How to get into Harvard University?

Attending Harvard University is a dream shared by thousands of students in the U.S. and across the world. As one of the most elite universities, Harvard’s admissions process is notoriously competitive and difficult. While it is hard to get admitted to this famous Ivy League school, it is possible with some hard and dedicated work. If you want to go to college at Harvard, you must start preparing early while recognizing that the chances of admission are small. Graduates of Harvard are recognized as being among the top scholars and thinkers in the world, and many have gone on to achieve greatness in both their lives and the world at large.

What is the acceptance rate at Harvard?

Harvard is extremely selective. For the class of 2023, Harvard received 43,330 applications and offered admission to 2,009. Out of the admitted students, 1,650 matriculated. This means that for the class of 2023, the admissions rate was just 4.6%, making Harvard one of the most selective universities in the U.S. For every 100 people who apply, fewer than five are admitted. Harvard boasts a graduation rate that averages 98%.

The highly selective nature of the school means that you will need to stand out with your grades and scores to make it past the first round. You will then need to impress the admissions officers with the remainder of your application, your letters of recommendation, your essay, your extracurriculars, athletics, and interview.

What SAT or ACT scores do I need to get into Harvard?

While some universities and colleges are moving away from using standardized test scores to make admissions decisions, these tests are still crucial if you want to pass through the first round of review of the applications at Harvard. Like your GPA, you need to get top scores on your ACT or SAT to be admitted to Harvard. While Harvard says that it does not use a score cutoff for the ACT or SAT for admission, the admissions statistics demonstrate that your scores are important. According to the College Board, admitted freshmen have the following scores on their SATs or ACTs at the 25th and 75th percentiles:

  • SAT Evidence-based Reading & Writing – 25th percentile 720

  • SAT Evidence-based Reading & Writing – 75th percentile 780

  • SAT Math – 25th percentile 740

  • SAT Math – 75th percentile 800

  • ACT Composite – 25th percentile 33

  • ACT Composite – 75th percentile 35

To understand these scores, the SAT has a total possible score of 1600, which represents an 800 in both the SAT EBRW and SAT math sections. The ACT composite score ranges from one to 36 with a 36 representing a perfect score. Among entering freshmen who submitted ACT scores, 95% earned scores between 30 and 36. Among those who submitted SAT scores, 85% earned scores from 700 to 800 on the EBRW test, and 88% earned scores from 700 to 800 on the math section. While it is not impossible to get into Harvard with lower scores, the chances are much lower. If you want to go to Harvard, you should aim to get the highest scores possible on the test of your choice.

You should also take some time to figure out which test to take. It is a good idea for you to take a pretest of both the ACT and the SAT to see on which test you score better. Some students do better on one test over the other while others do not show much difference between the two tests. If you take practice tests in both and see that you score much better on one, concentrate on preparing for that test as part of your preparations for gaining admission to Harvard.

Like other aspects of applying to Harvard, starting early with your test preparation is a good idea. You can and should take the PSAT in your sophomore year. This test can give you an idea of how the SAT works. Harvard also uses PSAT scores to identify promising students from across the U.S. to invite to apply. When you take the PSAT in your junior year, you will be in the running to be named as a National Merit scholar. Being named as a National Merit scholar also provides you with a scholarship that you can use to defray the costs of higher education at Harvard.

In addition to taking the ACT or SAT, you should also plan to take SAT subject tests. Harvard does not require that you take SAT subject tests, but it strongly recommends that applicants take at least two of them. Anytime that you see a recommendation, you should follow it. Take SAT subject tests in the areas in which you are most strongly interested. For example, if you think that you might want to pursue a degree in mathematics, take the SAT Math Level 1 or Level 2 test. If you are interested in physics, take a subject test in that area. Take subject tests for the courses that are your strongest to make your application stronger.

What GPA do I need to get into Harvard?

To be considered for admission to Harvard, you must earn top grades in high school. The Harvard Crimson reports that the average reported GPA of entering freshmen in the class of 2022 was 3.90 on a 4.0 unweighted scale. According to College Data, the average weighted GPA of freshmen matriculates is 4.18. This demonstrates that you need to strive to graduate in the top 5% of your class. It is even better if you can graduate at the top of your class. Throughout high school, check your class rank and be prepared to put in the hard work it takes to earn top marks.

The quality of the classes that you take is also important. If you earn straight As in easy classes in high school, that will not impress the admissions officers at Harvard. They will want to see that you have earned As in difficult courses.

What classes should I take in high school to get into Harvard?

Harvard states that there isn’t a single path of academics that all applicants are expected to follow in high school. However, the school says that the strongest applicants take the most difficult courses that their schools have to offer. Harvard recommends that students should complete the following secondary coursework:

  • Four years of English with a strong writing component

  • Four years of mathematics

  • Four years of science, including biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course

  • Three years of history, including European and U.S. history

  • Four years of the same foreign language

If your school does not offer some of the subjects on this list, there is no reason to be concerned. Harvard wants you to take the most challenging courses that are available at your school but does not count off if your school does not offer additional courses. For example, if your school only offers two years of French, and you take French I and II, that should suffice. Similarly, if your high school does not offer an advanced course in biology, chemistry, or physics, take what you can and do your best. You can also take supplemental courses at your local community college or university to make up for what your school might lack.

If your school offers the advanced placement or AP courses, you should take them instead of opting for the regular versions. Taking AP biology, getting an A, and then taking the AP biology test and scoring a five will look much better than taking a regular biology class and getting an A. While Harvard will not grant college credit for your AP tests, the school does want to see that you have taken advantage of all of the opportunities that are available to you, including AP courses and tests.

Some schools offer international baccalaureate classes. Like AP classes, these courses are more challenging than typical high school classes. Take IB courses if they are offered at your school, and take the IB exams. Like the AP tests, Harvard will not grant college credit for your IB exams, but taking them and scoring highly can strengthen your application.

Finally, some high schools do not offer many AP or IB classes or any at all. If your high school does not offer these types of classes, take the most difficult curriculum that is offered at your school. Some schools partner with local colleges or universities to offer dual credit or dual enrollment courses. If this option is available to you, take as many dual credit or dual enrollment classes as you can while you are in high school. This can show your preparedness for college and your self-motivation. When you do take difficult classes at your high school or through your local college, remember the importance of your grades. Harvard expects you to take difficult courses and to do well in them.

If you start taking a class in high school and notice that you are struggling with it, hire a tutor as soon as possible to help you. Often, a tutor can help you to understand concepts that are difficult for you so that you can achieve a great grade in hard classes. A tutor might also help to unlock subjects for you in such a way that you might find that you enjoy a subject that you previously avoided.

Does Harvard accept AP credit?

Harvard does not grant credit for college coursework that you have completed before you matriculate at the school. In other words, if you have credit from your AP tests, IB exams, or dual credit classes in high school, you will not be granted credit at Harvard. The school also no longer has advanced standing exams, so all students enter the college on equal footing. Prior coursework can help to strengthen your application, however, so you should not refrain from taking classes that lead to college credit in high school.

Getting into Harvard is not easy, but it is possible. Being admitted will require dedication, focus, perseverance, and organization. It is best if you can start preparing to apply for Harvard as early as possible. To learn more about how the professionals at Going Ivy can help, schedule a consultation today.

What extracurricular activities should I participate in to get into Harvard?

There is no one, magic extracurricular activity the Harvard admissions department wants in students. Harvard is less interested in the number of extracurricular activities in which you are involved and more in the quality of the ones that you have chosen. College-bound high school students across the U.S. have likely been told that they need to be as well-rounded as possible to get into the colleges or universities of their choice. This leads students to overcommit to extracurricular activities and to sign up for as many as possible. Instead of signing up for everything, participate in quality extracurricular activities that accurately reflect your areas of interest. You should also seek leadership roles in the clubs or organizations that you join for your extracurriculars. If your school does not have a club that reflects your interests, talk to your principal about starting your own.

In addition to extracurricular activities through your school, consider participating in activities outside of school. Think about some of the problems in your community and what you might do to help. Showing a spirit of volunteerism and concern for others can help to demonstrate the quality of your character. If you can come up with an innovative solution to a social ill in your community, that is even better.

What should I write in my personal statement for Harvard?

As a part of your application, you will be asked to write a personal essay. This essay allows you to tell the admissions officers more about you so that they can understand why you should be admitted to Harvard. Resist the urge to recite your accomplishments in your essay. It should not be a regurgitation of your high school resume. Instead, it should be personal and demonstrate the person that you are.

You should anticipate writing multiple drafts of your essay. Continue working on it until it is the best that it can be. Do not allow your parents to write your essay for you. Admissions officers can tell when a parent has written an applicant’s essay, and it is a quick way to get denied. The admissions officers want to hear your voice and see the world through your eyes. Consider having someone you respect such as a teacher or college admissions counselor read your essay so that he or she can provide some objective criticism. Be prepared to rewrite it as many times as you need to so that it will be compelling. In some cases, a great essay can push an otherwise average application over the top to admission.

Who should write my Harvard letter of recommendation?

You should select a recommender who knows you well and who will dedicate the time necessary for a strong recommendation. Your letters of recommendation are important because they allow the admissions officers at Harvard to see who you are through the eyes of others. Ask teachers who know you well on both a personal and academic basis to write letters of recommendation for you. You will not be able to read what they write about you, so choose carefully. Harvard asks for two teacher reports to be submitted on your behalf. There will be a link in your confirmation email to send to your teachers for recommendations. The teachers you choose should be in different academic subjects.

When should I start preparing to apply to Harvard?

If you think that you might want to attend Harvard, you should start preparing as early as possible. If you are still in junior high, you are at an advantage with preparing for Harvard. If you are in high school, start preparing during your freshman year if possible. Harvard will want to see that you have been a stellar student during your entire high school career.

If you are a sophomore, junior, or senior, it does not mean that it is too late. Your time frame will be shortened, and you will have much more to do in less time. Juniors and seniors who have decided that they want to attend Harvard will not be able to do much to raise their GPAs. If you are at this point in your high school career, you hopefully will have earned top grades and can concentrate on preparing for and taking the standardized admissions tests of your choice. Seniors who have earned good grades and test scores will need to concentrate on their applications and keeping their grades up during their senior year.

The key to having enough time to prepare for applying to Harvard is to start as early as possible. If you are reading this article, you have hopefully already begun. If you haven’t, start preparing now.

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