harvard acceptance rate

Acceptance Rate for Harvard

Harvard University is a great school. However, it also takes serious strategy to figure out how to get into Harvard. A key factor to pay attention to is the Harvard University acceptance rate.

During the application process, you should be aware of college acceptance rates. This information is useful to have, especially when applying to your dream school. Regularly ranked among the best universities in the nation, Harvard is one of the toughest schools to get into. In fact, the already low Harvard acceptance rate has recently decreased even further.

One major reason the Harvard University acceptance rate has fallen to a record low is the overwhelming number of students who apply to Harvard. More students submitted a Harvard application than ever before after the school waived its test requirements for the immediate future. Usually, the Harvard SAT requirements filter out some potential applicants, but this is no longer the case. As a result, the Harvard acceptance rate will most likely remain extremely low for years to come. 

In this article, we’ll go over the Harvard University acceptance rate, discuss why college acceptance rates matter, compare the different Harvard acceptance rates, and review other Harvard admissions statistics. After all, the acceptance rate for Harvard is only one factor to consider when determining how to get into Harvard.

What is the Harvard acceptance rate?

The Harvard University acceptance rate for the admitted class of 2026 was 3.1%, making it one of the most selective schools in the nation. Harvard is known for its world-class resources, so it’s no surprise that the Harvard acceptance rate is so low. The Harvard enrollment includes students from across the globe, with diverse backgrounds and varied talents and interests.

The Harvard admissions team received 61,221 undergraduate applicants for the incoming class of 2026 (up from 57,435 applicants the year before). Of those who applied, only 1,984 students got in, 36 of whom were on the waiting list.

How to get into Harvard despite the low college acceptance rate

The Harvard acceptance rate fell slightly from the previous year, when it was 3.4%. This is in line with an overall trend of decreasing college acceptance rates across the nation. However, don’t let the low acceptance rate for Harvard discourage you from applying! A well-structured, organized approach to Harvard admissions will ensure you have a strong application.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you apply to Harvard:

  1. Gather strong letters of recommendation. Be strategic about who you ask to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. These letters can help give you an extra edge in the eyes of a Harvard admissions officer. Think about which teacher or other professional in your life knows your academic strengths and can verify your work ethic. Choosing someone who actually knows you is better than asking someone who just “looks good on paper.” 
  2. Participate in relevant extracurricular activities. Being involved in your community shows Harvard admissions officers that you are a well-rounded person who cares about the world around them. Getting involved now can also help guide you find a group or club to join on campus after you join the Harvard enrollment.
  3. Maintain high grades. While the Harvard application does not require a specific GPA for submission, you should definitely strive to get straight As in your classes. Just because there are no formal Harvard GPA requirements does not mean Harvard admissions officers do not look at your grades.  So, you’ll need to perform at the top of your class to be competitive in your Harvard application.

Note: There are no Harvard SAT requirements or Harvard GPA requirements. Students who do not report standardized test scores will NOT be penalized in their Harvard admissions process. If they wish, students can self-report their SAT and ACT test scores on their Harvard application. Keep in mind, admitted students who enroll at Harvard must submit official test scores.

What are college acceptance rates and why do they matter?

College acceptance rates reflect the ratio of the total number of applicants to the number of students who were admitted to a school. For instance, the acceptance rate for Harvard can be calculated by taking the number of admitted students (1,984) and dividing it by the total number of students who apply to Harvard (61,221). Thus, we find that the Harvard acceptance rate is 3.2% (1,984 61,221 = 0.032).

It is important to know college acceptance rates, especially as you build a college list. This can help inform your overall college application strategy. Let’s say you’re in the beginning stages of researching colleges and creating your college list. You consider Liberal Arts schools, Science and Engineering schools, even a specialized program like Architecture, and finally decide you want to apply to Harvard. Knowing that the Harvard acceptance rate is only 3.2%, you should probably put Harvard in your “reach” category. You can apply to a couple “reach” schools, but include more “target” and “safety” schools on your list. Learn more about building your college list here.

A good indicator of whether a college acceptance rate will be low or not is the school’s ranking. Typically, the higher a school’s ranking, the lower their acceptance rate. You can also look at a school’s total enrollment. Smaller schools tend to have lower college acceptance rates. For instance, in the 2021-2022 academic year, the total Harvard enrollment for undergraduate students was 7,095. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the Harvard acceptance rate is so low.

Comparing Harvard acceptance rates: Early Decision, Regular Decision, and international applicants

We’ve discussed the overall Harvard acceptance rate of 3.2% for the undergraduate class of 2026. However, let’s break down the Harvard University acceptance rate for further scrutiny. Let’s look at the acceptance rate for Harvard’s different application deadlines, as well as the Harvard acceptance rate for international students.

harvard university acceptance rate
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Harvard acceptance rate for Early Action applicants

Harvard admissions staff received 9,406 applications for consideration in the class of 2026 by the Early Action deadline. From that pool, 740 students were accepted, creating an acceptance rate of 7.9%. 

As you’ll see below, the Early Action acceptance rate is higher than the Regular Decision acceptance rate for Harvard. Wondering how to get into Harvard? Consider applying to Harvard by the Early Action deadline for an increased chance of admittance.

Harvard acceptance rate for Regular Decision applicants

Harvard admissions staff received 51,614 applications for consideration in the class of 2026 by the Regular Decision deadline. From that pool, 1,214 students were accepted, creating an acceptance rate of 2.3%. 

Comparatively, the Harvard acceptance rate for Regular Decision applicants for the class of 2025 was 2.6%. The year before that, the Regular Decision acceptance rate for Harvard was 3.2%. As you can see, the Regular Decision Harvard acceptance rate has fallen over the last three years.

Harvard acceptance rate for international applicants

The Harvard University acceptance rate of international students was 14.8% for the class of 2026. This is mostly likely due to the fact that fewer international students apply to Harvard than domestic students. So, don’t use this number as a marker that the Harvard admissions process is less challenging for international students.

Why is the Harvard University acceptance rate so low?

There are several reasons we can point to that help explain why the Harvard University acceptance rate is so low. Keep in mind, college acceptance rates have decreased in general across the nation. 

You might think the Harvard acceptance rate is low perhaps because the Harvard GPA requirements are too restrictive or the Harvard application process is too difficult. But there are no Harvard GPA requirements, and their application process is pretty standard. Experts have cited a particular group of variables that has led to the overall decrease of college acceptance rates, many of which cause a low acceptance rate for Harvard. 

Here are some reasons the Harvard University acceptance rate continues to decline:

  • More students are applying to Harvard.
  • There are no longer any Harvard SAT requirements or ACT requirements for the time being, lowering the Harvard acceptance rate.
  • Harvard is accepting more international students.

Many expect the broader trends of an increased number of college applicants and optional standardized test reporting to continue. These trends affect not just the Harvard University acceptance rate, but acceptance rates at schools all over the United States. Today’s students must be strategic throughout the college application and enrollment process in order to succeed.

Harvard acceptance rate vs. Stanford acceptance rate

Let’s see how the Harvard University acceptance rate compares to the acceptance rate at another elite school, Stanford

While Stanford has not yet released admissions data for the class of 2026, we can look at the acceptance rate data for the Class of 2025 to get an idea of this year’s statistics. Last year, Stanford received 55,471 undergraduate applications and accepted only 2,190 students. This puts Stanford’s acceptance rate at 3.9%

Recall that the acceptance rate for Harvard’s class of 2025 was 3.4%. Stanford’s rate, while slightly higher, is on par with the Harvard acceptance rate. Let’s take a closer look at the stats:

harvard acceptance rate

The Harvard acceptance rate has been slightly lower than the Stanford rate for the past couple of years. So, it is safe to assume that Stanford’s rate will be slightly higher than the acceptance rate for Harvard this year as well. Overall, both the Harvard University acceptance rate and the Stanford acceptance rate show that these schools are highly selective.

Harvard admission statistics: More info to consider

There are other admission statistics to consider beyond the Harvard University acceptance rate. Let’s take a look at more data that can help you with your Harvard application.

Harvard SAT requirements and ACT requirements

Students no longer need to include their test scores on their Harvard application. However, students may still include that information on the Common App. If your SAT or ACT scores are at the top of the scale, consider submitting them to strengthen your Harvard application.

harvard acceptance rate
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Harvard GPA requirements

There are no official Harvard GPA requirements. However, as an elite school, Harvard often accepts students who receive top marks in their classes. A high GPA is key to a successful Harvard application.

Harvard University Financial Aid

Roughly 55% of students in Harvard’s class of 2026 received a need-based financial aid package. Learn more about accessing financial aid at Harvard. 

Harvard University Majors

Intended majors: Harvard refers to majors as “concentrations,” and each student can only declare one concentration or a combined “joint” concentration. The most popular concentration among students in the class of 2026 is Social Science, attracting 28.8% of students. Looking for other popular Harvard majors? Check out one student’s guide to economics at Harvard.

The Harvard University acceptance rate is just one piece of the Harvard admissions puzzle. Though the Harvard acceptance rate is low, students should still work hard and apply. 

Harvard Acceptance Rate – Final Thoughts

The Harvard University acceptance rate is one of the lowest in the nation, making Harvard a tough school to get into. Experts predict that college acceptance rates will remain low due to various factors. These include an increased volume of applicants and fewer testing requirements. So, students must sharpen their college application strategies.

When considering how to get into Harvard, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. Gather strong letters of recommendation from someone who is actually familiar with your academic or professional work, participate in enriching extracurricular activities that show your interests, maintain high grades at school, and apply to Harvard by the REA deadline! Remember that the Harvard acceptance rate for students who applied early was significantly higher than the regular decision acceptance rate.

Don’t let the low Harvard acceptance rate discourage you from applying. To learn more about what it takes to apply to Harvard University, check out our discussion panel where we speak with Harvard alums about their experiences at Harvard. CollegeAdvisor also offers an excellent How to Get Into Harvard guide that covers Harvard average GPA scores, the optimal Harvard SAT score, Harvard application deadlines, details on Harvard Early Action, and the Harvard interview. Best of luck!

harvard acceptance rate

This guide to the Harvard acceptance rate was written by Ciara Ayala. If you want to learn more about Harvard including how to get into Harvard, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes graduates from universities like Harvard. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 576-0953.