How to get into Harvard

How to get into Harvard University

This is the average Harvard student: a top-earning, confident, go-getter who excelled in high school and is going to excel in college. The student who will work hard, who will stay focused, who will be up at all hours finishing a paper, and most importantly, the student who will change the world.

This year, Harvard University received 34,295 applicants. Of those, the school only accepted 2,023—a small percentage at just 5.9 percent. Harvard is the oldest college in America and it’s one of the most prestigious Ivy League colleges. So, how do you get in?

How to get into Harvard

How to get into Harvard: the guide

Maintain a strong GPA

Getting into Harvard is no easy feat. According to The Crimson, in 2013 the average GPA of the incoming freshman was a 3.94.

Fifty-four percent of incoming students earned a perfect 4.0 GPA in high school. The lowest reported score, however, was a 3.0. That student, while lacking in grades, made up for it in test scores, extracurriculars, and admissions essays. Read on to learn more.

How to get into HarvardHave excellent SAT Scores

Who gets accepted and who gets denied from Harvard remains a mystery.

Admissions works like an algorithm—do you have the right GPA? Do you have the right scores? Are you the right fit? Ensuring you have high SAT scores is part of the puzzle.

Learn all about my tips to study the SAT and ACT over the summer here.

Out of a possible 2400 SAT points, the average incoming Harvard student has a composite SAT score of 2237.

This means that, if divided evenly between the reading, writing, and math portions, the average student enters Harvard with roughly a 750 on each section, out of a possible 800 points.

Strangely, most Harvard students scored higher on the math potion of the SAT than on the writing or reading section (and scored well in that order).

Improve your SAT score with help directly from the makers of the SAT. Click here to buy your own study help.

Affirmative action: real or not real?

Does race have anything to do with college admissions? We aren’t sure, but according to the Crimson, in 2013 Asian and Indian students had the highest GPA scores, while black and African-American students had the lowest.

Make the most of your Extracurricular Activities

How to get into Harvard

How to get into Harvard: with athletics? Photo by Mark H. Anbinder

You’ve been hearing about them since freshman year of high school—“join this club, it will look great on college applications,” “join band, Harvard will love it,” “National Honor Society, it’s basically a requirement.” And you’ve heard these things for one reason. They’re right.

34,295 people applied to Harvard—and they all had great GPAs and great SAT scores. What many of the 2,023 accepted students had was an impressive extracurricular list.

Harvard doesn’t just want people who cram in a book all day. They want leaders. They want the new Mark Zuckerbergs, the ones who may not even graduate but who revolutionize the way we think and act. And the best way to show leadership? By partaking in extracurriculars.

How to get into Harvard

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

Common incoming freshmen extracurriculars include National Honor Society (and denominations of it, including National Spanish Honor Society), Band, Debate Club, DECA, Model UN, and volunteer work.

Volunteer work is important to show on an application because it shows that not only are you a leader, but you are a good person, too.

It can be anything from traveling to Botswana to bathe small children to running a blood drive at your school. Helping out and shaping the world is what counts, and it’s what will catch Harvard’s eye.

That being said, make yourself stand out with your extracurriculars.

Don’t just be a part of the clubs that everyone is in—go out and be a part of the clubs that you want to, because you want to enjoy yourself, grow, become a leader, and stand out as yourself, not as the “ideal student.”

If you love playing the bassoon in a band, play the bassoon. Don’t settle for the trumpet. (Commence fanfare.)

Master the College Application Essay

How to get into Harvard

How to get into Harvard

Our “how to get into Harvard” guide wouldn’t be complete without a college application essay. The college application essay is what makes you different from other applicants. It’s your chance to explain away that 3.0 GPA or to elaborate on some extracurricular that you’re passionate about.

When I was applying to colleges, I spent weeks and weeks on my essays, with wonderful results. My boyfriend, Alvaro, was accepted to Princeton University—the only school he applied to. College essays can make or break you.

We used my personal favorite book, Accepted! and  50 Successful Harvard Application Essays. I love that they include sample essays from students who have gotten in. For me, personally, I learn by example.

Harvard Application Wrap-Up

The average Harvard student is someone superior—that’s what the name “Harvard” means. You can be a Harvard student, too, if you work hard and excel. Take our tips, order these books, and I know I’ll see you around campus.

– Erinn Pascal
Editor-in-Chief