Harvard Letters of Recommendation

November 27, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Harvard Letters of Recommendation

How Many Letters Of Recommendation Does Harvard Require?

Every element can affect your admissions decision at a school like Harvard. Since there are so many outstanding applicants vying for a small number of spots, Harvard letters of recommendation are particularly crucial.

Recommendation letters are an important soft component in your application. Letters of recommendation have a significant or moderate role in admission decisions for 54% of colleges, according to NACAC‘s 2019 State of College Admission report.

So, how many letters of recommendation does Harvard require? One letter of recommendation from a school counselor is required by the university. In addition, requests for Teacher Evaluation forms from two teachers who are knowledgeable about you in various academic fields are needed. After submitting your application, you have the option of adding Harvard letters of recommendation. A customized link will be included in the email that confirms your application for you to send your recommenders.

What Should Be In A Harvard Recommendation Letter?

Teacher recommendations can offer evidence of an applicant’s potential to make a significant difference to a college community and beyond.

Test scores, grades, and other credentials are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how recommendations can help admissions officers see beyond them and reveal traits like character, leadership, and a thirst for knowledge. In addition to essays, interviews, and other application materials, recommendations can demonstrate a candidate’s potential to significantly impact the campus community and beyond.

Three people talking on a table with a laptop.

Now, what should be in a Harvard recommendation letter? Excellent Harvard letters of recommendation cover more ground than just your academic performance. They talk about your character traits, how it is to work with you, and your chances of future success.

While the school counselor who will write your recommendation may not be someone you have much control over, the option of which teachers to get a letter from is an important one.

You should ask teachers who have worked closely with you and are knowledgeable about your strengths for a letter of recommendation for Harvard. Instructors from the eleventh grade would be a good choice because they will be more familiar with your work from more recent assignments and will be aware of how you perform in higher-level classes.

Students may choose to give preference to teachers who specialize in a field that they are enthusiastic about and may want to pursue in college when requesting letters of recommendation. For instance, a student thinking about majoring in journalism might want to consider requesting a letter of recommendation from one of their English teachers.

What Is the Deadline For Harvard Recommendation Letters?

All first-year applicants, including those from abroad and the United States, must submit the application requirements before the deadlines.

To answer “What is the deadline for Harvard recommendation letters?” the deadline for Restrictive Early Action applications is November 1st. By the middle of December, the applicants for Restrictive Early Action are informed of the admissions decisions.

Two students talking in a library while the other one is leaning on a shelf.

Meanwhile, the first-year Regular Decision applicants must submit the application components, including the Harvard letters of recommendation, by January 1st. By the end of March, applicants for the Regular Decision round will be contacted regarding the result of the admissions decisions.

What Are the Requirements To Get Into Harvard?

What are the requirements to get into Harvard? All first-year applicants, including those from abroad and the United States, must submit the Coalition, Powered by Scoir application or the Common Application, along with the necessary supplements.

You will have to provide the following:

  • Common Application or apply Coalition App
  • Harvard College Questions for the Common Application or Coalition Application Harvard supplement
  • $85 application fee or request a fee waiver)\
  • SAT or ACT (with or without writing) – Harvard is test-optional for the 2022-2026 application cycles
    • AP or other examination results are not required but may be submitted
  • School Report (which includes a counselor letter) and high school transcript
  • Two teachers’ evaluation
  • Midyear School Report (after first semester grades)
  • Final School Report (for admitted students only)

Supplemental Essays

Harvard requests two supplemental essays from applicants and gives them the option of responding to a third. Generally speaking, it’s a wise approach to finish optional essays because it shows your interest in the institution and gives the candidate a chance to tell more about themselves.

  • Prompt No. 1: Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words)
  • Prompt No. 2: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)
  • Prompt No. 3 (optional): You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics: (ideally about 500 words)
  • Unusual circumstances in your life.
  • Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities.
  • What you would want your future college roommate to know about you?
  • An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science, or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you.
  • How you hope to use your college education.
  • A list of books you have read during the past twelve months.
  • The Harvard College Honor code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
  • The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
  • Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
  • Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development, or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.
  • If none of the suggested prompts are appealing, applicants are welcome to write on a topic of their choice.

Supplemental Materials

Harvard often receives enough data from the standard application to make admissions decisions. Some students, particularly those with distinctive skills or accomplishments like musicians and artists, will want to share more about themselves, though. If you possess a talent or a noteworthy accomplishment that cannot be displayed on your application, submitting supplemental materials will help bolster your application.


Applicants are scheduled for interviews at the Admissions Committee’s discretion, in part dependent on the local alumni’s availability. Without an interview, applications are deemed complete because they contain all the data necessary to make admissions choices.

Female student having a discussion with an adult in a room.

What Does Harvard Look For In Applications?

The Harvard admissions officers learn more about the person behind the numbers upon reading your application. Your academic success, extracurricular activities, character traits, and life experiences are all considered. There is no ideal Harvard applicant, just as there is no typical Harvard student.

What does Harvard look for in applications? Harvard admissions policies are determined by a variety of factors. From a large pool of applicants, the admissions office carefully selects those who show the greatest promise for future contributions to society. Both the most academically bright kids and those with the most future promise are not always among the pupils who are best prepared for college.

While academic promise will always be the most important factor, admissions officers also value applicants with unique talents and exceptional character traits. They are also interested in students who excel in one or more extracurricular activities, and they aim to have a distinctive and diverse local and international student body.

Two students walking in the campus.

Harvard prioritizes finding students who make use of the chances and resources they have access to and who are likely to do so in the future. The institution believes that learning specific subjects and abilities can help you succeed in college. If you would like, you can take the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement exams to prove that you are proficient in these disciplines and submit your scores.

There isn’t a set academic path that Harvard wants all students to take, but the school does want to guide you in making decisions that will help you succeed in college.

You can learn how to pick high school classes that will best prepare you for liberal arts universities with demanding academic requirements, like Harvard, in this area. You can also discover advice on how to decide whether you should take some time off before starting college. You might also wish to read more about the criteria used to decide who gets into Harvard.

A Well-Rounded Education

A quality high school education should prepare you for future learning opportunities of all types, not just for the next level of schooling or for jobs in the future. You should acquire specific knowledge and skills in addition to a comprehensive understanding of the world and its possibilities.

You can increase your chances of being accepted into a selective college and your performance during your initial years of college by enrolling in the most difficult classes you can find. Harvard identified significant knowledge, abilities, or habits of thought rather than specific courses because the content of courses may differ from high school to high school.

a female student writing a college essay

However, personal circumstances will be considered like how each student has unique skills and passions that need to be developed, schools differ greatly in their own advantages. You can run into unusual situations, such as a lack of resources or a chance to study with a fantastic instructor.

Harvard suggests the following for high school courses that will serve as a solid foundation for a liberal arts education:

  • Four years of English coursework: Close and in-depth reading of the classic works of literature from around the world.
  • Studying one foreign language for four years.
  • At least two years of history study, preferably three, including courses in American and European history as well as one additional advanced history course.
  • Four years of mathematics coursework**
  • Studying physics, chemistry, and biology for four years, preferably with at least one of these subjects at the advanced level.
  • Regular practice of expository prose writing

**Harvard applicants should perform very well in a rigorous high school math sequence that matches their educational interests and objectives. Calculus, statistics, mathematical modeling, data science, and other advanced math courses are all considered equally when evaluating applicants.

Calculus can be beneficial for high school students who plan to major in engineering, computer science, physics, or other disciplines that call for a calculus background.


Harvard is interested in the contributions that students make to the well-being of their secondary schools, neighborhoods, and families. Therefore, you should describe the amount of time you devote and the type of contribution you make to extracurricular activities, the community, work experiences, and family support.

Some students try to mention everything they have ever done, while others just include activities they believe the admissions staff will find noteworthy. Neither strategy is appropriate for everyone. Instead, consider the pursuits to which you give most of your time—whether at home, at school, or elsewhere—and make a shortlist out of those.

Harvard is aware that some high schools offer few or no extracurricular and athletic activities or due to the expense of equipment or the logistical demands of some sports and activities, some students might not be able to participate. Thus, you should not think that your lack of extracurricular options will hurt your chances of getting into college. Instead, the admissions committee will consider the different opportunities throughout your life and attempt to determine how successfully you have seized those chances.

Harvard Questions

In this part of your application, Harvard is curious about your extracurricular, extracurricular, and personal hobbies. The questions are specific to Harvard and are also necessary since they can help the school learn more about how you plan to make the most of your stay at Harvard.

It is helpful for the institution to gain a feel of students’ current interests and those academic areas in which they have previously invested time and effort, even if students may certainly change their goals once they are in college.

One of the major windows into a student’s character that the admissions officers have, along with the personal essays that students provide with their applications, are the recommendations.

Recommendation letters aid in illustrating your character. Like any skilled painter, you want to have complete control over your creation. However, those who will be writing your Harvard letters of recommendation will share some of your compliments and personality traits from their point of view. So, choose wisely because you will not be able to read what they say about you.

If you need more guidance regarding recommendation letters, you can check AdmissionSight’s tips for requesting letters of recommendation. Furthermore, AdmissionSight offers programs that could help you with other components of your application. Feel free to set up an initial consultation with us to discuss your admissions strategies.


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