What GPA and SAT Scores Do You Need to Get Into Harvard?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A building inside the Harvard campus where legacy admission is still being practiced

What GPA and SAT Scores Do You Need to Get Into Harvard?

When it comes to the schools that top high school students within the United States and all over the world want to attend, there is little doubt that Harvard University is amongst the most desirable schools in the world. Harvard continues to be the gold standard amongst the Ivy League schools, and really every school in the world! If you are a student interested in attending Harvard, you are likely curious about what GPA and SAT scores do you need to get into Harvard?

Aerial view of Harvard University's campus

Luckily, here at AdmissionSight, we make it our number one priority to give all high schoolers the best chance possible at getting into the schools of their dreams. If you are curious about how to get into Harvard, then you have come to the right place.

Let’s break down all of the basic facts and expectations related to getting into Harvard, as well as go into some useful tips about how to improve your chances of getting into Harvard together.

Let’s get started!

Harvard’s GPA requirements

It is no secret that Harvard is among the most selective and competitive schools in the entire world. Based on official metrics, Harvard is the second hardest school to get into in 2021, behind only the California Institute of Technology.

The Harvard University acceptance rate this year is at a measly five percent. This incredibly high selectiveness is without a doubt one of the reasons why Harvard is able to maintain its incredibly lofty reputation. It maintains its reputation as an incredibly elite club where you have to be one of the brightest and most accomplished high school students not just at your school or in your city, but possibly in your entire state or country just to get considered!

You may be asking yourself, “If it is so to get into Harvard, why even try?” Well, you know the reason. A degree from Harvard can open some of the most exclusive doors across countless industries. Beyond that, just because it is hard does not mean that it is impossible.

There are certain things that you can do to strengthen your applicant profile. For example, you should keep in mind that the average GPA of high school students that get into Harvard is 4.18. The fact that it is beyond that of a perfect A, 4.0 GPA means that students are not just getting straight A’s, but also getting A’s in honors, AP, and IB level courses.

What this signifies to college admissions officers at Harvard is that a student is ready to learn and succeed at the college level.

While it is every high schooler’s job to try to get the best grades possible during their years in high school, it is important to mention that just like a really high GPA is no guarantee of acceptance into Harvard, a lower GPA is also not necessarily a death sentence of your Harvard dreams.

What is the lowest GPA cut-off for Harvard?

When we are talking about the Harvard average GPA of 4.18 for high school students to get accepted to Harvard, it may leave some high schoolers feeling absolutely hopeless in terms of their dreams of walking the hallowed halls of the school in Cambridge, Mass.

However, a lower GPA in high school does not necessarily mean that a high school student’s dreams of getting into Harvard are completely dashed.

As important as GPA is to a student’s chances of getting into Harvard – or any school for that matter. Harvard has never specified that there is an actual minimum GPA that a high school student is going to have to achieve in order to apply.

Harvard confirms this fact, stating that, “There is no minimum GPA to apply, although our students usually have strong undergraduate records.”

With all that being said, it is thought that the lowest GPA to get into Harvard is around a 3.0 GPA. Of course, there are likely some pretty unique circumstances where students with lower GPAs may have gotten into the school. However, that information is private and likely will never see the light of day.

For that reason, any typical student in the United States should make it a high priority to get as good of a high school GPA as possible to improve the chances of acceptance at Harvard.

What are the SAT requirements to get into Harvard?

If you are a high schooler right now, chances are good that you are well aware of the major changes in sentiment in regards to the common standardized tests that high school students have been taking for years, such as the ACT and SAT.

In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard University – and many other of the top universities and colleges across the country – made the submission of any standardized test scores completely optional. This began in the 2019-20 school year and has now been extended to at least the 2020-21 school year.

“Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard College is extending our standardized testing policy through the 2021-2022 application cycle,” the announcement read. “We will allow students to apply for admission without requiring ACT or SAT test results.”

They also made it clear that students who do not choose to include an SAT or ACT score with their application will not be disadvantaged compared to students who do choose to submit.

With that being said, there are surely many thousands of students who will elect to submit test scores anyways. That is especially true if those test scores are up to the high standards that Harvard University has established over the years.

While Harvard has no official cutoff score when it comes to the SAT, there is of course something of a “hidden” test score requirement in the form of the average score of students that are ultimately accepted into Harvard.

That average SAT score for Harvard applicants that get an acceptance letter is 1520 out of the perfect score of 1600. This is a deeply competitive score and indicates just house excellent a student’s test scores have to be if they are truly committed to getting into Harvard.

When it comes to percentile, the 25th percentile score of students who get into Harvard is 1460 and the 75th percentile score is 1580. In other words, if a student’s score is at or below 1460, they are below the school’s average. If a student’s score is 1580 or above, they are above the school’s average.

How to improve your chances of getting into Harvard?

Now that you have some of the basic facts about what kinds of GPA and SAT scores you will have to aim for if you are truly committed to getting into Harvard University, you may also be curious about some additional tips and information that you can use to your advantage in order to increase your chances.

Several Harvard students gathered by the stairs

No matter if you are right at the average GPA and SAT scores, a little bit above the average, or a little bit below, these tips should be taken very seriously. After all, there is much more that goes into any school’s decision to send a student a letter of acceptance than simply the grades that they earned in high school and the scores that they recorded on the SAT or ACT.

So, let’s get started on some of the most important tips that you should keep in mind as you prepare to send in your application to Harvard.

Tip 1. Apply Early

One of the best things that any student who is sure that they want to attend one specific school over all others is to find out whether or not that school as an Early Action program. Harvard’s Restrictive Early Action program allows those students who are most committed to attending Harvard to apply early.

Those who are interested in applying early should know that they need to have their entire application filled out and submitted by November 1st.

While applying early does make it so that students need to work quicker on their applications and make some hard decisions very early on in the school years, it does offer student’s slightly better chances of getting into the school of their dreams.

Beyond that, applying with Early Action makes it clear to the school that you are committed to attending that university. This desire shows a certain level of maturity that without a doubt looks good for students.

Tip 2. Craft fantastic personal essays

If there is perhaps one part of the college application process in which a student can help themselves overcome a less-than perfect GPA or less-than ideal standardized testing scores is the personal essay portion.

In fact, there are some that believe that the personal essay portion of a college application is the singularly most important aspect of the entire process. That fact is seemingly becoming even more important as top schools and universities seem to continue to move further and further away from the standardized tests that have dominated the college application landscape for many years.

A person writing on a notebook

When applying to schools, students are required to write a series of fairly short essays. An important thing for students to keep in mind is that these essays lays a really important opportunity, and one that they will absolutely want to take advantage of if they are committed to getting into Harvard.

Essentially, these essays give students the opportunity to let the school know about themselves. If done correctly, this can help a student really separate themselves from the pack and stand out in some important ways.

That is especially true when a student is given the ability to craft their personal essays with the help of an experienced and knowledgeable college admissions officer. Working with someone at AdmissionSight will offer you invaluable insight that will allow you to take the essay from something that you simply have to endure and turn it into something that could truthfully be the deciding factor in regards to your acceptance at a top school like Harvard University.

Tip. 3 Make sure to get the most out of your letters of recommendation

When a student wants to apply to Harvard University, they are expected and required to send in two letters of recommendation. One of those letters comes from their counselor in high school while the other comes from a teacher.

While high school students ultimately cannot control what will be put in the letter, they do have some say in terms of how great they think the letter will be. The biggest reason why this is true is that students can make it a priority to form meaningful relationships with the counselors at their score as well as the teachers.

Students should try to have a positive relationship with the majority of the counselors at their school. This is especially important at schools where the counselor who will write a student’s letter is not chosen but assigned.

Beyond that, when it comes to the teacher’s letter of recommendation, the student has full rein over what teacher writes their letter of recommendation. For that reason, it is always recommended that the student goes with not only the teacher that they have had most classes with, or have performed best in those classes but also the teacher with who they have formed a meaningful relationship with over the years.

When it comes to these letters of recommendations, it is crucial that the student is able to depend on the teacher and counselor writing them to be able to highlight their strengths within the school community on top of just their academic achievements.

Beyond that, students should be sure to ask the teacher who they want to write their letter of recommendation well in advance of the due date of the application so that the teacher has enough time to write a wonderful and truly impactful letter.

Tip 4. Prepare effectively for the alumni interview

The final tip to help high school students get into Harvard University is to prepare for the alumni interview. Each and every year, Harvard calls on many of its alumni to help further vet the thousands of applicants by way of alumni interviews. These interviews are conducted between an applicant and Harvard alumnus to help give the school a better understanding of who the student is and how qualified they are to attend Harvard.

Though these interviews used to be in person, there are – of course – now being conducted through videoconference in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the way in which the interviews are conducted have changed, what matters most about these interviews remain entirely the same.

a female interviewing a male student

Preparing for these interviews, the questions that you will be asked, and the answers that you want to reply with is a great way to make sure that you feel great about the interview after the fact. Do not depend on yourself to be able to come up with the perfect answers to each question right on the spot. No matter how intelligent you are, and how charismatic you are, you should make sure that you are prepared.

A good place to start is to simply find some typical questions online and start crafting some rough answers so that you are not caught off guard on the day of the interview. Beyond that, it is also wise for you to come up with some questions that you yourself would like to ask during the interview if given the opportunity. Having questions to ask shows the interviewer, and by extension Harvard, that you are both seriously interested in attending the school and that you are someone who thinks deeply about topics that you are grappling with. Both will only help you and your chances of getting into Harvard.

Will you get into Harvard University?

Without a doubt, there is no way for a high school student to fully guarantee that they will be accepted into any school, let alone a school as prestigious and competitive as Harvard University. However, when armed with the necessary knowledge and experience, students can absolutely improve their chances of getting into any school, no matter how difficult a specific school is to get into.

Harvard University's historic building on campus

That is where AdmissionSight can come in and help top students trying to get into prestigious programs. AdmissionSight and its trained college admission consultants have an incredibly high success rate when it comes to high schoolers getting into the school of their dreams. In fact, that success rate is approximately 75 percent!

Getting into Harvard is difficult for any high schooler, no matter how accomplished they are. Hopefully, this quick breakdown of what typically helps a student achieve that goal has left you feeling better about where your chances stand as well as what you have to do in order to make your dream of attending Harvard a reality.

Whether it’s improving your GPA, getting great test scores, or simply worrying about making your application as strong as it can be, there is always something that can be done about getting into the school of your dreams!


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.