What Kind of Students Get Accepted into Harvard?

October 5, 2022
By AdmissionSight
View of Harvard University building.

What Kind of Students Get Accepted into Harvard?

Each year, tens of thousands of high school students apply to Harvard University, hoping to receive an acceptance letter in the coming months. After all, Harvard is one of the most sought-after, prestigious, and competitive schools in the United States and worldwide.

Without question, Harvard is famous for its incredible resources, world-famous faculty, and the fact that some of the most impactful men and women of our time have started their advanced education at Harvard.

The alum 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 wonder what kind of students get into Harvard. Who else besides those destined for greatness can gain admission to Harvard? While there is no doubt that many of Harvard’s students go on to achieve fantastic things, it is essential to remember that most of them did start as just another high school student to attend an excellent 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, there is a lot more to the process than that.

Students can utilize essential tools and strategies to ensure they are giving themselves the best chance 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 we have worked with over the years, 3/4ths of them have gotten 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 what is Harvard’s acceptance rate? Is” then you have 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 review some key statistics related to Harvard admissions quickly. 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.

Harvard and similarly prestigious schools are well known for having some of the lowest acceptance rates in the world. In truth, these meager 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 most challenging go of it on record. That is saying a lot because Harvard is older than the United States!

In the 2021-22 application cycle, 61,220 students applied. 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, 36 were ultimately shown a place 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 we have ever seen and the weakest in the school’s history.

Shortly after the final decisions about 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 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 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 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 proves its (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 essential to know that every school has its 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 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 to fine art. At this point, their incoming classes often have a graduation rate as high as 98 percent! That means that the admissions committee has done a near-perfect job of identifying students who can handle (and excel) within the school’s rigorous and competitive academic environment and identifying students who can find a home and community at Harvard’s campus. 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 know Harvard’s current admissions statistics better, let’s get into the more critical information. 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 ensure they are amongst the most attractive applicants in your application cycle, whenever possible.

So, instead of covering things 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 every year.

Suppose you can make it a priority to prove that you fit many of these characteristics and that you have impressive academic achievements and goals. In that case, you will be doing a lot to help your chance of getting into this incredible learning institution.

Harvard looks for growth and potential:

One of the critical things that admissions officers at many of the top schools in the world look for in students who are applying is signs that the students they accept will achieve incredible things, no matter their specific field of interest. It’s essential to remember that there is no particular field of study that Harvard (or any of the other top schools) values over another.

Indeed, these admissions committees don’t just emphasize ethnic and cultural diversity but also 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 regarding your academic pursuits, out-of-school activities, or employment?
  • Do you can do more if you put your mind to it?
  • How well do you typically use your time when left to your 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 component of any student’s pursuit of getting into any school is how they pursue their specific academic and non-academic interests. Just a quick reminder: what you seek is far less critical in the eyes of admissions officers at top schools compared to how seriously and passionately you follow it.

College student looking away from the camera.

That means the school will not value sports, theater, or academic competitions over student government. What matters most is that wherever your interests lie, you 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 extracurricularly 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 could not spend much time on extracurricular pursuits due to family or work obligations, what would you pursue once you arrive at Harvard?

Harvard evaluates your personal qualities

Though your academic achievements will 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 the school will consider seriously before making the final decision on your admissions.

Indeed, Harvard is interested in accepting good students and good people. Therefore, you must prove your values, conviction, and sense of responsibility to those in your communities. 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?
  • Will you be a late bloomer in becoming 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 they foster both on campus and within their alum community worldwide, there seems 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 are both expected and a significant 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 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 regarding the question is that all kinds of students get into Harvard. Students who know precisely what they want out of their education and those who are still figuring out what they ultimately want to do in their lives.

Some students are committed to STEM subjects and want to one day become a doctor, engineer, or computer scientist, and some are working on the next great novel or screenplay. The range is incredible, and Harvard allows its students to pursue all of their passions and discover new ones while on campus.

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

If you are interested in learning how to improve your chances of getting into Harvard by ensuring 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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