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How to get Accepted to Harvard: Tips & Admission Requirements

Harvard University is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and getting accepted can be a competitive and challenging process. However, with the right preparation and approach, you can increase your chances of being admitted to Harvard.
As stated on Harvards website, there are three main components to enhance your chances of acceptance to Harvard University: your growth and potential, your interest and activities, overall personal character, and how you will contribute to the Harvard community. Therefore, in this blog post we will dig deeper into what each of these criteria entail and help ensure your acceptance to Harvard University.
how to get accepted to Harvard

What are the requirements for acceptance?

There are 4 requirements that your application must have: the common application, school reports/teacher recommendations, standardized test scores, and supplemental materials.
  1. The Common Application: Harvard is one of the universities included on the common application that you will use to apply to most schools.
  2. School Reports & Teacher Recommendations: The school reports that Harvard needs is your high school transcript. Additionally, Harvard requests two teacher evaluations through letter of recommendations.
  3. Standardized Test Score: Recently Harvard has become a test optional school; however, submitting your SAT or ACT score can enhance your application and make you eligible for scholarships if you scored well.
  4. Supplemental Materials: Supplemental materials include publications, research, artwork, videos, etc.

Tips To Enhance Your Chance of Acceptance:

1. Have a 4.2 GPA with challenging classes

Since Harvard focuses on academics, the average GPA of accepted students is a 4.2. Therefore, to enhance your chances of acceptance, you should strive to be at the top of your class with at least a 4.2 GPA. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get accepted without that GPA, but it will be more difficult. Additionally, taking harder classes will make your transcript look better. Therefore, taking AP, BC, etc classes should be part of your curriculum.

2. Have a 1580 SAT score of ACT equivalent

Due to the same sentiment as point 1, it is important to have a high SAT Score to show your knowledge on the standard concepts that are testing in high school.

3. Have one or two tier 1 or tier 2 extra curricular experiences

As we will delve into later, it is more important to be really good at one thing rather than semi-good at a lot of things. Therefore, Harvard looks for someone who has a tier 1 or 2 extra curricular experience. I will list more about that below to add more clarity.
  • Tier 1 represents the rarest and most impressive of achievements, such as being a state-ranked student-athlete or winning a prize in a national academic competition.
  • Tier 2 includes activities that showcase students’ larger achievements, such as being elected student body president or making the state orchestra.
  • Tier 3 activities include smaller achievements, such as being editor of the school paper or treasurer of the history club.
  • Tier 4 activities include general membership in student clubs and sports teams, as well as other casual hobbies.

4. Write an engaging personal statement

When you think about it, everyone that is applying to Harvard has a 4.0 GPA, near perfect SAT score, and a laundry list of extra curricular actives; therefore, you need to utilize your personal statement as an opportunity to stand out from all the other applicants. You want to use this essay as an opportunity to showcase the amazing qualities about you and what you can offer their university. Additionally, if you fall into the categories that Harvard considers listed above, it would behoove you to write your essay on that. For instance, if you are a first generation student, feel free to write about that within your personal statement.

5. Selectively choose a recommender

When selecting someone to write your personal statement, you don’t want to just select a teacher that you had one class with and got an A but barely spoke to. You want to choose a person that knows you on a VERY deep level. You can pick a teacher that you had several classes with that you stayed after school everyday with to increase your score and perfect your skills in their class. Or you can select your sports coach which you have been on their team for 3 years and they know you well on a personal level. The reason is because the more personal that the letter is, the better chances of acceptance! You want to make sure the letter of recommendation can not be copied and pasted to any student and that it is specific to you and your relationship with the writer. Prep For Success has written amazing recommendations for their students, so feel free to use their example to show whoever you ask to write your letter.

6. Apply EARLY

As everyone knows, Harvard is a very selective university. For the incoming graduating class of 2026, the acceptance rate was a mere 3.2% However, the acceptance rate for early action was 7.8%. This shows that if you apply to Harvard early, you have more than double the chance of being accepted to Harvard. Therefore, it is a no-brainer to look up Harvard’s early application deadline and complete your application in advance. Additionally, applying early shows your dedication and ability to adhere to deadlines, which are two criteria that look amazing for colleges.

What are the factors that Harvard considers?

  • Course rigor
  • GPA
  • Test scores
  • Essay
  • Recommendation letters
  • Interview
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • First generation
  • Legacy
  • Geographical location
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience

What type of student will get accepted to Harvard?

Let’s use the information that we learned above and take look at a quick case study. Imagine that we have two students: let’s call them student A and student B. Imagine that Student A has 13 clubs that they are a member of listed on their resume, they have a 1580 SAT score, 3.9 GPA, and wrote an essay on how they love helping people so they want to become a doctor. On the other hand, Student B has only 1 club listed on their resume but indicated that they were the captain of the team that achieved a national championship metal three years in a row, has a 1570 SAT score, 4.1 GPA, and wrote a captivating essay explaining the grit that it took for his first generation family to come to American and build a successful business.
On first glance, not comparing to candidate B, candidate A is stellar. Managing membership of all those clubs and still maintaining a great GPA and SAT score must be challenging and clearly shows that student is a wonderful candidate. However, notice that even though student B only had one club on his resume, they were the best of the best and took on a leadership position, which both are key attributes that Harvard is looking for. Additionally, notice that his personal essay really got personal. Instead of just reliving into a standard topic that most applicants would, like student A did. Student B delved into how they are first generation, which is something that Harvard considers, and how their family has the potential to succeed and thus make Harvard look good.
Now, I am not saying you need to be a three time olympic medalist and have four publications by the end of high school to be eligible (although it would help your chances of acceptance haha), but you do need to have some type of accolade that makes you stand out from the rest. Keep in mind that the best of the best are submitting their applications to Harvard, so you need to have something that makes you stand out and that doesn’t get blended into all the great SAT scores and GPAs.

Summary to get Accepted to Harvard

  • Focus on your academics: The most important factor in the Harvard admissions process is your academic record. You should aim to take the most challenging courses available to you, get good grades, and score well on standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. Harvard looks for students who excel academically and are intellectually curious.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities: In addition to academics, Harvard values students who are well-rounded and have a diverse range of interests. You should participate in extracurricular activities that showcase your talents and passions, whether that be sports, music, volunteering, or leadership positions in clubs or organizations.
  • Stand out with your accomplishments: Harvard seeks students who have achieved significant accomplishments in their areas of interest. This could include winning national competitions, conducting research, or making significant contributions to your community. Highlighting your accomplishments can make you stand out among other applicants.
  • Write a compelling essay: Your personal essay is an opportunity to showcase your personality and passions. You should aim to write an essay that is unique, engaging, and showcases your voice. Your essay should give admissions officers a sense of who you are beyond your academic and extracurricular achievements.
  • Secure strong letters of recommendation: Strong letters of recommendation can help to support your application and give admissions officers insight into your character and achievements. Choose recommenders who know you well and can speak to your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Be yourself: Above all, Harvard seeks students who are authentic and true to themselves. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, or mold yourself into what you think the admissions committee wants to see. Be yourself, showcase your passions, and let your personality shine through.
In conclusion, getting accepted to Harvard University is a challenging and competitive process, but it’s not impossible. With the right preparation and approach, you can increase your chances of being admitted. If you need help from an admission counselor, Prep For Success Tutors is happy to help! They can walk to though the entire process to help you write your essay and complete your application.

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About our College Admission Coaches

Prep For Success has a team of amazing College Admissions tutors, who have all scored in the 99th percentile. Additionally, all of them have been rigorously trained on all of our tips, tricks, and strategies to obtain acceptance to your dream school! Each tutor takes the time to understand your story to help craft the best personal statement essay and pick colleges that suit your needs and wants. Feel free to reach out to get assistance on your college application.

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