In 2018, 42,749 people applied to Harvard College, and only 2,024 were admitted. Given the competitive nature of this Ivy League school, preparing while in high school is a must. You’ll need to be diligent about exceeding all of the Harvard University admission requirements to even be considered as a prospective student. If you work hard and showcase your talents, you can realize your dream of being a Harvard graduate.

Start With Rigorous High School Classes

Begin with a solid academic foundation to meet the Harvard University requirements in high school. Since only five out of 100 applicants are accepted, your academic profile is key. Select a challenging course schedule with Advanced Placement and Postsecondary Option classes. You’ll also need to take four years of a foreign language while in high school.

Push yourself to excel. A 4.0 or higher is an important sign that you can withstand the academic rigor of Harvard.

Build a Leadership Resume

In addition to academic excellence, you’ll need to demonstrate how you are different from other applicants. Your extracurricular activities and interests will tell the story of your special gifts and talents. Harvard University admission requirements include evidence that you can contribute something substantial to the institution and to other students. In addition to athletics, music and leadership roles, be sure to include how you’ve served the broader community.

Fill Out the Common Application

Don’t be intimidated by filling out the Common Application. Most of the categories are straightforward and provide you with an opportunity to document your accomplishments.

Perhaps the most important part of the Common Application is the personal essay. Use the essay to help the admissions committee get to know who you are on a personal level. The opening paragraph is the most important way to hook the reader into wanting you to be a part of the Harvard community.

Prepare for Harvard University Requirements for the ACT or SAT

Harvard requires applicants to submit test results from the SAT or ACT. The cut-off score or score expectations are not publicly advertised, but it goes without saying that a top performance will help you in the admission selection process. Study hard for the test and don’t be afraid to retake the test if you aren’t happy with the first round of scores. Some students find prep classes or online tools helpful.

Seek Impressive References

Letters of reference make a big difference in the Harvard admission process. Begin by asking a teacher who knows you on a personal and academic level. A compelling letter from a teacher who can speak to your academic ability, drive and curiosity will pique the interest of the selection committee. You’ll need two letters, so look for a second reference who can add supplemental information about your character and unique talents.

Submit the Necessary Requirements

In addition to ACT/SAT scores, the Common Application and references, you’ll need a few more items to meet the Harvard University admission requirements. An academic transcript from your high school and an application fee are the final touches needed to complete your application. If you can’t afford the application fee, you can request a fee waiver. Your high school counselor can help you with this process.

Meet the Application Deadlines

It’s important to apply by November 1 to be considered for early action. The regular decision-process deadline is January 1. This means that you’ll need to begin working on your application in your junior year. If you begin early, you’ll have time to retake exams, gather transcripts and bolster your extracurricular resume.

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About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.