How to Get into Harvard University

This is the go-to guide for getting into Harvard University. We suggest you read until the end... Not only will we layout the exact GPA and test scores you should aim for when applying to Harvard University, but we’ll also offer creative ways to help your application stand out from the pack. We breakdown Harvard University statistics better than any article out there and show you how these have changed over time. Also, make sure to check out Harvard University on CampusReel to see what it’s really like here. Here’s what we’re about to cover:

What GPA do you need to get into Harvard University?

Harvard University’s average GPA is 4.18. Harvard University does require GPA. This average GPA means Harvard University is brutally selective - the most competitive applicants in the world are already applying to the school, in hopes of taking up residence in Cambridge, and, somehow, you need to be better. Generally speaking, if your GPA is not at least equal to 4.18 then Harvard University may be a reach. However, Harvard University considers the ENTIRE application - we can make up for a weak GPA with more factors that we’ll discuss below. If your GPA is equal to or greater than 4.18, you’re sitting right in the sweetspot.

*BEFORE CONTINUING PLEASE NOTE: GPA and “prestige” DO NOT mean a college is right for you. Harvard University may seem amazing on paper, but you may hate it... That’s why 700,000 students transfer colleges every year - they end up going to the wrong school. It’s crucial to watch the videos on CampusReel and make sure you can envision yourself on Harvard University’s campus. These Harvard University admission statistics do not sufficiently tell you what a college or university is like.

What is Harvard University’s acceptance rate?

Last year Harvard University’s acceptance rate was 5.58. However, check out how the acceptance rate has changed over time.

2016 2017 2018
Acceptance Rate 5.0 % 5.0 % 5.58 %

As you can see, Harvard University is a little easier to get into than last year.

Acceptance rate alone does not indicate your likelihood for getting into Harvard University - it’s a very high level understanding of the true competition. Use the acceptance rate as a general guide for curating a list of 10-15 schools that fall into different ranges of competitiveness. Then, use the below data to get a deeper understanding of how your application will compare to the rest of the pool.

Does Harvard University Require Test Scores?

Harvard University requires that you either take the SAT or ACT. See the table below for how Harvard University’s accepted students have performed on both tests. You may be wondering how many test scores should you submit. Generally, don’t freak out about taking the test too often. Industry consensus is that you can submit up to 6 tests as a reasonable limit.

Harvard University SAT Requirements

Harvard University’s average SAT score is 1515 - this is the sum of the math and reading portions of the SAT (the 1600 scale). Check out the below table for a deeper look into how students performed - it’s also very interesting to look at the average test score over time. The trend over time helps give insight into whether Harvard University is getting more or less competitive.

25th Percentile 75th Percentile Average
Math 720 800 760
Reading 710 800 755
2019 Total 1430 1600 1515
2018 Total - - -
2017 Total - - -

Harvard University’s average SAT score is 1515. To be a competitive applicant for Harvard University your SAT score should come close to the average. If you’re closer to the 1430, you’re likely going to have a tougher time getting accepted. To consider Harvard University a “target” school (one that you are likely to get into) you should aim for a score of 1600.

Harvard University ACT Requirements

Harvard University’s average ACT score is 83. To be a competitive applicant for Harvard University your ACT score should come close to the average. If you’re closer to the 96, you’re likely going to have a tougher time getting accepted. To consider Harvard University a “target” school (one that you have a good chance of getting into) you should aim for a score of 70.

25th Percentile 75th Percentile Average
Math 31 - 31
Reading 33 35 34
Writing 32 35 33
2019 Total 96 70 83
2018 Total - - -
2017 Total - - -

How hard is it to get into Harvard University?

As you can see from the data above, Harvard University is exceptionally difficult to get into. Not only should you be aiming for a 4.18 but also SAT scores around 1515. Getting into Harvard University is no easy feat and you will need to set yourself apart with more than just numbers and data. Read on to learn how.

Harvard University Requirements

Now you know where you need to be for getting into Harvard University from a grade and test score perspective. Let’s quickly outline what else you’ll need to provide for your application to get reviewed, and then we’ll move onto the most important section: differentiating your app.

Recommendations Status
School Rank Recommended
GPA Recommended
School Record Required

How to get into Harvard University

Follow these steps to maximize your chances of getting into Harvard University. Everything you read above will help prepare you for what you need to achieve to have a shot at Harvard University, but these steps will take you even further in applying that knowledge and differentiating your application.

Main Academic Excellence that is in line with Harvard University admission standards.

  1. Score at least a 1515 on the SAT or 83 on the ACT.
  2. Maintain a GPA of at least a 4.18.

Join Extracurriculars that Align with Harvard University’s Values.

  1. Join your school band, a sports team or another group activity. If Harvard University values music heavily, for example, then try to participate in an organization related to that topic.
  2. Volunteer in your hometown. Cambridge has tons of ways to be involved beyond just the college. Harvard University wants applicants that are also good ambassadors for the school - they want students who will give back to the local community and broader Cambridge area in general.
  3. Spend your summer doing something that speaks to your values, personal growth, leadership qualities and other less quantifiable characteristics. Harvard University needs to see past your test scores and grades - they need to know that you will be a valuable and contributing member of their community. You are more than grades and test scores - your experiences should demonstrate that.

Prepare Your Application

  1. Write a stellar essay that shows Harvard University something they can’t figure out from the other parts of your application. For a detailed guide on writing the best college essay, check this out.
  2. Get teacher recs that speak to your character. If you know what you’re majoring in and include that in your Harvard University app, try to have at least 1 recommendation from a teacher in that department.
  3. Apply Before the Deadline. Too many students wait until the last minute to submit their application, and too much can go wrong during this precious time window. Since many students are applying on the last day, it’s possible that Harvard University’s own system crashes. Don’t risk the added stress this can cause - submit your app a few days early.