Often considered the pinnacle of the Ivy League, Harvard University is one of the most prestigious, and most competitive, universities in the United States.
Thousands of students apply to attend this school each year, and for good reason:
- Harvard has an impeccable reputation that will open the doors to great job opportunities in the future
- Harvard has an extensive alumni network that helps students build connections with notable business leaders, lawyers, CEOs, and more.
- Harvard has world-class professors and industry leaders teaching courses and providing internships for students
Students who attend Harvard were at the top of their classes in high school, and they boast some of the highest GPAs and standardized test scores in the country.
Getting accepted into Harvard is not an easy feat, but it is not an impossible one, either.
You can maximize your chances of getting into Harvard by paying close attention to their entry requirements, working hard during your high school years, and doing everything in your power to bolster your application.
Harvard entry requirements
According to Harvard University, their admission rate was just 3.24% for their class of 2026. This school is highly selective, and only the top of the top students are admitted each year.
Because there are so many applicants each year, Harvard has to have strict admission criteria, and they only choose the applicants who are going to have the greatest chance of contributing to the institution’s accolades and accomplishments.
High GPA and test scores
The average student who attends Harvard typically has a 1580 or above on the SAT or a 35 or above on the ACT. The average GPA for admitted students is 4.18.
In addition to these academic achievements, students who want to get into Harvard need to shine in the following areas:
- Growth and Potential
- Interests and Activities
- Personal Character
- Potential Contribution to the Harvard Community
Growth and potential
Harvard wants students who actively seek out opportunities to grow and challenge themselves. They want self-starters who will be excited to learn and take advantage of the educational and networking opportunities the school has to offer.
Interests and activities
Harvard also wants to see that students care about more than academics. They want their undergraduates to contribute to and enhance the community at Harvard, both on and off campus.
They want students who are deeply involved in extracurricular activities, family commitments, volunteer work, and other activities that show that they have passions outside of the classroom.
This Ivy League school has a strong reputation for a reason. They only accept students who have strong potential for leadership and other character traits that will make them a boon for the school.
They want students who are honest, mature, gracious, and compassionate.
Potential contribution to the Harvard community
Harvard wants students who are going to make their campus better. They don’t want students who will ostracize others or cause problems for students and faculty.
They want students who will start organizations, lead clubs, and participate in activities on campus.
Applying to Harvard
Here are the application requirements for Harvard University undergraduates:
- Common Application or Coalition Application
- Harvard College Questions for the Common Application or Coalition Application Harvard supplement
- $85 fee (or request a fee waiver)
- SAT or ACT (with or without writing) – no longer optional after the 2026 application cycle
- Optional: AP or other examination results
- School Report (which includes a counselor letter) and high school transcript
- Teacher Report and Recommendation letters ((2)
- Mid-year School Report (second semester/trimester grades)
- Final School Report (for admitted students only)
Students who want to apply Early Action must apply by November 1, and they will receive notification by mid-December. Regular Decision candidates apply by January 1 and will receive notification by the end of March.
Improving your chances of getting into Harvard
If you want to be one of the less than 4% of students who are accepted into Harvard, you have to start preparing early and thoroughly.
Here are some tips that can make a difference for your Harvard application:
Take challenging courses
You can’t earn a gpa of 4.18 or above without taking some weighted courses, and you can’t impress Harvard admissions officers without having honors, AP, and/or IB classes on your transcript.
When your counselors talk to you about signing up for courses each year, pay attention and ask questions. Make a plan to take as many challenging courses as you can successfully complete so that you can have a strong gpa and show Harvard that you have the potential to succeed on their campus.
Unlike many other universities, Harvard requires students to submit a mid-year report, and they also require admitted students to send a final report.
Don’t be one of the many students who fall victim to “senioritis” part way through your senior year. Stay focused and keep your grades up so that your mid-year report is as attractive as your transcript on your initial application.
Connect with your teachers
You will need to submit two teacher reports with your application. If you want a strong recommendation from your teachers, you need to make sure they know who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing.
Try to stay in touch with teachers from classes where you had a strong performance, and make sure you are always maintaining your integrity and working hard in each of your classes. This will lead to stronger teacher reports, which will boost your admission chances.
Take on leadership roles
If you aren’t doing so already, sign up for an extracurricular activity or two and devote time and energy to this activity.
Taking on a leadership role in an extracurricular activity or organization is a great way to show Harvard that you will make a positive contribution to their campus.
Rather than signing up for several activities that you rarely attend, try choosing just a couple and prioritizing your depth of involvement.
Find your passions
Harvard wants to see that their students are passionate about something, even if it is outside of academics.
Take the time to discover your passions and pursue them in a meaningful way. If you are passionate about the environment, start a recycling initiative in your community. If you are passionate about education, organize an after-school tutoring program at your local elementary school.
Going above and beyond to follow your passions shows Harvard admission officers that you have the dedication and heart necessary to thrive on campus.
Hire an ACT or SAT tutor
Getting a high score on the ACT or SAT is a lot easier said than done. If you go into the test blind, it is highly unlikely that you will do well enough to earn a score in the 99th percentile.
Start studying for the test early, take advantage of opportunities to take the PSAT, and consider finding outside help to improve your chances of getting a good test score.
Hiring a private ACT or SAT tutor is a great way to make sure that you are ready for the test and the challenges it will bring.
The students who are getting into Harvard are working with experienced instructors who are preparing them to do well on their standardized tests. Even the playing field by hiring a tutor to help you earn an impressive ACT or SAT score.
Getting into Harvard will be tough, but with the right tools and preparation, it is possible.
See how Prep Expert can help you earn a great standardized test score and improve your chances of getting into Harvard when you visit our website.