What Kind of Students Get Accepted into Harvard?

October 5, 2022
By AdmissionSight

What Kind of Students Get Accepted into Harvard?

Each year, tens of thousands of high school students apply to Harvard University with the hope that they will receive an acceptance letter in the coming months. After all, Harvard is one of the most sought-after, prestigious, and competitive schools in not only the United States but also the entire world!

Without question, Harvard is famous for its incredible resources, world-famous faculty, and also for the fact that some of the most impactful men and women of our time have started their advanced education at Harvard. The alumni community includes several presidents (FDR, JFK, and Obama among them), A-list actors and filmmakers (Tommy Lee Jones, Natalie Portman, and Damien Chazelle), as well as some of the most influential scientists, doctors, businesspeople, and more!

Knowing all that, you might be wondering what kind of students get into Harvard. Who gets into Harvard besides those who are clearly destined for greatness? While there is no doubt that many of Harvard’s students go on to achieve fantastic things, it is important to remember that most of them did start off as just another high school student with the goal of attending a wonderful school.

Male student walking in Harvard campus.

You don’t have to compare yourself to presidents and titans of industry. At least not yet!

At AdmissionSight, we know that while an incredible academic record and achievements outside of the classroom are a crucial part of success at Harvard, that there is a lot more to the process than that.

In fact, there are important tools and strategies that students can utilize to make sure that they are giving themselves the best chance possible of getting into Harvard or some of the other Ivy League or top 10 schools in the country. In fact, out of all of the students that we have worked with over the years, 3/4ths of them have ended up getting into either an Ivy League school like Harvard, Yale or Princeton or a top 10 school that isn’t in the Ivies like MIT, Stanford or Caltech.

So, if you are curious about who gets into Harvard or are asking the question, “What is Harvard’s acceptance rate?” then you have absolutely come to the right place! Let’s break it all down, together.

What is Harvard’s acceptance rate?

Before we get into what kinds of students get into Harvard these days, we wanted to quickly go over some of the key statistics as they relate to Harvard admissions these days. Of course, we are talking about the Harvard acceptance rate.

When the term acceptance rate is brought up when talking about an undergraduate program or graduate school, what is being discussed is the number of students that ultimately get into the school compared to the total number of students that make up the applicant pool at that school.

Harvard and similarly prestigious schools are well known for having some of the lowest acceptance rates in the world. In truth, these incredibly low acceptance rates are part of what helps these schools maintain such a prestigious reputation!

Aerial view of Harvard University.

When it comes to the most recent application cycle (the 2021-22 application cycle), students who applied to Harvard with hopes of one day walking its historic halls and grounds dealt with the toughest go of it on record. That is saying a lot considering the fact that Harvard itself is older than the United States!

In the 2021-22 application cycle, a total of 61,220 students applied to the school. That number marked a 7.0 percent increase compared to just the previous year. From that massive number, just 1,214 students received offers of admission from the Regular Decision applicants, along with the 740 students that were offered a spot from amongst the Early Action applicants. Among those students, just 36 were ultimately offered a spot at the school after being put on the waiting list following their early application.

That number marks an overall acceptance rate of just 3.19 percent, one of the lowest acceptance rates we have ever seen, and the lowest in the history of the school.

Shortly after the final decisions related to the incoming class of 2026 at Harvard were announced, the Dean of Admissions at Harvard issued a celebratory message regarding the accomplishment made by the less than 2,000 students that were offered a spot at the school.

“It’s truly a wonderful class,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 said in an interview recently. “I think anyone who is in the Class of 2026 could certainly claim — as we claimed for the Class of 1967 — that it’s the greatest class in the history of Harvard.”

One final bit of statistics that we want to get into before we go into some more specific aspects of the kinds of students that get in, we wanted to break down some key diversity breakdowns of the incoming class of 2026.

This information was published directly by the school and is proof of the school’s (and all other Ivy League schools’) commitment to improving diversity and representation within its study body.

Geographical breakdown

  • New England – 16.6%
  • Middle Atlantic – 22.3%
  • South – 17.8%
  • Midwest = 9.8%
  • Central – 2.0%
  • Mountain – 3.2%
  • Pacific – 13.4%
  • Territories – 0.2%
  • International- 14.8%


  • African American – 15.2%
  • Asian American – 27.9%
  • Hispanic or Latino – 12.6%
  • Native American – 2.9%
  • Native Hawaiian – 0.8%

Harvard’s admissions process

When it comes to the admissions processes at Ivy League schools, it is good to keep in mind that while every school has a similar method and approach to analyzing applications and determining what students are the best fit, it is also important to know that every school has its own spin on the process.

At Harvard, they make sure that their process gives their admissions officers, as well as their admissions committee, the ability to meticulously and deliberately look through each student’s application profile so that they can consider both academic components as well as many other important factors that go into the decision-making process.

Female student smiling with her classmates.

There is also a lot of flexibility when it comes to the process, and members of the admissions committee have been known to debate – and even sometimes change – final decisions up until the final deadline in which decisions need to be sent out to applications.

While no analysis is perfect, the Harvard admissions committee has been able to refine the process down to fine art and at this point, their incoming classes often have a graduation rate as high as 98 percent! That basically means that the admissions committee has been able to do a near-perfect job of not only identifying students who can handle (and excel) within the school’s rigorous and competitive academic environment but also identifying students who can find a home and community at Harvard’s campus. As the school says, “We do everything possible to make the best admissions decision for each student.”

What kinds of students get into Harvard?

Now that you have a much better idea of what the current admissions statistics are at Harvard, let’s get into the kind of information that is more important to you. Of course, no one can choose what their background, nationality or cultural or ethnic background is, but there is a whole lot about your application profile that you can control. Moreover, there are definite ways that students can strategically plan their high school years to make sure that they are amongst the most attractive applicants in your application cycle, whenever that may be.

So, instead of covering things that you cannot control, we thought it would make the most sense to break down the kinds of characteristics and attributes that Harvard looks for in the students that apply each and every year. If you can make it a priority to be able to prove that you fit many of these characteristics along with proving that you have impressive academic achievements and goals then you are going to be doing a lot to help your case of getting into this incredible learning institution.

Harvard looks for growth and potential:

One of the key things that admissions officers at many of the top schools in the world look for out in students that are applying is for signs that the students that they accept are going to go on to achieve wonderful things, no matter what their specific field of interest is. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no specific field of study that Harvard (or any of the other top schools) values over another.

Indeed, these admissions committees don’t just put an emphasis on ethnic and cultural diversity, but also on diversity in terms of interests, passions, and more. Here are some key questions the admissions officers at Harvard are going to be asking themselves when they take a look at your application, essays, letters of recommendation, and more:

  • Are you trying to reach your maximum academic and personal potential?
  • Have you challenged yourself inside and outside of the classroom?
  • Have you done all you can to make the most of your time when it comes to your academic pursuits, your out-of-school activities or your employment?
  • Do you have the ability to do more if you put your mind to it?
  • How well do you typically use your time when left to your own devices?
  • Are you a motivated self-starter or do you need guidance and leadership?
  • Are you focused on a few specific things or are your interests more wide-ranging?
  • Where will you be in one, five or 25 years?
  • Do you try to contribute to those around you in meaningful ways?
  • What kind of person are you? What kind of person will you be in the future?

Harvard sifts through your interests and activities with a discerning eye

Another really important component of any student’s pursuit of getting into any school is going to be related to how the student pursued their specific academic and non-academic interests. Just a quick reminder, what you pursue is far less important in the eyes of admissions officers at top schools compared to how seriously and passionately you pursue it.

College student looking away from the camera.

What that means is that the school is not going to value sports or theater, or academic competitions over student government. What matters most is that wherever your interests lie, you make sure to spend ample time and energy working on them!

Here are some considerations the admissions committee will make as it results to this:

  • What do you care about intellectually, personally or extracurricular in nature deeply?
  • What have you learned from your interests? What have you done? What have you pursued and what have you achieved? Have you dealt with failure or roadblocks? How did you respond?
  • Have you taken full advantage of your extracurricular, community, athletic or family commitments throughout high school?
  • What is the quality of the activities that you pursue? Did you show real commitment and earn roles of impact and leadership?
  • If you were not able to spend much time on extracurricular pursuits due to family obligations or work obligations, what types of things will you pursue once you arrive at Harvard?

Harvard looks at your personal characters

Though your academic achievements are going to be the first thing that admissions officers at Harvard look at when they start sifting through your application and related materials, they are far from the only thing that the school is going to consider seriously before making the final decision on your admissions.

Indeed, Harvard is not only interested in accepting good students, but also good people. For that reason, it is really important that you are able to prove your values, your conviction and your sense of responsibility to those in the various communities you belong to. Here is what Harvard will ask about your character while looking through your application:

  • What choices have you made for yourself up to this point in your life?
  • Will you be a late bloomer in terms of coming into yourself as a person and student?
  • How open are you to differing ideas, opinions and people?
  • How have you displayed maturity, leadership, confidence, sense of humor, passion, concern for others, effectiveness and grace under pressure and more?

Harvard wants to know how you will contribute to the campus community

While all schools are proud of the communities that they foster both on campus and within their alumni community worldwide, there does seem to be a different sense of pride and commitment – both on the part of the schools and the students – when it comes to Ivy League programs. After all, these learning institutions are some of the oldest and most famous in the world.

Group of students looking at each other while talking in a table.

It makes perfect sense why commitment and pride is both expected and a major part of what it means to be an Ivy League student and alum.  Here are the questions the schools consider when it comes to what you will be able to contribute to the school’s community:

  • Will you be able to stand up to the pressures and freedoms of College life?
  • Will you contribute something to Harvard and to your classmates? Will you benefit from your Harvard experience?
  • Would other students want to room with you, share a meal, be in a seminar together, be teammates, or collaborate in a closely-knit extracurricular group?

What Kind of Students Get Accepted into Harvard?

The simple truth when it comes to the question is that all kinds of students get into Harvard. Students who know exactly what they want out of their education and students who are still figuring out what it is they ultimately want to do in their lives.

There are students who are committed to STEM subjects and want to one day become a doctor, engineer or computer scientist, and there are students who are working on the next great novel or screenplay. The range is incredible, and Harvard gives its students the possibility to pursue all of their passions and discover new ones during their time on campus.

The one clear unifier of all students at Harvard is that they are highly committed and highly intelligent young adults. They know how to work hard and relish the opportunity to learn and grow both inside and outside of the classroom.

If you are interested in learning about how you can improve your chances of getting into Harvard by making sure that you have answered all of the questions we presented to the best of your ability, contact us today at AdmissionSight to schedule a free consultation with us. We can’t wait to speak with you about the tools and strategies that you can implement to accentuate your strengths, overcome your weaknesses, and become part of the incredible community at Harvard University.

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