You may be surprised to learn that Harvard University does not accept or reject applicants based solely on grades or scores on college entrance exams. Harvard looks at the overall strength of each applicant to judge motivation and potential for greatness. Competition for a coveted spot in the incoming class is fierce. For instance, 2,024 students out of an applicant pool of 42,749 were accepted in 2018, which is an acceptance rate of just under 5 percent. You can get a general idea of your chances of getting in by looking at enrolled students profile data.

Tip

The Harvard SAT scores of enrolled students range from 600 to 800 on each part and subtest of the SAT. Many students enrolled at Harvard were valedictorians of their high school class. Harvard University requires ACT or SAT results to assess knowledge and academic preparation.

Harvard SAT Scores Preferred

According to Harvard’s website, 75 percent of enrolled students achieved an overall SAT score of 1570 or better. Prepping for college entrance exams and retaking the SAT or ACT can be beneficial because Harvard has a super scoring method. That means the school uses a student’s highest scores from each test date submitted to calculate the highest possible composite score.

College Facts and Stats about Harvard University

GPA Needed for Harvard

Although the Harvard admissions office will not disregard an application based solely on high school GPA, your odds of being admitted are better if you have a proven track record of academic success. Harvard looks for students who push themselves to reach their capacity by taking the most difficult classes available, such as AP and honors. Meeting or exceeding Harvard average GPA scores is an important factor in determining who receives a coveted offer letter of acceptance.

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Other Factors in Admission Decisions

Admissions decisions are taken very seriously at Harvard. Admissions officers stay busy year around recruiting students and reviewing applications. Many successful applicants share common characteristics:

Extracurricular activities: Leadership skills and extracurricular participation are valued. Harvard seeks students who will be good roommates, teammates and lab partners. High performing athletes with strong academic promise are actively recruited.

Legacy status: Strong applicants with a family member connected to Harvard University may receive a closer look. A high achieving parent or grandparent who graduated from Harvard and actively supports the school as an alum may improve your chances of being admitted.

Personal character: Successful applicants communicate warmth, a sense of humor, maturity, energy and self-confidence in writing and in person. Courage and resilience in the face of obstacles also matters.

Teacher recommendations: You will need letters of recommendation from teachers in two different subjects that speak to your intellect, drive, integrity, love of learning and ability to handle pressure. Ask teachers who know you well enough to give specific examples of your abilities, awards and achievements.

Application Evaluation Criteria

Admissions committees work hard to find students who will excel and take advantage of opportunities offered at Harvard. Seriously consider what you write on your personal statement and supplemental essay questions. Your application should tell a story about who you are and what inspires you. Suggested questions to address in your personal narrative include:

  • What are you passionate about in life?
  • What could classmates possibly learn from you?
  • What leadership roles have you held?
  • What distinguishes you from other gifted and talented applicants?
  • How will a Harvard education help you achieve your short and long-range goals?

Harvard Application Process

Harvard University welcomes applications through the Coalition Application, Common Application and the University College Application. Nov. 1 is the deadline for Early Action applications. Regular Decision applications are due Jan. 1. Harvard strongly encourages talented students from diverse social and economic backgrounds to apply. Generous financial aid is available to those who qualify.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.