Harvard College admits undergraduate students from all backgrounds and recognizes that different paths lead to success. Your academic record and scores on standardized tests, such as the SAT or the ACT, play important roles in your application. Applicants without any standardized test scores can still be admitted through our special access process into Harvard College. Apply today to begin your journey at HU.
A strong knowledge of English is essential for successful study at Harvard, including the ability to understand and express thoughts quickly and clearly. Although you are not required to take an English proficiency exam (such as the TOEFL, IELTS, etc.), you may submit scores if you wish to do so.
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Harvard Application Requirements
Here you’ll find a detailed explanation of each admission application requirement. Most of the information here applies to both first-year and transfer applicants. Don’t forget to reference our Application Tips for guidance on filling out the Common Application.
We accept the Common Application, the Universal College Application, and the Coalition Application. Each is treated equally by the Admissions Committee. Complete and submit your materials as soon as possible to ensure full and timely consideration of your application. If you use the Common Application, you must submit your application before your supporting materials (Secondary School Report, Teacher Reports, etc.) can be released to a college. Until you submit your own application sections, no part of your application will be transmitted to the Harvard Admissions Office. The Universal College Application does not require this same process.
Submitting Your Application
We will send an email acknowledgment of receipt within two weeks of receiving your application. If you have not received an acknowledgment after two weeks, please contact us. Choose the category “Admissions” and then the subject “Applicant Questions (if you’ve already submitted your application)” in the drop-down menu, or call 617-495-1551.
Please note: we will not begin processing applications until late September, so the earliest acknowledgements will be sent in mid-September.
You may pay your application fee online with a credit card via the Common Application, Coalition Application, or the Universal College Application websites.
You may also send a check or money order to Harvard College Admissions, 86 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Please include the applicant’s name with the payment.
Fee waivers: Do not let the admissions application fee prevent you from applying! In the spirit of our honor code, if the admissions application fee presents a hardship for you or your family, the fee will be waived.
If you meet the indicators of economic need on the Common Application or the Coalition Application, you can request a fee waiver directly through the application. If you do not meet the indicators of economic need or you are applying using the Universal Application, please fill out our Admissions Application Fee Waiver Request Form. Requesting a fee waiver will not disadvantage your application in any way.
Complete the Harvard Questions with the Common Application. If you are using the Universal College Application, complete the Harvard supplement and submit it online or mail it to the Admissions Office.
Additional application questions
Each applicant to Harvard College is considered with great care and homeschooled applicants are treated the same as all other applicants. There is no special process, but all relevant information about your educational and personal background is welcome. In addition to the application, all applicants are required to submit standardized tests, a transcript (you may create your own), and recommendations. If the application fee presents a hardship for your family, simply request a fee waiver.
Hear from Harvard students who were homeschooled, in the Harvard Gazette article ‘Homeschooled en route to Harvard.’
Do not resend your application in order to make updates. If you need to update your identification or contact information, or send updates, additional information, or corrections, please do so via the Applicant Portal.
Be completely accurate in your application materials. If we discover a misrepresentation during the admissions process, you will be denied admission. If you have already been admitted, your offer will typically be withdrawn. If you have already registered, your admission will normally be revoked, and we will require you to leave the College. Harvard rescinds degrees if misrepresentations in application materials are discovered.
The determination that an application is inaccurate or contains misrepresentations rests solely with the Admissions Office and will be resolved outside the student disciplinary process.
School Reports and Teacher Recommendations
Midyear School Report
When you apply, your school counselor will often send your transcript with few or no senior year course grades included. That is why the midyear school report is required – to allow us to review your performance in the first half of your senior year coursework. The midyear school report must be completed by your school counselor or other school official. Please request that the midyear school report is completed and returned to our office as soon as possible.
Midyear School Report FAQs
Early Action applicants are not required to submit the midyear report by the November 1 deadline. If you applied Early Action and are deferred to Regular Decision, please submit the midyear report and transcript in February, or as soon as your midyear grades are available.
If you study the IB curriculum or the A-level curriculum, then we expect that your school will send predicted grades, based on your current classroom work and the results of any internal or mock exams you have taken up to that point. If your school does not issue official or predicted midyear grades for your final year of school, then you do not need to submit the midyear report form, although the item may remain on your checklist.
If you have already graduated from high school, you should ignore the midyear report requirement (though the item may remain on your Checklist in the Applicant Portal) and simply ask your school to send a final school report if you have not already done so.
Ask two teachers in different academic subjects who know you well to complete the Teacher Evaluation forms. If you wish to submit additional letters of recommendation, you can do so after you submit your application. In your application confirmation email, there will be a personalized link to send to your recommenders.
There is no “one size fits all” rule about which curriculum to study during secondary school years. Students should challenge themselves by taking courses deemed appropriate by their teachers and counselors. But some students believe that “more is always better” when it comes to AP, IB or other advanced courses.
While some students prosper academically and personally by taking large numbers of such courses, others benefit from a more balanced approach that allows them additional time for extracurricular and personal development. For example, not everyone needs to enroll in calculus if another algebra or a statistics course would be a better fit. Even the best students can be negatively affected by taking too many courses at once, and might benefit instead from writing, reading or research projects on subjects of great interest to them.
To learn more, read our Guide to Preparing for College. To avoid the “burnout” often seen among secondary school students, please refer to our article, Time Out or Burn Out for the Next Generation.
Final School Report and Transcripts
All admitted students who choose to enroll are required to send a Final School Report and transcript as soon as their final grades become available – no later than July 1. The Final School Report and transcript should be completed and sent by a school counselor or other school official through Parchment/Docufide or Scrip-Safe International, if your school has access to these submission options.
IB students should send their final results as soon as they are released in mid-July. We will expect to see final A levels results by mid-August.
Standardized Test Scores
We require all applicants to submit the ACT or SAT, but you may choose to submit with or without the writing component. If you choose to submit Subject Tests, it is more useful to choose only one mathematics test rather than two. Similarly, if your first language is not English, a Subject Test in your first language may be less helpful. You should submit scores from tests taken in the past three years.
While we recommend two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of taking the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them. If you were eligible for a fee waiver from the SAT or ACT, you are eligible for unlimited free score reports to be sent to institutions to which you are applying. We recommend you use your free score reports to share your scores with Harvard. Standardized testing is only one component of our admissions process and your application will be evaluated on the basis of all of the other information that you submit.
Standardized Testing FAQs
Yes. Applicants may provide self-reported SAT and ACT test scores (including Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, IB, etc.). Admitted students who decide to enroll at Harvard College will be required to submit official test scores.
You are free to use the College Board Score Choice option or the similar option offered by the ACT. Our official codes are 3434 for the College Board SAT Reasoning and Subject Tests and 1840 for the ACT if you are submitting official test scores as part of your application.
- How to send your SAT and SAT Subject Test scores
- How to send your ACT scores
There are no score cutoffs, and we do not admit “by the numbers.” For the ACT, we will evaluate your highest composite score and any other scores you choose to share with us. We take into account your educational background when reviewing your scores.
Research indicates that short-term test preparation usually has little effect, but the free “test prep” now offered by the SAT and the ACT might make a significant difference for students who follow their programs for extended periods of time. Such free programs could help to level the playing field for students from under-resourced high schools by providing the academic skills that will serve them well on standardized tests and also in college.
Students who attend well-resourced schools throughout their lives tend to do well on standardized testing. Those without such advantages can also do well by studying widely and deeply over a long period of time on their own with the help of family or school or community organizations.
Standardized tests provide a rough yardstick of what a student has learned over time and how that student might perform academically in college – but they are only one of many factors considered in our admissions process. High school grades can also be helpful in assessing readiness for college courses but secondary schools around the country and the world employ a wide variety of grading systems – and some students have no grades at all from their schools or are home-schooled.
SAT Subject Tests
While we recommend that you submit two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them.
Standardized testing is only one component of our admissions process and your application will be evaluated on the basis of all submitted information. Standardized tests are best viewed as rough yardsticks of academic progress which are greatly affected by academic opportunity.
SAT Subject Test FAQs
Subject Tests can be helpful both for admissions and course placement purposes. Students whose first language is not English and those less familiar with standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT can often demonstrate their academic progress more effectively by also submitting Subject Tests. International students generally benefit from submitting Subject Tests and should take them if possible as they are unlikely to be admitted on the basis of SAT or ACT alone.
The decision whether to take Subject Tests is entirely up to you. You should ask yourself whether other academic credentials including, but not limited to, AP results, IB marks, A Levels grades, etc., adequately represent your suitability for studying at Harvard. If there is any doubt, you should take two Subject Tests.
Applicants may provide self-reported SAT and ACT test scores (including Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, etc.). Admitted students who decide to enroll at Harvard College will be required to submit official test scores.
Subject Test results can be used to help assess which course levels are appropriate to take at Harvard and can enable you to pass our language requirement (700 or better on a language Subject Test) and take advanced courses from among 80+ foreign languages. Other standardized tests can also be used to meet the language requirement, for example, with a 7 in a Higher Level IB language exam or a 5 in an AP language exam or by successfully passing a placement test upon arriving at Harvard.
Our standard application materials typically give us ample information for making admission decisions. However, we recognize you may have truly exceptional talents or achievements you wish to share, and we want you to have every opportunity to best represent yourself.
At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, supplementary materials—such as music recordings, artwork, or selected samples of academic work—may be evaluated by faculty. These materials are entirely optional.
Scholarly articles, research, creative writing or other documents of which you are the primary author should be submitted in the Upload Materials section of the Applicant Portal. This is the most efficient and direct method of submitting these materials, because they will be added directly to your official application. All submissions should include a list of any individuals with whom you collaborated in the production of the work. If appropriate, please identify your research sponsor, mentor, and/or laboratory or research group leader and provide a short description of your particular contribution to the work.
You may submit optional supplementary media materials (e.g. videos, audio recordings, or images) electronically via Slideroom. Details for submissions in art, dance or choreography, musical performance or composition, will be found on the Slideroom website. There is a small submission fee, but if this fee causes you economic hardship, you may request a fee waiver at the point of submission. You may also contact us to request a fee waiver.
Everything You Need to Know About Harvard
Harvard University is, to many members of the general public, the archetype of a prestigious college. Its name recognition, reputation, and long history make it world-renown, even iconic, in its stature. Even if it’s not actually the very best at everything, it’s still an incredible place to learn and grow with the backing of an exceptional array of resources and opportunities, and many high school students dream of joining its ranks.
Of course, getting admitted to such a respected university is an extremely competitive process. If you’re a high school student who’s planning to apply to Harvard, you need to take time to familiarize yourself with the university, its expectations, its culture, and its application process. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to include Harvard on your college application list.
Want to learn what Harvard University will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering Harvard University needsto know.
Harvard: The Quick Facts
Type: Private University
Location: Cambridge, MA
Enrollment: 6,710 undergraduates, 20,324 students in total
Tuition: $48,949 (2017-2018)
Average Financial Aid Award: $50,562
Acceptance Rate: 5.2% (class of 2021)
Average SAT Score: 2235 (class of 2020), roughly equivalent to 1530 on the new SAT
An Introduction to Harvard
Students and Culture
With over 6,700 undergraduates and over 20,000 students altogether, Harvard is a fairly large university. (You won’t always encounter all the graduate students, though—some of their campuses are separated from the main campus area.) These students, who hail from all over the world, bring in experiences, perspectives, and expertise from innumerable sources.
Harvard students are intelligent, driven young people with great potential who appreciate a rigorous academic experience, so coursework is challenging and the environment is heavily intellectual. Their numbers include currently high-profile people like Olympic athletes and children of well-known figures, as well as people who are destined for future greatness.
At the same time, Harvard isn’t just an icon; it’s a real place full of real young people learning, exploring, and shaping the future on a daily basis.
Tuition and Financial Aid
A Harvard education is an expensive commodity, with the average student’s cost of attendance (including room, board, books, and personal expenses) adding up to roughly $67,000 for the 2017-2018 year. However, the school does offer need-based financial aid to help mitigate this expense, which can make attending Harvard a much more viable possibility for many students and their families.
You should know that Harvard awards only need-based financial aid, not merit-based, academic, or athletic scholarships. Your aid will depend upon your family’s income, assets, and ability to contribute. Around 55% of students currently receive financial aid, and recently, Harvard replaced all required student loans in their aid packages with more grant aid that students don’t have to pay back later.
Cambridge, Massachusetts is a small, dense town right across the Charles River from Boston, close enough to share in its subway system and many other city amenities. Within the next few years, Harvard is planning to expand its facilities in Boston itself, but for now, most undergraduate activity takes place in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge.
Boston and Cambridge are steeped in American history, and reminders of the American Revolution are everywhere. The large number of colleges and universities in the area gives it an enduring legacy of intellectual excellence, with Harvard as a major part of that tradition. You’ll find a combination of big-city benefits and quirky local traditions, a strong devotion to the Red Sox, and easy access to the rest of the East Coast.
Academics and Popular Majors
Harvard’s most popular majors lie within the fields of biological and physical sciences, social sciences, history, and math, but these are by no means the only strong academic options. The university is home to exceptional programs and scholars in many disciplines, and even if you can’t study with a star professor directly, their influence helps make the academic offerings at Harvard truly world-class.
Student Life and Activities
Harvard students come from all over the world and bring in a huge range of exceptional talents and backgrounds, and this is reflected in the wide range of student activities available. No matter if you’re interested in athletics, politics, cultural groups, or even rare hobbies, you’re likely to find your people somewhere.
As you can imagine, high-achieving Harvard students often like to compete, whether it’s in debate, crew, or robotics. There are plenty of competitive opportunities, especially given the large number of other colleges in Boston, as well as Harvard’s membership in the tight-knit Ivy League.
However, not everything is so high-stakes; there’s plenty of fun to be had. In recent years, the university has also put more resources toward helping students relax and better manage the stress of their busy academic and extracurricular schedules.
Harvard is a residential community, with 98% of undergraduates living on campus. First-year dorms are located in the campus center, on the iconic Harvard Yard, and the ornate first-year dining hall that reminds many students of Hogwarts is nearby.
After this first year, students are divided among the twelve “residential colleges,” smaller communities within the Harvard campus that combine housing with dining halls and other common spaces. RAs and staff in each college head up activities that range from study breaks to fun group outings.
Walking Through the Harvard Admissions Process
Each year, Harvard receives close to 40,000 applications for undergraduate admission. In 2017, the university accepted 5.2% of applicants, continuing a general trend of lower acceptance rates each year at Harvard as well as at many other comparable universities. Since Harvard is such a well-known and prestigious school, its yield is typically very high, meaning that most of the students who are accepted to Harvard will decide to go there.
Who Gets Admitted to Harvard?
While Harvard doesn’t have a stated minimum GPA or standardized test score range, successful applicants usually have very high grades and scores. For the class of 2020, the average combined SAT score (on the older version of the test) was 2235, which translates to roughly 1530 on the newest version of the SAT. Applicants also typically show strong extracurricular involvement and have taken on challenging coursework.
However, getting accepted requires more than the right numbers. Harvard’s holistic evaluation procedure looks for students who are truly exceptional and have great potential. Qualities like innovativeness, dedication, and curiosity are important, but most of all, you’ll need to stand out from the large pool of highly accomplished applicants. The key is to focus on what makes you special and the unique contribution you’ll add to this exceptional campus community.
Harvard is a reach school for any applicant due to its extremely low acceptance rate; many highly qualified applicants can’t be accepted do to space constraints. However, many students still decide that the potential benefits are well worth the work required and the risk of being rejected. For more of our insight into what’s necessary to get admitted to Harvard, take a look at our blog post What Does It Take to Get Into Harvard?
Harvard’s application for the Regular Decision timeline, which most applicants use, is due on January 1st. You can expect to hear back about whether you’ve been accepted by late March. If you’re accepted, you’ll have until May 1st to decide whether to attend.
Harvard also offers a Single-Choice Early Action application option. If you choose this option, you’ll submit your application by November 1st, and you’ll be prohibited from applying early to other colleges. You’ll get your admission decision by mid-December. You’re not contractually obligated to attend if you’re accepted early under this SCEA program, and you’ll also have until May 1st to make your final decision.
How to Apply
Harvard accepts the Common, Coalition, and Universal college application forms; none is preferred, so you can choose the form that works best for you. Whichever form you use, you’ll need to fill out all of Harvard’s required supplemental questions. Harvard’s supplement includes an essay question that is technically optional; we strongly encourage that you do submit this optional essay.
In addition to your application form, you’ll need to submit your scores on the SAT or ACT as well as on two SAT II subject tests, your transcript, a School Report from your guidance counselor, and two recommendations (referred to as Teacher Reports). An interview with a Harvard alum near you is optional and not always possible, but we recommend you take the opportunity if you have it.
Applying to a place like Harvard can be intimidating, but the more you know, the better you can decide whether to take a chance on Harvard—and the better you’ll be able to prepare for the demands of the application process. If you’re thinking about applying to Harvard University, visit Harvard’s undergraduate admissions website for the most up-to-date information about application deadlines, requirements, and procedures.