Harvard Acceptance Rate

February 12, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Harvard Acceptance Rate: 5.2%

When considering applying to an Ivy League university like Harvard, Stanford, or MIT the first thing that might cross your mind is, “What are my chances?” It is true that Harvard Acceptance Rates are some of the strongest and lowest in the country.

But, you need to keep in mind that all these varsities seek to set the record for the lowest rates for admission each year. There are lots of factors that decide whether an applicant gets accepted or not.

The major factors determining Harvard Acceptance Rates are GPA and test scores. Harvard Acceptance Rate for 2019 was only 5.2%! This makes Harvard amongst the most competitive universities in the world.

With a little over 43,000 applicants from around the world, about 2,000 were admitted. Although these numbers sound pretty intimidating, AdmissionSight is here to ensure your best chances for success.

We believe that you can easily turn the numbers in your favor by acquiring an ACT score of at least 35 or an SAT score of 1560 and higher.

But before you get into the statistics, let’s take a glimpse into make-up of the students admitted into Harvard University in 2019.

Three students are sitting and reading on the university grounds with a bike behind them.

Successful Applicant Profile

Harvard is well known as the oldest institution of higher learning. The famous Harvard Yard dates back to 1636 located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The 209-acre main campus is located in Harvard Square. All freshmen that are successful in beating the low figures of Harvard Acceptance Rates are expected to live on campus in Apley Court, the Yard, and Union Dormitories.

Only the most successful are ever chosen to Harvard and you can be one of them with the right application and scores.

Where are the applicants from?

In 2019, there were 43,330 applicants, out of which 1,950 were accepted. A majority of the admits are United States residents living in the Middle Atlantic, South, New England, and Pacific regions.

Only about 13% of applicants are from Central, Mountain, and Midwest territories. And, international students account for only 9% of admitted students.

The student body is diverse with 46% Caucasian, 25% Asian American, about 14% African American, and 12% Hispanic or Latino.

What are the usual fields of concentration?

Harvard doesn’t use the term “major”. Matriculating students need to pick out their ‘concentrations’ right at the beginning of sophomore year or third semester. Harvard offers a diverse range of curriculum, allowing undergraduate students to choose between 49 academic concentrations.

Applicants typically declare Social Sciences and Humanities as their primary fields of study. There is also a strong interest among applicants for pursuing Biological Sciences and Engineering subjects. On an average each year, there are just 6.4% applicants that are undecided about their concentration.

What are the general SAT/ACT scores of admitted students?

For admitted students in 2019 who took ACT score:

  • 25th percentile score: 32
  • 75th percentile score: 35

For admitted students in 2019 who took SAT score:

  • 25th percentile score: 1480
  • 75th percentile score: 1600

You need to remember that test scores make an impact as well. You have a chance of beating Harvard Acceptance Rates even if you find yourself somewhere in the middle of these numbers. A high test score can easily compensate for a slightly lower GPA. Harvard prides itself on diversity. However, the primary acceptance parameter will be your SAT/ACT scores.

That being said, applicants at the lower end of GPA find themselves at an advantage when they are the child of an alumnus, have a diverse background, or have extraordinary personal achievements.

Certain other factors, such as athletics, extracurricular activities, and recommendations can also make a difference. However, these are only when the applicant is in the 75th percentile range for their SAT/ACT or GPA scores.

It cannot be emphasized enough that Harvard is a particularly competitive university. Your chances of gaining admission are reduced to 10% even when you have a perfect GPA of 4.0 and SAT of 1600. Your chances increase to 13% with perfect ACT scores of 36 and 4.0 GPA.

A female student in a classroom carrying her study materials while smiling.

Harvard Acceptance Rate Entry Requirements

Now, that we understand more about what Harvard is looking for in an applicant let’s see if its offerings, costs, and deadlines align with your current interests in a university.

How much will it cost to attend?

Harvard Acceptance Rates is not the only discouraging factor. Harvard’s tuition figures including room and board, transit, educational supplies can be best described as astronomical.

The first-year school-year tuition at Harvard totals to about $71,650-$76,650. The good part is that with generous family aids you probably would need to pay about $14,000 per year.

Here is a breakdown of the annual cost:

  • Tuition – $46,340
  • Room and Board – $17,160
  • Books and Supplies – $800-$1,200
  • Other Fees – $4,080
  • Sundry Expenses – $2,870

You can bring down the tuition costs by establishing an in-state residency. Out of state residents end up paying more since their tuition is not covered by that state’s tax revenue.

This is because they are not paying into the state’s tax base. Don’t panic though! With Harvard, there is always a way to attain financial aid.

What are Harvard’s financial aid opportunities?

Harvard’s Cost of Attendance may be through the roof, but it offers a pretty decent financial aid package. There are options to receive university and outside scholarships, and federal aid totaling $56,550, as well as work study options to receive $2,150 in aid towards tuition.

There are multiple ways you can seek financial aid. These include:

  • Student Loans – These loans are designed specifically to cover tuition, textbooks, and living expenses, among other post-secondary education costs. Mostly these are available through federal financial aid programs.
  • Merit-based Scholarships – These are awarded to students that excel in academics, creativity, athletics, or extracurricular activities and community service.
  • Need-based Grants – These are similar to scholarships and are not required to be paid back. They are usually awarded to students on the basis of their ability to pay, student status, economic need, and academic achievements.

On an average there are 1,058 financial need applicants. These are the students that require help for picking up the slack between what their families can pay and what they actually owe per semester. About 908 applicants are approved for financial aid each year with the average award totaling $53,071.

You need to understand the repercussions of financial aid if you opt for one. The average student debt after graduation for Harvard students is in the vicinity of $16,702. There are ways to earn income on campus while learning to cover debt costs.

Most Harvard schools have a work-study program. This allows students to earn money while working for the campus and pursuing their studies.

Aerial view of Harvard campus in which buildings and tall trees can be seen.

What are the application requirements for Harvard?

All Harvard applicants are required to complete and submit the Common Application, the Coalition Application, or the Universal College Application.

Here is a checklist of application requirements:

  • Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application
  • Harvard’s supplementary questions
  • Application fee of $75
  • ACT/SAT Score submission with or without writing score
  • Two SAT subject tests
  • High school transcript
  • School report
  • Letters of recommendations from two teachers
  • mid-year school report
  • Final school report (if admitted)

You can commence your application and find a more detailed explanation of the requirements at the Harvard site.

What are timelines for Harvard application?

You can apply to Harvard in two ways – Early Action or Regular Decision program. Both these choices allow you to compare financial aid and admission offers from various institutions before making a final college choice before May 1st.

Early action candidates are required to apply by November 1 and Regular Decision candidates need to fill out the paperwork by January 1st. In both cases, it is recommended to apply and begin taking SAT/ACT tests in the spring prior to the year you apply.

Restrictive Early Action program is beneficial to those seeking an opportunity to make a conscious and early college decision. Candidates don’t have to commit coming to Harvard until May 1st. This is recommended for students with consistent and strong records and accomplishments.

It is important to understand that Harvard does not offer any advantage to students applying under the Early Action program. Typically, candidates prefer Regular Decision program since it gives them more time to complete the application components and proofread their supplementary answers.

Sometimes, a little wait can go a long way in strengthening an application with improved academic performance or senior year extracurricular achievements.

Deadlines for freshmen starting fall 2021

Early Action Candidates

  • Application deadline –November 1st, 2020
  • SAT/ACT scores– End of October. If appearing for November series, you are required to submit the results in time for “no rush” consideration.
  • Financial aid – November 1st, 2021

Regular Decision Candidates

  • Application deadline – March 1st, 2021
  • SAT/ACT scores – No later than December SAT or February ACT
  • Financial aid – March 1st, 2021

Decision notification

Early Action candidates would be intimated of the board’s decision by mid-December while Regular Decision candidates shall be notified by late March.

All admitted students (including waitlist) will be required to reply no later than May 1st, 2021.

What to Expect

The first thing to expect if you matriculate at Harvard is to join a diverse class that has students from all over the world. You should also expect to get the opportunity to study dozens of fields.

Founded in 1936, this private, Co-ed University was ranked the second best in the nation for its undergraduate offerings and student value. Aspects like student to faculty ratio are one of the most lauded features in Harvard.

What do Students think of life at Harvard?

Harvard has three campuses, 14 museums including the Peabody Museum and Museum of Natural History, and the largest academic library collection in the world with 20.4 million volumes and 400 million manuscript items.

Harvard is one of 35 colleges located in Boston, Massachusetts, which is the most populous city in New England. Student nightlife reigns over the city which offers flower-filled parks in the summer, countless art pieces, film, and history museums.

There are twelve residential houses for undergraduates. The social and student life on campus, especially for freshmen, is highly reviewed in almost all open forums on online campus communities.

Two months ago, a current freshman student posted a testimony about Harvard on Niche, a college-ranking site, expressing that the school was,

“An incredible university with some of the most brilliant, interesting, kind, passionate people in the world. I came in scared that this would be a cut-throat competitive nightmare, but everyone lifts each other up rather than tears each other down. I absolutely love Harvard and am so grateful for all of the opportunities it affords.”

There are over 100 student organizations covering a wide range of interests and topics, including gender and sexuality affinity groups, creative and performing arts, government and political interests, cultural and racial initiatives, and various media and publications.

For instance, the Harvard Crimson happens to be the oldest student-run newspaper publication in the United States. The Harvard Lampoon is a comedy group that has seen many alumni feature on Saturday Night Live and become script writers in Hollywood.

To get remotely connected with alumni and faculty at Harvard and ask more questions about life on campus, call (617) 495-1551 or send an email to [email protected]

Important update as of April 2020:

While the main offices are closed due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, the Admissions & Financial Aid Office staff is working remotely until further notice. The main phone lines and email listed above are still operative during normal business hours (9 am to 5 pm EST).

What academics are offered?

Harvard follows the fall session, which means their academic year commences in early September and end by mid-May. All full time students are required to complete at least four half-courses per term.

Harvard offers 49 concentrations in total and at least 40% of the total course load (12 and 14 half-courses) needs to be from the chosen fields. 30% students’ course loads make up for General Education requirements while 30% is left for electives.

Students are expected to complete courses in four areas in The General Education component. These include Expository Writing, Foreign Language, and Quantitative Reasoning. The fourth component comprises of three departmental courses across Faculty of Social Science, Science and Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Arts and Humanities.

What if I want to pursue athletics?

Harvard has an official athletic team called ‘The Harvard Crimson’ which recruits senior high school students each year in over 42 different sports, and houses teams in 20 sports facilities across the campus. This includes everything from a football field, to a sailing center, and a boathouse.

Unfortunately, being a member of an athletic team does qualify you for academic scholarships at Harvard.

The Harvard Crimson competes in 42 intercollegiate sports and is part of the NCAA Division I Ivy League. You can try various club and intramural sports, if you feel you are not up to varsity level. Some of the more notable intercollegiate teams include football, golf, baseball, basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, and lacrosse.

There are some decent options for sailing, skiing, soccer, crew, cross country, fencing, softball, squash, tennis, swimming and diving, volleyball, and wrestling as well.

Harvard and Yale have been in a notorious rivalry since decades. Each year the two have a famous football stand-off in what has come to be called as “The Game”. The Harvard-Yale Regatta is also a huge deal.

A female runner stretching her leg muscles by touching her shoes while looking away.

Who are some famous Harvard alumni?

From the first African American President of the United States, to the founder of Facebook, late talk show hosts, legendary poets, and famous actresses – Harvard alumni are making their name known in history.

The list is endless with governors, US Senators, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winners, Supreme Court Justices, and military leaders among others.

  • Software –Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
  • Pulitzer Prize winners –Nick Kristof, John Updike, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Linda Greenhouse.
  • Nobel Prize winners – T.S. Eliot, Al Gore, and Henry Kissinger.
  • United States Presidents – John Quincy Adams, John Adams, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Rutherford B. Hayes, Barack Obama, and George W. Bush. Former First Lady Michelle Obama has a law degree from Harvard.
  • Business tycoons –Sumner Redstone, Lloyd Blankstein, J.P. Morgan Jr., and Sheryl Sandberg.

The list goes on and on with Matt Damon, Rashida Jones, Leonard Bernstein, Frank O’Hara, and Chief Justice John Roberts, among others. Do you imagine your name on this list?  Then don’t stop here.

The Final Word

If you are looking to attend Harvard University, or any other Ivy League University, AdmissionSight has a variety of resources, such as college essay editors and one-on-one application assistance to help you understand what top-universities look for in an applicant. We will make sure you stand out as a Harvard applicant against the toughest acceptance rates.

Getting into Ivy League universities can be extremely competitive. You need a reliable and responsible admission consultant whom you can trust and who can help you through the intricate process of application and deadlines. Simply having the right test scores will not ensure your admission. But at AdmissionSight we will do our very best to make sure you have a fighting chance.


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