Harvard Acceptance Rate & Admission Requirements (Complete Guide)

Harvard University is well-known and respected. It is located in Cambridge in Massachusetts. Harvard applicants are drawn from all corners of the globe. They seek to benefit from the rich resources and close connections to Boston.

Is Harvard able to accept your SAT/ACT scores? What about your high-school GPA? It seems difficult to grasp the admissions process for Ivy League schools. How does Harvard select who they will accept? What can I do to increase my chances of being accepted by Harvard? Raise your test scores? Get involved in extracurricular activities. Do you want to take action early?

Below we have summarized everything we can about Harvard University's admissions processes. Learn more to see if you're competitive, and to get tips on how to increase your chances to be accepted as a student.

Harvard Acceptance rate

Harvard is very selective. Harvard had a 4.6% overall admissions ratio in 2018. This means that 95 percent of all applicants were denied by admissions officers. Additionally, Harvard's Early Action Acceptance Rate, which is higher that Harvard's regular Decision rate, is also included in the overall admissions rate. We have written about this elsewhere. In other words, Harvard's regular admissions rate is actually closer to 3%.

Additionally, college admissions are becoming increasingly competitive with more applicants from all over the world. You must be unique. Although these admission statistics can seem daunting, don't be afraid. If you are familiar with the requirements of Harvard, you will be able tailor your college application for them.

Harvard GPA Requirements

Let's begin with your grade-point average (GPA). Harvard admissions officers will use your transcript from high school to calculate your GPA.

According to Harvard, the average Harvard high school student's GPA was 4.04 out 4.0. This is known as a "weighted GPA". Unweighted GPAs can be misleading as high schools have different weights. Harvard admissions requires a 4.0 GPA. This is almost as straight as you can get in any class.

Requirements for SAT/ACT

Harvard, as the rest, and many other colleges, require either the SAT/ACT to be admitted. They do not have any preference. You can choose which test is better for you.

The average SAT score of Harvard students is a combination of ACT composite scores and SAT totals. You will not be admitted unless you are an athlete, donor, or a member of a privileged group (athletes and legacies). For admission to be maximized, your SAT/ACT scores should be closer than 25th percentile.

Harvard Average SAT and ACT Scores

Test/Section 25th percentile 50th percentile (Mean). 75th percentile
Total 1460 1510 1580
SAT Reading 720 750 780
SAT Math 740 760 800
ACT 33 34 35

Harvard University "superscores” SATs, but not ACTs. They will combine and match scores from different days on the SAT. However, they only take composite ACT scores.

Subject Tests for the SAT

Harvard recommends applicants submit two SAT II scores, or subject test scores. Harvard doesn't explicitly require that you submit scores from these subject tests, but you should if possible.

Decide on percentiles rather than scores. Scores are adjusted based upon who took the test in the year. A score of 750 on English Language and Literature is considered a higher score than a score of 750 on Math 2 SAT Subject Test.

Additional Harvard Application Requirements

These are the Harvard academic requirements. What about all the other things? Harvard admissions officers are interested in your personal life, as well as your academic achievements. Harvard admissions is more than just reporting your grades or SAT scores. There are also key aspects that should be considered.

  • SAT Subject Test Scores, ACT scores or two SAT Subject Test Scores.
  • High School transcript
  • Mid-year Report
  • $75 Application Fee or Waiver
  • Completed Common Applications
  • Harvard-specific essays

Recommendations letters

Harvard will require letters of recommendation from both your teachers and your school counselor in order to fully understand your student identity. Don't just focus on the teachers who gave the highest grades. Ask for letters of recommendation from people who are familiar with you and can write you great letters.

Recommendations from Counselors & School Documents

Your school counselor will also submit additional documents, along with your transcript and letter.

  • A school reports, which contains information on your school's demographics. Also includes its most significant features (e.g. how many AP classes are allowed).
  • A mid-year update, which will provide Harvard with information about senior year grades that may not have been posted at the time you apply.

Harvard will also use them to contextualize the application.

The Common Application & An Essay

The Common Application (or Coalition Application) will be required. This online interface will help you navigate college applications. The Common Application consists mainly of standard demographic and education information. A section called "activities" will be completed, in which you can detail any extracurricular involvement.

You will also need to submit a single essay for the Common Application. The Common Application asks for a 650-word essay that reflects on a significant moment in your life. Common App essays must be strong to make your application competitive. Make sure you revise the essay at least three times.

Supplemental Essays

Harvard and other schools may require additional essays that are specific to their school. These may be different each year but they usually ask about your interest and/or details about what you have already done. Harvard University asked only three questions about essays last year. These topics included:

  • Please describe briefly one of your work or extracurricular experiences.
  • What would you like your college roommate to know?
  • Harvard College exists to help students become citizens and citizens-leaders. How can you help your classmates live a better life?

A strong application strategy is necessary to ensure that essays are written, edited, and completed.

Payment for App Original: Annual Salary Paraphrased: Yearly Wage

To submit your application online, you will need to pay $75. You can waive these fees if you show financial hardship.

Deadlines for applications

When you're putting together your materials, remember the deadlines! Harvard needs everything submitted by:

  • November 1, Single-Choice Early Action
  • January 1, Regular Decision

Early Action decisions will be released in December, while Regular Decision applicants will be able to hear online in April. Students admitted must make a decision by May 1 whether they will attend.

Demographics for Harvard University Students

Harvard University accepts students of all backgrounds and origins. The Harvard Crimson shows that Harvard University admits students from all walks of life.

  • 50% men, 50% women
  • Approximately one-fourth of the population is Asian American.
  • 14.8% African-American/black
  • 12.4% of the population is Latinx.
  • 2.4% of the population identifies as Native American or Pacific Islander.
  • 16.4% for students of the first generation

Final thoughts about applying to Harvard

Last but not least, Harvard University is very selective. It makes sense to apply to other schools like Yale University and Princeton University.

Best of luck to you! Remember, we can help you with anything: understanding your GPA, taking the SAT/ACT, which extracurricular activities to choose, how to spend summers, and what to write about.


  • baileywilliams

    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!