Harvard Cost of Attendance

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Harvard University

Harvard Cost of Attendance

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is globally renowned for its prestigious academics and educational excellence. Harvard draws countless aspiring students each year; however, the Harvard cost of attendance can be a significant factor that influences the decision of many students.

Understanding the financial implications of a Harvard education is crucial as it affects your years at the university and could shape your financial health long after graduation. This guide aims to demystify Harvard’s cost of attendance, break down its components, and provide a comprehensive guide on financial aid options.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Harvard University for a Year?

How much does it cost to go to Harvard University for a year? When we talk about the cost of attending Harvard University for a year, there are several components to consider.

The total cost of attending an institution like Harvard goes beyond just the tuition fees. It encompasses a broad spectrum of expenses, including housing, meals, health insurance, books, supplies, and personal expenses.

one of the gates in Harvard University

Let’s dive deeper into each component of the Harvard cost of attendance.

Tuition and Fees

The central component of Harvard’s cost is the tuition fees. As an Ivy League institution, Harvard is committed to delivering world-class education and resources, reflected in its tuition fees.

As per the latest data, the tuition for a year at Harvard is $54,269, but this does not cover the entire cost of attending Harvard.

In addition to tuition, there are mandatory fees that all students are required to pay. These fees, which total $4,807, support student and health services that enhance the Harvard student experience.

Room and Board

Next up is room and board, which includes your living expenses and meals. If you plan to live on-campus, which most Harvard students do, look at the following 2023-2024 rates for housing and food so you can allocate them in your budget.

  • Housing – $12,424
  • Food – $7,0950

These costs can vary slightly depending on the specific dormitory and meal plan you choose.

Books and Supplies

Academic resources such as books and supplies are another essential part of your budget. The cost of books and supplies can fluctuate based on your field of study, your courses, and whether you buy new, used or digital textbooks.

a male student smiling at the camera while holding his books

On average, Harvard students should anticipate spending around $1,000 to $1,500 per year on books and supplies.

Personal Expenses and Transportation

Finally, we must consider personal expenses and transportation. Personal costs, including laundry, mobile phone service, personal items, and recreational activities, can add up. Harvard estimates that students spend approximately $2,500 to $3,000 on annual personal expenses.

Transportation costs are highly individual and depend on your specific circumstances. If you live on campus, you likely will not have significant daily transportation costs.

However, if you are planning trips home during breaks or have a car on campus, these costs can increase. Harvard estimates transportation costs to be up to $4,500 per year.

The total Harvard cost of attendance for a year, including all these expenses, is estimated to be around $82,950 to $87,450. However, it is crucial to remember that this is a broad estimate and the actual cost can vary based on individual circumstances and choices.

While the Harvard cost of attendance may seem daunting at first, it is essential to remember that this financial commitment is an investment in a world-class education, offering unparalleled resources, opportunities, and potential for future success.

Financial Aid Options at Harvard

While the costs associated with attending Harvard University might initially seem overwhelming, it’s essential to understand that the extensive range of financial aid options at Harvard is designed to make education affordable for all accepted students, irrespective of their economic background.

a female student writing on her notebook

Harvard University’s financial aid program is one of the most generous in the country. Harvard is steadfast in its commitment to ensuring that every admitted student can afford to attend.

The university operates on a need-based financial aid policy, which simply means financial aid packages are designed to meet the demonstrated financial need of each student.  Remarkably, more than half (55 percent) of Harvard students receive need-based scholarship aid, with the average annual aid package amounting to $67,898.

Types of Financial Aid Available at Harvard

Harvard’s financial aid program extends beyond just the university-provided aid. It is a holistic system designed to cover different facets of student needs, making the dream of attending Harvard a reality for many.

Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships form the backbone of Harvard’s financial aid offerings. Once you are deemed eligible for financial aid at Harvard, a variety of resources are assembled to form a personalized aid package that addresses your verified financial need. This package might encompass scholarships, earnings from student employment, and any awards from outside sources you have garnered.

The funds for these scholarships come from a diverse range of sources, including the Harvard endowment, donations from alumni, general tuition revenue, and grants from federal and state authorities.


If you are a U.S. citizen or hold permanent residency, you may qualify for federal aid such as the Federal Pell Grant or the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG). Your eligibility for these is determined by the data you provide in your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These need-based grants, awarded by the federal government, are managed by our office.

Additionally, if you are a resident of Massachusetts, you might be eligible for a state Gilbert Grant, which is also awarded based on financial need. It is important to note that these awards won’t impact your expected term-time work contribution.

Harvard’s dedication to making education affordable is evident in its scholarship program, which is designed to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need. The aim here is to ensure that financial constraints do not prevent any admitted student from attending Harvard.

Outside Awards

Outside scholarships or grants could potentially be obtained from a variety of external sources beyond Harvard, including applicants’ high schools, community groups, their parents’ places of work, business entities, programs like the National Merit Scholarship, benefits from the Veterans Administration, and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Outside awards, being supplementary resources that lessen the financial burden, cannot substitute the financial contribution expected from the applicants’ parents. Given that these awards are intended to facilitate educational pursuits, they must be declared to Harvard and allocated towards expenses in college.

Harvard will factor in these outside awards as a component of applicants’ total financial aid packages.


All students at Harvard, regardless of their financial aid eligibility, have the option to work during the academic year. In fact, about two-thirds of the student body engages in some form of employment.

For those receiving financial aid from Harvard, it’s common to contribute towards their education through work. The expected hours from term-time work are typically reasonable, often around 10 to 12 hours per week.

Importantly, the wages from this work go directly to the student, not towards the term bill, allowing students to cover personal expenses.

When applying for financial aid, the package will specify if you qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program (FWSP). This program subsidizes the wages of eligible students, making them attractive hires for employers.

a female student sitting and appears to be thinking

If you qualify, you will have access to work in FWSP-designated roles within the University and sometimes even off-campus. The FWSP funds can be utilized for employment during the academic term as well as the summer.


An interesting aspect of Harvard’s financial aid program is its “no loan” policy. This means that Harvard does not include loans in its financial aid packages. The goal is to lessen the debt burden on students after graduation.

However, loans are still available for students and families who wish to help cover student or family contributions or spread their education payments over a longer period.

Harvard University’s commitment to financial accessibility is clear through its extensive range of financial aid options. From grants to work-study programs, the university is determined to make the Harvard cost of attendance affordable for students from all economic backgrounds.

The journey towards a Harvard degree may seem financially intimidating, but these financial aid opportunities provide substantial support, easing the path for many students.

Tips for Managing the Harvard Cost of Attendance

Navigating the financial terrain of attending Harvard University may seem like a daunting task, but with strategic planning and effective management, it is entirely possible to tread this path efficiently.

a finance manager working

Below, we delve into several tips for managing the Harvard cost of attendance without straining your resources.

Comprehend Your Financial Aid Package

If you are among the lucky ones receiving financial aid from Harvard, it’s imperative that you fully grasp the contents of your package. Distinguish between the various types of aid, such as grants, which are outright gifts, and loans, which necessitate repayment.

If any aspect of your aid package remains unclear, do not hesitate to contact Harvard’s financial aid office. They are there to help demystify any confusion and guide you on how to maximize the benefits of your financial aid.

Budgeting is Your Best Friend

Creating a realistic budget, and more importantly, adhering to it, is the cornerstone of financial management during your time at Harvard. Your budget should be comprehensive, including everything from tuition, housing, and meals, to books, personal expenses, and transportation.

Regularly monitor your spending habits and adjust your budget as needed. Remember, even seemingly insignificant savings can accumulate significantly over time.

Capitalize on Work-Study Opportunities

Work-study jobs are not just about earning money to cover personal expenses. They also provide valuable practical experience and an opportunity to build your professional network. From library assistants to research aides, Harvard offers a wide array of work-study positions that can complement your academic journey.

Be Smart About Textbooks

Textbooks can be a considerable financial burden, but they don’t have to be. Instead of purchasing brand-new books, consider buying used ones, renting, or even opting for digital versions when possible. Some courses may also provide reserve copies of textbooks in the library, which can be a great resource.

Leverage Student Discounts

A multitude of businesses, both online and offline, offer substantial discounts to students. Always keep your student ID handy and do not hesitate to ask if a student discount is available. From software subscriptions to movie tickets, these discounts can help you save considerably.

Meal Planning: A Savior for Your Wallet

Whether you are on a meal plan or cooking for yourself, planning your meals in advance can save you both money and time. If you are on a meal plan, make sure you utilize it fully.

Meanwhile, if you are cooking, bulk cooking and meal prepping can be game-changer. Not only does this approach save money, but it also helps reduce food waste.

Keep Non-Essential Spending in Check

While enjoying college life is important, it is crucial to keep a tab on non-essential spending. Activities like eating out, entertainment, and travel can quickly add up. Remember, each dollar saved is a dollar that can be used towards something essential or saved for future use.

Seek Outside Scholarships

Beyond Harvard’s financial aid, numerous private scholarships are available for students. These scholarships can significantly lower your cost of attendance at Harvard. It is worth investing time in searching and applying for these opportunities – you never know which one might come through.

In essence, managing the Harvard cost of attendance is about making informed decisions, planning, and being resourceful. Not only will these strategies help you manage your expenses while at Harvard, but they also lay the foundation for sound financial habits that will serve you well beyond graduation.

Is Harvard Worth It?

One of the biggest questions that prospective students grapple with is: “Is Harvard worth it?” The short and loud answer is, “Yes,” but a more nuanced response requires understanding the wide array of factors that contribute to the true value of a Harvard education.

Exceptional Education and Faculty

At its core, Harvard offers an exceptional education. With a robust curriculum that spans a wide range of disciplines, students can delve deep into their areas of interest while also exploring new fields.

The faculty at Harvard is composed of distinguished scholars who are leaders in their respective fields. The opportunity to learn from and interact with these individuals is an invaluable part of the Harvard experience.

Network and Community

Harvard has an extensive, global network of alumni. Your peers at Harvard are likely to be future leaders, innovators, and influencers in a variety of fields. The relationships you form during your time at Harvard can lead to professional opportunities, collaborations, and lifelong friendships.

Furthermore, the Harvard brand carries a prestigious reputation that can open doors and facilitate connections in virtually any industry worldwide.

Resources and Opportunities

The resources and opportunities available to Harvard students are vast. From world-class libraries, research facilities, and art museums to funding for research projects, study abroad programs, and internships, Harvard provides an abundance of resources designed to enrich the student experience and facilitate learning and growth.

Career Prospects

Harvard graduates often find themselves at an advantage in the job market. Many top employers recruit directly from Harvard, and the university’s career services office provides valuable support in terms of job search resources, career counseling, and networking events.

Additionally, the skills and experiences gained at Harvard prepare students for a wide range of careers, giving them the flexibility to pursue their passions and interests.

Financial Aid and Support

Despite the high sticker price, Harvard is committed to making education affordable for all admitted students. With a generous financial aid program, the actual cost of attending Harvard can be much lower than the published price for many families.

Furthermore, Harvard’s no-loan policy means students can graduate without the burden of student loan debt, a significant advantage when starting their post-graduation lives.

Personal Development

The Harvard experience is not just about academics. It is also about personal growth. Harvard students are challenged to step outside their comfort zones, broaden their perspectives, develop critical thinking skills, and become engaged members of a diverse community.

These experiences contribute to personal development that extends beyond the classroom and stays with graduates throughout their lives.

Deciding where to invest your time and resources for higher education is a critical. Understanding the cost and value of attending an institution like Harvard University is a vital part of that process.

While the Harvard cost of attendance is high, the return on investment can also be significant. From the quality of education to career prospects and personal growth, there are many ways in which a Harvard education is a worthwhile investment.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal circumstances, academic aspirations, and financial situation.

As you stand at this significant crossroads, remember that education at Harvard is not just about the here and now; it is an investment in your future that has the potential to yield rich dividends throughout your life.

Securing admission into Harvard, one of the world’s most prestigious instituions, can be challenging. However, this process can become significantly more manageable with the assistance of admissions experts like AdmissionSight.

AdmissionSight offers detailed guidance on the application process and provides strategies to bolster your chances of admission. With our experts’ deep understanding of the admissions process, we can be your partner in your journey toward joining the Harvard community.

Book an appointment for an initial consultation today to learn more about us.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.