonable walking distance.

Despite the obvious perks, many students complain that the social life is pretty tame at Harvard. The biggest events of the year tend to be right before exams, when the hard studying comes briefly to a halt for students to drink a bit, strip down to their necessaries, and streak through the quad. Most students opt to go to the theater or to the movies instead of wild parties, although drinking does, inevitably, occur. One of the reasons for the light socializing might be the fact that there are no fraternities or sororities due to school policy of gender inclusion. There are, however, over 300 student organizations to choose from, including The Finals Club and the Glee Club. Even though sports might not be the first thing to come to mind at the mention of “Harvard,” it does boast the largest Division I athletic program in the country.

The guys and girls tend to all be geeks, but when they come together, nothing but love abounds, and there are the occasional smart and hot ones… an added bonus.

What’s Good About Studying at Harvard

  • “You can say the name Harvard with pride. Pretty much everyone in the world will recognize the name as prestigious, and for good reasons.”
  • “There is a genuinely intellectual atmosphere here, one that inspires great leaders and thinkers to change the world when they graduate, and even before then.”
  • “The campus is the most beautiful I’ve seen. You feel like living history when you walk down the paths.”

What’s Bad About Studying at Harvard

  • “It’s really a sink or swim atmosphere. Even the best of the best have to really struggle to stay afloat.”
  • “It’s impossible to get into any decent classes unless you are a senior or if you have a personal relationship with a professor.”
  • “Arrogance and elitism abound. Most people here think they are just God’s gift to the world. Sometimes, they’re almost right, but mostly, they’re just way off the mark.”

Harvard Admissions Requirements

Harvard Acceptance Rate

When you’re looking to get admitted to Harvard, the first thing you should look at is the acceptance rate because this gives you an idea of how competitive the school is.

Harvard’s current acceptance rate is 3.19%. This means that less than 4 out of every 100 applicants are accepted for admission.

This demonstrates how picky the school is.

Grade Point Average

To get beyond their initial filters and demonstrate your academic readiness, it’s crucial you meet Harvard’s GPA standards and SAT/ACT requirements. You will have zero chance of getting a foot in the door if you don’t compete in this regard.

Many colleges have minimum GPA requirements, but in reality, this is frequently the bare minimum that is needed to submit an application without it being rejected straight off the bat.

Harvard’s average GPA: 4.18

Although some schools publish an unweighted GPA, most utilize a weighted GPA out of 4.0.

Harvard needs you to be at the top of your class with a GPA of 4.18. To compete with other applications, you’ll need to achieve almost all As. You should also enroll in challenging classes, such as AP or IB courses, to demonstrate that you have what it takes to complete college-level coursework.

It’s challenging to change your GPA in time for college applications if you’re currently a junior or senior. You will require a better SAT or ACT score to make up for a GPA that is equal to or lower than the school average of 4.18.

SAT and ACT Requirements

SAT Requirements and Rules at Harvard

Standardized testing requirements vary from school to school. The SAT or ACT are typically required, and many schools also demand SAT subject assessments.

To submit an application to Harvard, you must take the SAT or ACT. More importantly, you must do well in those tests.

Harvard’s average SAT: 1520 out of 1600

The “Highest Section” score choice rule is in effect at Harvard.

Another name for this is “superscoring.” This implies that you have a choice as to which SAT tests you submit to the institution. Your application readers will take into account your highest section scores from all of your SAT test dates out of all the scores they receive.

You can take the SAT as many times as you’d like, then submit just the tests that result in the highest Superscore since you get to pick which ones to bring in, and Harvard will calculate your Superscore. Readers of your application will only see one score.

As such, if you currently have a superscore below 1580, you should consider retaking your SAT. This will give you an opportunity to improve your score and, therefore, increase your chances of being admitted.

Even better, the superscore allows you to concentrate solely on a single section at a time. For example, you only need to prepare for the reading part of the SAT before sitting the test if your reading score is lower than those of your other sections. For the subsequent test, concentrate on math, and so forth. You will receive the maximum superscore by doing this.

ACT Requirements for Harvard

Harvard doesn’t have a strict ACT threshold, like the SAT, but if you score too low, your application will be automatically rejected.

Standard ACT: 34

ACT scores range from 33 to 35, with 35 representing the 75th percentile.

Even though Harvard states that there is no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 33 or lower, you will likely struggle to get in unless you have other extremely strong application materials.

Harvard Admissions Essay Requirements

Harvard University only accepts applications through three platforms: the Common Application, the Coalition Application, and the Universal College Application (UCA). Irrespective of the platform used, all applicants are required to submit a personal essay in response to one of the prompts provided by the application system.

The essay prompt should typically be between 500 and 550 words, and not exceed 650 words. Applicants are advised to visit the websites of the Common App, Coalition App, and UCA to check out the current essay prompts, which are updated yearly. The essay prompts vary slightly between the different platforms, and applicants should choose one that they can respond to comprehensively and thoughtfully. The essay is an essential component of the application process and should be written carefully, keeping in mind the applicant’s personal experiences and aspirations.

You have the option to submit additional essays with your application to Harvard if there is anything you believe the essay prompt did not effectively represent. Although Harvard’s application guidelines specify that including this essay is “optional,” almost all admissions advisors would strongly advise you to contribute as much information about yourself as you can. You could be persuaded by the fact that more than 85% of the Harvard Class of 2019 submitted the supplemental essays.

While there is no stated word or character limit set by Harvard for the additional essay, the majority of accepted applicants write between 500 and 700 words (or about a page when written in Times New Roman 12-point font). This limits your ability to elaborate on your experiences or cover a variety of subjects in your writing. As a result, you must concentrate on and emphasize one part of who you are that makes you unique (or respond succinctly to what the prompt requests you to write about). However, don’t stress about getting it perfect on your first draft; instead, write as freely as you can and then work on re-drafting, rewriting, and editing your essay once all of the crucial components have emerged. Spending additional time on the essay will make it more polished and effective. For more instructions on how to write this essay, go to the Harvard University admissions page.

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