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How to Get into Harvard—General Information

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge Massachusetts. It was founded in 1636 as Harvard College. The student body in the university at large is just over 20,000, while Harvard College has just over 5,000 enrolled students. 

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into Harvard guide:

  • Harvard average GPA scores
  • Optimal Harvard SAT scores
  • Harvard application deadline
  • Details on Harvard Early Action
  • Harvard interview
  • Harvard class of 2025 statistics, and more. 

When thinking about how to get into Harvard, you should make sure each part of your application—your GPA, test scores, Harvard interview, and Harvard supplemental essays—is top-notch. This means keeping your GPA high, studying well in advance to ensure strong Harvard SAT scores or ACT scores, and building up your extracurriculars. To boost your chances, you should start strategizing for the application process well before the Harvard application deadline. 

Figuring out how to get into Harvard takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Harvard graduates. Want to maximize your Harvard admissions odds?  Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

Is Harvard hard to get into? 

Harvard University is a highly competitive school with an acceptance rate of 4.64%. The Harvard Early Action acceptance rate was 7.9% for the class of 2026. Nearly 60,000 applicants applied for the Harvard class of 2025, a marked increase from just over 40,000 the previous year. Of those applicants, just under 2000 were accepted into the Harvard class of 2025. 

The Harvard average GPA in the Harvard class of 2025 was 4.22. The average Harvard SAT scores range from 1460-1570. The university is tied for second place with Columbia and MIT in U.S. News’ national rankings. 

If you want to know how to get into Harvard, know that any Ivy League school will be a “reach” for every student. Getting into Harvard will take more than just meeting the Harvard average GPA or average Harvard SAT scores. If you want to maximize your admissions odds, start preparing early. This means striving for a high GPA, studying for standardized tests, and starting your application well before the Harvard application deadline. 

What GPA is needed for Harvard?

No GPA will guarantee you admission into Harvard. However, the Harvard average GPA can still help you see where you’ll stand in the applicant pool. The Harvard average GPA for the Harvard class of 2025 was 4.22, meaning most students had a 4.0 GPA. 

Aiming for a high GPA starts with your high school course selection. If you are applying to Harvard under the Early Action program, note the December 1 Harvard application deadline. Make sure that your GPA is strong before your senior fall, particularly during junior year. 

Excelling in challenging courses is the best way to match the Harvard average GPA. However, you should also balance your course load to avoid overwhelming yourself. Ultimately, your unweighted GPA does not account for the rigor of your courses. So, don’t take courses that won’t let you succeed. Instead, take appropriate courses that also challenge you.

Want to know how to get into Harvard with a GPA lower than the Harvard average GPA? Check out this article. You’ll find useful tips to help you overcome a low GPA or weaker test results than the average Harvard SAT scores. Don’t get discouraged—not all members of the Harvard class of 2025 had perfect test scores!

What is the acceptance rate for Harvard?

Another key factor in how to get into Harvard is the Harvard acceptance rate, which is 4.64%. For Harvard Early Action applicants, the Harvard acceptance rate was 7.9% in 2021. 

Standardized test scores have a significant impact on acceptance rates. Harvard implemented a test-optional policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you can take standardized tests, you should do so. For the Harvard class of 2025, the average Harvard SAT scores ranged from 1460-1570, while the average ACT score ranged from 33-35. 

In order to meet the average Harvard SAT scores, start studying well before the Harvard application deadline. This is particularly true if you are applying under Harvard Early Action. You should also take the PSAT in the fall of your sophomore year to learn where you need to improve. Take your first test your junior year to give yourself time to retake the tests if needed.

What does the Harvard application look like?

It may seem obvious, but completing your application should be central to your “how to get into Harvard” strategy. By “complete,” we mean not just submitting the bare minimum of application materials, but all of the Harvard supplemental essays and optional test scores. 

The Harvard Early Action application deadline is November 1st, and the Harvard application deadline for Regular Decision is January 1st

Applicants must submit:

  • The Common Application or Coalition Application
  • The Harvard supplemental essays, including two 150-word responses and one optional essay
  • A school report
  • Two teacher recommendations 
  • A midyear report (after your first semester grades)
  • A final school report (for admitted students only)

You should ensure you have these materials collected well before the Harvard application deadline. For more information on how to ace the Common App, click here

The SAT or ACT is optional for the 2021-2022 application season, as are AP scores and other test results. 

Harvard College also accepts supplemental materials. This might include artistic work, articles, media, and additional academic materials. 

The Harvard supplemental essays are not all required. However, we suggest you complete all three of them. Check out our guide for tips on writing your Harvard supplemental essays. 

Another optional (but recommended) part of your application process is your Harvard interview. We’ll expand on Harvard University’s interview process later in this guide.  

What extracurriculars does Harvard look for?

Want to know how to get into Harvard? Start by exploring your passions. 

Extracurriculars are a crucial part of your candidate profile—your 1-2 sentence description of who you are, what you do, and why colleges should admit you. Your candidate profile is what makes you unique. So, there are no right or wrong activities to do, as long as you work hard and show your passion. 

Don’t try to build the extracurricular list of the “typical” Harvard applicant—that’s not how to get into Harvard. As Harvard states on their “What We Look For” page, there is no such thing as the typical Harvard student. Follow your passions and commit to a few extracurriculars that truly fulfill you. Choose quality over quantity, and make sure your extracurriculars show who you are and what you care about.

The answer to how to get into Harvard does lie in authenticity. If you care about environmental justice, spending four years organizing a community garden in your neighborhood may say more about who you are than competing on your school’s mock trial team for a season. However, those two extracurriculars can coexist if you care about both. You don’t need to boil yourself down to one interest—showing varied interests, as long as they’re genuine, shows your range. 

At the end of the day, there is no clear answer to how to get into Harvard. But if you begin your college process early, strive for academic success, and start preparing before the Harvard application deadline, you will have a competitive application. 

Do applicants to Harvard University get interviews?

When researching how to get into Harvard, most students wonder about the Harvard interview process. Harvard has a team of over 10,000 alumni who interview students across the globe. Harvard tries to interview as many students as possible. 

Before COVID-19, Harvard conducted all of its interviews in person. However, for the Harvard class of 2025 and beyond, you should expect to have your Harvard interview on Zoom. If you can’t attend a Harvard interview for any reason, your application will not be penalized. While your Harvard interview won’t make or break your application, a strong interview can help you stand out. 

Your Harvard interviewer won’t see your application, grades, essays, or test scores. This means you don’t need to worry about repeating information from your essays or supplements. Instead, highlight the experiences, activities, and accomplishments that would make you a great addition to Harvard’s campus.  

So, how will your interviewer evaluate you? According to a report from the Harvard Crimson, Harvard asks its interviewers to look for the following:

  • Motivation
  • Commitment
  • Level and quality of contribution
  • Potential
  • Maximum growth
  • Direction 
  • Intellectual/Personal capacity 

Above all, think of your Harvard interview as a conversation. Your interviewer wants to learn what you’d bring to the Harvard community. Ask them about their experience at Harvard, and don’t forget to show off your intellect, curiosity, and personality. While you might be nervous, remember that your Harvard interview is a chance for Harvard to learn more about who you are as a person. Make it count!

For more details on the Harvard interview process, visit their website.

How do I write the Harvard application essays? 

For those admitted in the Harvard class of 2025, the application required two 150-word supplements and an optional, full-length essay. However, essay requirements change each year, so don’t base your “how to get into Harvard” essay strategy on last year’s prompts. 

Instead, you’ll want to focus on completing all Harvard supplemental essays thoroughly and authentically. Since the Harvard acceptance rate is less than 5%, we suggest you complete any optional Harvard essays in addition to the required Harvard supplemental essays. 

Usually demonstrated interest (DI— the gauge used by universities to determine how interested you are in attending their school—is important in supplemental essays. In most applications, you should use your knowledge of the school’s academic and social offerings to boost your essays.  However, in the Harvard class of 2025, 85% of admitted students enrolled. Since most admitted students attend the school, Harvard tends to care less about DI. 

Instead, use your Harvard supplemental essays to discuss what makes you unique and how you would enrich campus life. While you should discuss why Harvard interests you in your interview, your overall candidate profile will matter much more than your DI. 

For more advice on the Harvard supplemental essays, check out our sample essays

How does Harvard review applications?

When thinking about how to get into Harvard, most students focus on the Harvard average GPA or the average Harvard SAT scores. While these factors matter, it takes a lot more than a great GPA and test scores to get into Harvard. 

Like many top schools, Harvard uses a holistic review process, which is outlined on their “What We Look For” Page. The Harvard admission process is outlined in detail in The Harvard Crimson:

  1. Recruitment – Harvard identifies “accomplished students” and invites them to apply.
  2. Harvard alumni interview – applicants have a conversation with a Harvard alumnus.
  3. Application reading – each application is evaluated and scored by two readers.
  4. Committee vote – applications must pass two committees with a simple majority “yes” vote in each. 
  5. Final decision – based on committee recommendations, an admissions decision is handed down.

After both the Harvard Early Action and regular Harvard application deadline have passed, each Harvard AO reviews all applications from an assigned region. The first reader for each application assigns each student a score between 1-5 in categories including academics, extracurricular achievement, and “school support” (related to recommendation letters). Readers also assign a “personal score” that pertains to a student’s character. 

Achievement and potential

Harvard uses these scores to rank each student’s achievement and potential. For instance, an academic 1 would be a “potential major academic contributor” with “summa potential.” An extracurricular 1 would be a student with “possible national-level achievement or professional experience.” 

After the first reader completes their review, each application goes to a second reader. All students with an average of 2 or less, then advance to the subcommittee phase. While some other students may move on to the subcommittee phase, most students with an average score of 3 or higher will not advance. After this, each subcommittee votes on whether to send each student to the full committee. The final, full committee—composed of 40 readers—then votes on whether to offer each student a place. An understanding of Harvard’s review process may help you as you develop your “how to get into Harvard” strategy. 

The Harvard review process is detailed and complex. It’s important to remember that your candidate profile spans beyond your ability to meet the Harvard average GPA or Harvard SAT scores. Like you’ll see in the Harvard class of 2025, Harvard is looking to build a diverse community of passionate learners. 

Will Harvard review my social media accounts?

While thinking about how to get into Harvard, students may worry about how their social media presence might affect their admissions odds. However, Harvard admissions officers tend not to look at students’ social media profiles. Since Harvard receives thousands of applications each year, readers usually don’t have time to look at students’ social media. 

This doesn’t mean, though, that you should post offensive or irresponsible content on social media. While it might not directly impact your admissions odds, employers and internship directors might look at your social media accounts. Improper social media usage could disqualify you from opportunities that would boost your candidate profile. Even beyond the college application process, you should be using social media responsibly

Our final recommendation is to play it safe. Harvard likely won’t read your Twitter or check your Instagram, but there’s always an outside chance.

Is Harvard the school for me?

When researching how to get into Harvard, most students don’t think about whether Harvard is right for them. Yes, Harvard offers an elite academic community with world-class professors and boundless opportunities. Whether you’re interested in a pre-med track or want to join one of Harvard’s unique humanities concentrations (like History & Literature or Social Studies), a degree from Harvard can get you far. 

However, Harvard isn’t for everyone. The school offers rigorous academic and social environments where students often compete to join clubs and organizations. Though Harvard has received some criticism for grade inflation, coursework is still quite demanding.

Deciding not to apply to Harvard won’t jeopardize your future. Don’t just think about how to get into Harvard—instead, reflect on why Harvard would serve your goals. 

Ask yourself the following:

  • Does Harvard’s offerings align with my interests? 
  • Who do I see myself becoming on Harvard’s campus? 
  • What do I want to do with my future, and how can Harvard get me there? 

This self-reflection will also help you submit stronger Harvard supplemental essays and make for a more compelling Harvard interview. 

If you do apply to Harvard, you can either apply Regular Decision or through Harvard Early Action. Early Action admissions are non-binding. So, if Harvard is your top school but you want to explore other options, Harvard Early Action can be a great choice. 

Additional tips to get into Harvard

1. Build your profile

When thinking about how to get into Harvard, remember that the school looks for candidates who have shown a lasting commitment to their passions. Well before the Harvard application deadline, develop your interests and pursue opportunities that will bolster your candidate profile. Then, build an application narrative around your achievements and goals. 

2. Cultivate your relationships

Harvard takes your recommendation letters seriously—and so should you. During high school, build strong relationships with your teachers, coaches, supervisors, and mentors. Even if these people don’t all write letters for you, their support will help you access opportunities for growth. 

3. Don’t wait

The Harvard application deadline can sneak up on you. Be proactive about scheduling your Harvard interview, and if you’re applying for Harvard Early Action, give yourself enough time to submit your test scores. The earlier you start thinking about your candidate profile, extracurricular activities, and Harvard supplemental essays, the more time you’ll have to develop a strong application.

Harvard admissions are fickle, and there’s no way to guarantee whether you’ll get in. However, if you want to go to Harvard, apply! Don’t get hung up on the Harvard average GPA or the average Harvard SAT scores when thinking about how to get into Harvard. Instead, just focus on submitting the strongest application you can, and consider Harvard Early Action if Harvard is your top choice. Good luck! 


This guide was written by Saphia Suarez and Abbie Sage. If you want to know how to get into Harvard, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes Harvard graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.