How to get into Harvard is a question asked by thousands of applicants every year. As one of the premier higher education institutions in the world, Harvard draws thousands of hopeful applicants to its doors and puts out stellar alumni with every graduating class. Harvard College, as part of Harvard’s many universities, offers a top-tier undergraduate education, and it could be one of the to pick if you have your eyes on a Harvard MBA or other prestigious graduate program. In this blog, we’ll look at Harvard University’s undergraduate college, its application process, components and timeline, admissions statistics and eligibility, tuition and funding, and waitlist and acceptance information.
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“The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.”
Undergraduate degrees with a liberal arts and sciences focus are available through the Harvard College school of Harvard University. The college’s vision is to provide an “educational journey that is intellectually, socially, and personally transformative.”
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Founded in 1636, Harvard College is the oldest higher education institution in the United States. The school operates independently of Harvard University, which is comprised of 10 graduate and professional schools and is part of the famed in the US. Harvard College offers four-year degree programs for undergraduate students only.
Harvard College offers a wide variety of undergraduate study, with a special emphasis on the arts and sciences, but also offers many program choices in history, engineering, languages, literature, economics, government and public policy and cultural studies. In total, students can choose from over 3,700 courses.
It should be noted that Harvard College has taken steps throughout the pandemic to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 on campus, including moving most of its courses to online learning. As of January, 2022, steps have been taken to reduce the number of students on campus. Details on which courses are only available online and which students have permission to remain on campus vary, so check with admissions officers and campus advisors for up-to-date details on online learning.
The Harvard College application will include a number of different components, including but not limited to:
Harvard College is one of the schools which uses the for its first-year applications. It also accepts the Coalition Application and treats both application types equally. On the common app, there will be some supplementary questions to answer that are specific to Harvard College. The common app also typically includes your , extracurricular and .
Aside from their academic transcripts, your school will be asked to submit a school report, which includes a letter from your school guidance counselor. Students are required to submit a mid-year school report by February of their application year, as well. This report will include any missing grades from your final year of high school and is typically completed by the school guidance counselor or a school official. If you are an international student, your school can send predicted grades or teachers’ reports in place of the mid-year report.
The application also includes two teacher evaluations. Students should ask two teachers of different subjects to write their evaluations. You can also submit additional once your common app is submitted.
Supplemental materials can cover anything from a standard and to personal achievements, awards or other notable accomplishments in the arts, athletics or sciences. Supplemental materials can also include any academic research, creative writing, film or art projects and any other notable personal projects. You’ll be able to submit these to the school after your common app is complete and submitted.
Harvard College offers a Restrictive Early Action admissions deadline. Early Action closes on November 1 of each year, and students typically hear back in mid-December about admissions decisions. First-year Regular Decision admissions deadline is January 1, and students can expect to hear back by the end of March. Both of these programs allow you to wait until May 1 to make a final decision on whether you will attend Harvard, giving you a chance to compare admission and financial aid offers from other colleges.
Harvard College has the following timeline for their admissions process:
Harvard College admissions is, as expected highly competitive. The school has an average acceptance rate of 5%, making it one of the most competitive schools in the US and the world.
For the admitted class of 2025, Harvard lists over 57,700 applicants. Of those, only 2,320 have been enrolled so far, with 15% of them being international students.
To stay on top of the competition, you’ll need an extremely strong application. The average GPA of Harvard students is 4.18, with average SAT scores of 1520 and average ACT scores of 35. As these are just the average scores, it shows just how academically accomplished your competition is. It’s also recommended that you take some in high school to demonstrate your academic proficiency. If your test scores are below the average, consider retaking the test to improve your score. If your GPA is lower than average, look at some ways to and how to increase your score before you apply.
There are no concrete choices when it comes to student background, program choice or extracurricular interest. It’s advisable to demonstrate a wide field of interest and a variety of interests. The class of 2025 comes from a diverse background and has an equally diverse concentration of study. The programs of choice for the class of 2025 are:
Want to learn more about getting into Ivy League schools like Harvard? Watch this video.
As Harvard College is an extremely competitive school, students who are below the average GPA and standardized test scores are not likely to be considered for admission. However, other parts of their application may be sufficient to offset lower test scores.
Due to the pandemic, Harvard College has released a statement that says applicants will not be required to submit SAT or ACT scores, even for programs which require them. Students are still welcome to submit their scores, but they will not be disadvantaged if they choose not to do so. Historically, students with excellent standardized test scores, high GPAs and excellent applications have been accepted, so submitting scores anyways is advisable.
Harvard College doesn’t cite any recommendations for courses other than specific prerequisites for certain undergraduate programs. The school does advise students to take on whichever courses are of interest to them and suit their skills and talents, and to take a variety of courses.
The total cost of tuition for Harvard College is calculated at $74,000, excluding personal costs. For students who choose to live off campus or live out of state, they will need to calculate travel and accommodation costs as well. First-year students must live in on-campus housing their first year, although a small percentage of students choose to move off-campus in their following years.
Since it is a significant undertaking, it’s highly recommended students reach out to the financial aid office for advice. Students can also calculate their net costs on the Harvard College website to start budgeting their school expenses.
Harvard College aims to be affordable. Students can apply for need-based scholarships through the Griffin Financial Aid Office. Up to 55% of students at Harvard College receive financial aid every year to help offset tuition and schooling costs. 20% of the students at Harvard are able to attend with all their costs covered. International applicants are equally eligible to receive financial aid.
Domestic students can also apply for federal loans programs or take out student loans to cover the costs of school. Students, both domestic and international, may also be eligible for scholarships, grants and bursaries both in the United States and abroad, so it’s advisable to do some research to see which of these you may be eligible for.
Harvard College does offer interviews to its applicants, although it may not be possible for each applicant to be interviewed with the huge number of applicants each year. If you are not offered an interview, this will not negatively affect your candidacy and is not an indication of a weak application. More likely, there was simply not an interviewer available near you. If you are offered a , you can prepare yourself to make the best impression possible. You can also review some potential you can expect so you’re not surprised when they come up.
Harvard College also does its best to arrange alumni interviews with its applicants. Harvard alumni volunteer their time to meet with applicants and answer questions about campus life, courses and the Harvard experience. Applicants are usually contacted directly by alumni to arrange an interview. This interview has no bearing on acceptance decisions but is merely to prepare applicants for college and answer any questions they may have. Your interviewer will want to get to know you as well, and what makes you tick, so the toughest questions they may ask you is the or the ones. The task of your interviewer is to get to know you better as a candidate and get you excited about attending Harvard, but they also want to confirm that you’re a superior applicant and will be a great addition to the Harvard community.
Most likely, the only interview you’ll have is with a Harvard alumni, but this is still an excellent opportunity to brush up on your interview skills, practice preparing for a professional interview and most importantly, get some of your questions answered before you start classes.
Restrictive Early Action applicants are notified of their application acceptance by mid-December of each year. Regular Decision admissions applicants are notified by March of each year. Once an application is submitted, students will receive a confirmation email from the school within 2 weeks. If they do not, it is advised to contact the school administration office.
There is a waitlist at Harvard College, although it is not ranked. Applications the admissions committee still wish to consider for acceptance are placed on the waitlist in case spots in the entering class open later. Although it depends on the application year, as many as 200 applicants have been accepted from off the waitlist. Other years, if application numbers are high or especially competitive, no students have been accepted off the waitlist. Being placed on the waitlist does not mean you have no chance of being accepted, just that the application numbers are probably very high and admissions is competitive.
If you’re applying to a competitive program, for example , you can consider sending a to show the school that you’re still committed to attending if you’re selected from the waitlist. Since your application is reviewed by a committee, contact the admissions office for their policy on sending a letter of continued interest.
If you applied during the Restrictive Early Action decisions period, it is highly likely your application will be deferred to the Regular Decision round. So be prepared to wait a little longer to hear back on your admission decision. Early admission competition at Harvard College continues to be extremely rigorous, so the admissions committee does defer strong applications more often.
The admissions committee also allows and encourages students to defer their enrollment, if they are accepted, for one year to travel, pursue a special project or work opportunity. They may also grant a two-year deferral for military or religious service.
The Harvard College Admissions Office can be contacted at 617-495-1551.
The Admissions Office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The phone line is closed Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.
1. Is it difficult to get into Harvard?
Yes. Harvard is notoriously extremely selective and competitive with an acceptance rate of around 5%. Of over 57,000 applicants in 2025, just over 2,000 were accepted.
2. What does Harvard look for?
In general, Harvard is looking for the best of the best. This doesn’t necessarily mean the best grades or test scores, but the school seeks to admit those students who show the greatest potential, growth, talent and spirit.
3. What GPA do you need to get into Harvard?
The average GPA of accepted students at Harvard is 4.18.
4. What SAT/ACT scores do you need to get into Harvard?
Applicants should aim to get at least 1520 on their SAT or 35 on their ACT, which are the average accepted scores of Harvard students.
5. Is Harvard expensive?
Tuition and associated costs of an undergraduate degree at Harvard can exceed $72,000, although there is financial aid available.
6. Can I qualify for financial aid?
On average 55% of students at Harvard are receiving financial aid covering all or some of the costs of tuition and schooling. First-year students are also required to live on-campus, which can save on costs. Financial aid is given out based on need.
7. Does Harvard accept international students?
Yes. Harvard welcomes students from all over the world. Around 15% of the students at Harvard are international students.
8. Is Harvard the best university?
Harvard University, and its associated schools and programs, is widely considered one of the best universities in the world, and remains one of the top universities in the United States for its academic and research excellence.