The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Harvard
- Average Stats of Accepted Harvard University Students
- Harvard University Application Process
- Harvard University Financial Aid
- What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
Harvard is a member of the Ivy League—a collection of eight private colleges in the Northeast known for their rich histories, selective admissions, and impressive student outcomes—and the oldest college in the U.S. However, in many ways, Harvard is in a league of its own, thanks to its superb academics, renowned professors, fantastic location, unrivaled resources, and exceptional students. Consequently, Harvard is one of the most prestigious colleges in the world and attracts top applicants from across the globe.
Average Stats of Accepted Harvard University Students
As you’d expect, a glimpse at the academic performance of students accepted to Harvard shows that they performed extraordinarily well in the classroom and on standardized tests.
- Average GPA and rank: 4.2 and 93.1% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class
- Middle 50% SAT/ACT: 1480-1580/33-36
Note: Great grades and attention-grabbing test scores alone won’t assure you a spot at Harvard, but they will get your foot in the door and application read. Harvard practices test-optional admissions—that is, you can choose whether or not to submit your test scores. If you’ve scored within the middle 50%, submitting your scores is generally considered a smart strategy, especially if you’re on the high end of the range.
Selective schools like Harvard use a tool known as the Academic Index to screen applicants–a calculation of an applicant’s academic performance into a single numerical score. Failure to meet a school’s academic benchmarks may automatically disqualify an applicant unless they’re an under-represented minority, legacy, or recruited athlete.
Harvard University Application Process
Planning on applying to Harvard University? Here’s what to expect.
Harvard accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application—the university has no preference as to which of the two applications are used. There is an $85 application fee and fee waivers are available for qualifying students.
Harvard has two paths to admission: restrictive early action (REA) and regular decision (RD). The REA deadline is November 1 and the deadline for RD is January 1. REA is a non-binding early admission program that limits an applicant’s other early action and early decision options. Harvard claims that REA does not offer an advantage, although those applying for REA have historically been accepted at a higher rate than those who apply for RD.
- Restrictive early action acceptance rate: 7.9%
- Regular decision acceptance rate: 4.01%
- Two teacher evaluations
- School report which includes a high school transcript and counselor letter
- Mid-year school report
- Final school report (for admitted students only)
- SAT/ACT (optional)
- Supplemental essays
Supplemental Essays: Harvard requires applicants to compose two supplemental essays and provides them with the option to respond to a third. Generally, it’s a smart strategy to complete optional essays—it demonstrates your interest in the school and provides an opportunity for the applicant to share more about themselves.
- Prompt 1: Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words)
- Prompt 2: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)
- Prompt 3 (optional): You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics: (ideally about 500 words)
- Unusual circumstances in your life.
- Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities.
- What you would want your future college roommate to know about you.
- An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you.
- How you hope to use your college education.
- A list of books you have read during the past twelve months.
- The Harvard College Honor code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
- The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
- Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
- Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.
- If none of the suggested prompts are appealing, applicants are welcome to write on a topic of their choice.
CollegeVine can help ease some anxiety over completing Harvard’s supplemental essays. Our article How to Write the Harvard University Supplemental Essays 2022-2023 provides a good guideline for the process and offers advice for creating attention-grabbing essays. Do you already have drafts of your essays? CollegeVine Essay Review provides free essay feedback from other students and paid expert essay evaluation.
Supplemental Materials: Typically, the standard application provides Harvard with enough information to make admissions decisions. However, some students will want to share more about themselves, especially those with unique talents or accomplishments, such as musicians and artists.
Interviews: Applicants are assigned an interview at the discretion of the Admissions Committee and, in part, based on the availability of alumni in the area. Applications are considered complete without an interview—a student’s application contains enough information to make admissions decisions.
When Will You Hear Back?
Students who applied for restrictive early action can expect to receive notification by mid-December. Those admitted through REA are not required to accept an offer of admission until May 1. Students who applied for regular decision receive notification by the end of March.
Harvard University Financial Aid
Financial Aid Generosity
The price of tuition, fees, room, and board at Harvard for the 2022-23 academic year is $76,763. Despite Harvard’s high sticker price, for 90% of Americans, it’s more affordable than public universities and international students receive the exact same financial aid as American students.
The average parent contribution at Harvard is $12,000 and 20% of Harvard families pay nothing. In the 2022-23 academic year, students from families with annual incomes of up to $75,000 aren’t expected to contribute to the cost of their child’s education. Families with annual incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 will contribute between 0 and 10% of their income.
Harvard practices need-blind admissions, meaning it doesn’t consider the financial situation of applicants when making admissions decisions. Harvard also meets 100% of the demonstrated need of its students. In fact, all of Harvard’s awards are based on need—the university doesn’t offer merit scholarships.
Interested in learning more about the actual cost of attending Harvard University? Check out our article What Does It Really Cost to Attend Harvard?.
How to Apply for Financial Aid
Harvard requires applicants to submit their CSS profile, IDOCV, and Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Those applying for restrictive early action must have all three in by November 1, while those applying for regular decision are required to submit all three by February 1.
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
Harvard University is known for its super-selective admissions, but just how hard is it for you personally to get in? CollegeVine can shed some light on your chances of acceptance at Harvard. Our free Chancing Engine uses factors like academics, extracurriculars, and demographics to estimate your individual odds of admission at Harvard, along with hundreds of other schools across the country. It can also provide valuable insight into how to improve your profile!
Learn more about Harvard, including its diversity, majors offered, and how long your application should take.