TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What does the Harvard class of 2026 look like?
- Harvard Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rate
- Harvard GPA Requirements
- Harvard SAT and ACT Requirements
- Personal Essay
- Harvard GRE Requirements
- How Much Does it Cost to Study at Harvard?
- What Are My Chances of Getting into Harvard?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
Harvard University has produced 151 Nobel Prize winners, more than any other university in the world. Notable alumni include John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg. So it’s not surprising that Harvard is one of the most coveted educational institutions globally.
This also means that competition is fierce and getting into Harvard is tough. You need to meet the stringent Harvard GPA requirements, as well as meeting other tough criteria in order to be successful.
In 2020, Harvard received 40,248 applications. Out of all these, only 1,980 applications were successful. This translates to an admit rate of 4.9%, one of the toughest in the US.
The good news? You can be one of those few successful candidates if you are determined, well-prepared, and work hard to meet the requirements, whatever it takes. Read on to learn about the Harvard GPA requirements, SAT requirements, and other factors that will help you get into Harvard.
What does the Harvard class of 2026 look like?
To give you an idea of what the recently admitted class looks like, we can take a look at the statistics. The 2026 admissions cycle recorded a total of 61,220 applications. Out of all of them, 3.9% (2,387) were accepted. Of these 2,387 admitted students:
- 54.2% or 1,293 identify as female, and 45.8% or 1,094 identify as male
- 0.8% or 19 are Native Hawaiian
- 2.9% or 69 are Native American
- 12.6% or 300 are Latinx
- 15.5% or 369 are African American or Black
- 27.8% or 663 are Asian
- 40.4% or 964 are Caucasian
Harvard Admission Requirements and Acceptance Rate
With how highly coveted and prestigious a Harvard education is not just in the United States but also around the world, it truly comes as no surprise that Harvard is one of the most difficult institutions to get into today. That alone is enough to dissuade many from applying, but it gets worse: this year, Harvard accepted a mere 3.19% of its applicants to the class of 2026.
The acceptance rate of 3.19 percent is Harvard University’s lowest admissions rate to date. This lower acceptance rate is largely due to the fact that Harvard has received a record-high number of applicants for the second year in a row this year. In fact, Harvard has been seeing an increase in its applications year over year.
To give you an idea of this growth, take a look at this information:
- In 2018, there were 42,749 applicants.
- In 2021, Harvard received 57,435 applications.
- This year, Harvard saw 61,220 applicants, an increase of 7% from the past year.
- The acceptance rate at Harvard seems to be trending lower every year as the number of applicants increases.
What this information means is that although admissions did get even more competitive, the academic requirements (which of course are already incredibly challenging to achieve and maintain) likely remain the same. However, even though the Harvard University requirements are likely to remain the same, the fact that there are so many more applicants might mean that admissions officers may have to start increasing their own screening standards.
So what exactly does it take to get into Harvard? What Harvard requirements do you need to fulfill — and exceed — to succeed?
What Does it Take to Get into Harvard?
Applying to Harvard as an undergraduate involves submitting:
- An official application (the Common Application, Universal College Application, or the Coalition Application)
- Answers to Harvard’s supplemental questions
- Midyear school report (showing your GPA)
- Two teacher evaluations
- SAT or ACT score (you may also submit your SAT subject test scores if you took them in the past five years)
- Optional additional material which can help your application (such as academic samples, artwork, or pieces of music)
Let’s take a closer look at some of these elements to give you a better idea of whether you’ll be able to get into Harvard, and what it will take to be successful.
Tip: If you would like to see Harvard’s admissions results in real-time,
you can use GradCafe’s graduate school admissions results page.
Harvard’s Admissions Process
Harvard itself states that it considers many factors when choosing to admit a student. The university has a full admissions committee comprised of forty diverse members. Each member of the committee gets one vote. You can have an idea of Harvard’s Holistic admissions process from the screenshot below, taken from the Harvard website:
As you can see, your academic performance is just one factor in the admissions process. Although it’s almost certainly required to meet Harvard University GPA requirements and have a good academic record to be considered, it is vital to also work on the other aspects of your application.
Harvard GPA Requirements
As someone looking to attend Harvard as a graduate student, you’ll need to inquire about your program of choice to see what their average GPA requirements may be. However, despite the graduate school having separate GPA requirements, you’ll likely still need to have good transcripts even before your undergraduate academic records.
If you want to attend this prestigious institution, probably the first thing you’re wondering is what GPA is required for Harvard. Harvard does not explicitly give any cut-off level for the Grade Point Average (GPA). Their admissions office says that “there’s no formula for gaining admission to Harvard.” However, it’s unlikely that your application will be successful if you don’t have a strong GPA.
If you want to get into Harvard, you should aim for a GPA of at least 4.0. The average GPA of successful Harvard applicants is around 3.9 unweighted, which translates into a 4.15 weighted GPA. (A weighted GPA takes into account extra points for honors or Advanced Placement courses.)
The average GPA of successful Harvard applicants is around 3.9 unweighted,
which translates into a 4.15 weighted GPA.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically be rejected if you have a GPA under 3.9. You may still be successful if the other areas of your application are strong enough. In particular, a high SAT score can help to compensate for a lower GPA.
What Are Your Chances With Your GPA?
Knowing the average GPA for Harvard, what are your chances of success? The Harvard Common Data Set for 2021 – 2022 reveals more statistics below.
Looking at this information, we can infer that:
- With a 4.0 GPA, you have a relatively good chance of getting accepted
- With a 3.75 to 3.99 GPA, you have a decent chance of success
- A GPA between 3.50 to 3.74 makes Harvard a reach school
- GPAs between 2.50 to 3.49 gives you an extremely low chance of success
- Anything below 2.50 means you will most likely not be accepted
What GPA is required for Harvard graduate school?
Although the data above looks at enrolled first-time undergraduate students, it is possible to infer similar success rates for graduate school admissions. Your mileage may vary, depending on your program of choice. For example, grad school admissions data for 2021 at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences pegs the average undergraduate GPA at 3.8 on a scale of 4.0.
Harvard SAT and ACT Requirements
Though your high school GPA is the most important academic aspect of your application to Harvard, you also need to have good SAT or ACT scores. So, what scores are required for Harvard? There is no easy answer to this as, like the GPA, Harvard admissions does not have a set cut-off. However, you can consider the following information:
- An SAT score of 1460 would put you in the 25th percentile of Harvard applicants
- An SAT score of 1580 would put you in the 75th percentile of applicants
- An ACT score of 33 would put you in the 25th percentile of Harvard applicants
- An ACT score of 36 would put you in the 75th percentile of Harvard applicants
Simply put, if you have an SAT score of 1580 or ACT score of 36, you’ll be above the average applicant and in a stronger position. On the other hand, if you have a 1460 on the SATs or a 33 on the ACTs, you’ll be in the below-average range of the cohort.
Note that Harvard has made the ACT/SAT optional for applicants to the class of 2027-2030 to account for the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. You may continue to self-report your scores, but students who apply without them will not be at a disadvantage.
What SAT and ACT Scores Should You Aim For?
In the 2021-2022 Harvard Common Data Set, the following data was reported:
From this data set, we can infer:
- An SAT score of 1580 and above gives you a good chance of admission
- An SAT score of 1480 gives you a decent chance of admission
- SAT Scores of 1400 and above mean admission is possible
- SAT scores below 1400 chances are low to impossible
- An ACT score of 36 gives you a good chance of admission
- An ACT score of 33-35 gives you a decent chance of admission
- ACT scores of 32-33 make Harvard a reach school
- Any ACT score less than 32 gives you a low to no chance of admission
Besides your GPA and SAT or ACT scores, you will have to submit a personal essay. This is one area where you make a positive impression on the admissions committee. This should be short — around 500 to 600 words — as well as succinct, relevant, and genuine.
There is also an optional supplemental essay that you may choose to submit, and can help to strengthen your application. You can also improve your chances by supplying optional samples of your academic or creative work.
Other than these requirements, your chances are improved if you have an excellent extracurricular record. Harvard graduate Veronica Wickline says that 25% of the committee’s decision depends on how strong you are in areas outside your academic studies.
Harvard GRE Requirements
If you want to earn your graduate education, one of the requirements to get into Harvard grad school may be GRE scores.
One of the first things you should do when planning your Harvard graduate school application is to find out whether your program of interest requires GRE test scores on your application. You may want to consider the fact that the recommended GRE scores may vary depending on the program.
For example, if you are applying to a computer science or engineering-related program, you may want to aim for a higher Quant score.
On average, you can aim to score:
- 155-166 for the Verbal section
- 155-170 for the Quant section, although many programs look for higher scores (160+)
- 4.5-5.0 for the Analytical Writing section (usually considered least important of the three sections)
How Much Does it Cost to Study at Harvard?
Studying at Harvard will cost you over $70,000 a year once you take into account not only tuition but also room and board and other fees.
However, there are many financial aid schemes and loans offered to deserving students. The institution promises every admitted student that their financial status will not keep them from pursuing their studies.
According to Harvard, around 55% of students receive some form of financial aid at Harvard, and 20% of students pay nothing at all.
These financial schemes apply to both local and international students alike. Students can ask for their case to be reconsidered by the Financial Aid Committee if their situation changes and they need more support. There is also a Beneficiary Aid Program that the students can use to meet emergency medical expenses.
What Are My Chances of Getting into Harvard?
The students that get into Harvard demonstrate a mix of academic excellence and extracurricular brilliance. Harvard looks for individuals with overall value and not just academic knowledge. There are no set rules or cut-offs when it comes to GPAs or SATs/ACTs. The case is the same for the GREs.
However, to be a strong applicant, you should have:
- A GPA of at least 4.0
- An SAT score of 1580 or higher or an ACT score of 36, especially if you’re compensating for a lower GPA
- A compelling personal essay
Having a clear vision for your future and knowing what you want to do after graduation, and expressing this in your essay will give you an edge over other applicants.
Additionally, if your application shows growth, potential, excellent character and personality, and a promise to contribute something valuable, you stand a better chance of getting into Harvard.
Here are some other ways to improve your chances of being successful when applying to Harvard:
- Proof of excellence in sports, music, leadership, or other extra-curricular activities.
- Advanced courses or studies outside of your high school will also make you a more attractive candidate as it shows your enthusiasm for intellectual growth.
- Demonstrating a passion for community service can also help you to stand out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What GPA is Accepted in Harvard?
What GPA do you need to get into Harvard? This may come as a surprise, but there isn’t a GPA needed for Harvard — not one set in stone, anyway. However, if you want to have a decent chance of getting accepted into Harvard, it’s generally a good idea to have a GPA on the high end. The majority of the applicants understand that they must meet a certain academic standard, meaning they know the desired Harvard average GPA of 4.0 (and straight As as much as possible) — so aim as high as you can when it comes to your GPA.
Note that because of the holistic admissions process some schools like Harvard and Stanford use, you may still be able to get in even if your GPA is 3.0+. You may get in if:
- You have a really good hook or “spike” that sets you apart and helps Harvard see why you would be a good choice
- You compensate with your standardized test scores, getting near-perfect scores on your SAT or ACT
- You have a standout and convincing application overall
Will a 4.0 GPA get you into Harvard?
If you have a 4.0 GPA on an unweighted scale, you have a slightly improved chance of admission. In 2018, admitted students reported a GPA of 3.9 unweighted, which means if you do have a 4.0 your chances are good. However, there are a few things worth noting — in 2018, the acceptance rate was 4.59% with Harvard receiving around 42,749 applications. This year, Harvard received 61,220 applications, bringing its acceptance rate down even further to 3.19%.
Meeting the GPA requirements for Harvard alone probably won’t guarantee your acceptance to the university. Consider that a 4.0 GPA on its own may no longer be enough to satisfy the admissions officers’ standards, especially since those standards are likely to go up more as more applications flow in.
Does Harvard University prefer SAT or ACT?
Harvard does not prefer either test over the other. You can apply with SAT test scores or ACT test scores depending on your personal preference. However, it may be worth mentioning that Harvard will superset your SAT scores but won’t do the same for your ACT scores. Here’s what this means for you:
- You can retake the SAT several times to get your scores for each section as high as possible. Harvard will take the highest scores from every retake to create a “score superset.” You can use this to your advantage by focusing on one section of the SAT at a time, though you may also want to avoid excessive retakes.
- You can submit your highest-scoring ACT to Harvard, so retake the test until you are satisfied with your score prior to submission.
What is my chance of getting into Harvard University?
Considering that the 2022 admission rate was a mere 3.19%, you’d have to work extremely hard to improve your chances of success. Remember that it’s not enough to work on your academic performance alone. Although a high GPA (~4.0 unweighted) is expected, Harvard’s holistic admissions process means you need more than academics to be considered. Work on adding extracurriculars, do some volunteering, and find your spike (what makes you stand out from the thousands of other applicants). Working on your application as a whole improves the chances of you getting noticed by admissions officers.
What SAT score is required for Harvard University?
Harvard does not require a certain SAT score from its applicants and aspirants. However, just going by the statistics of past applications, there are certain scores to aim for if you’d like Harvard to consider your application.
In the 2018 admissions cycle, the average reported SAT score was 1512 out of 1600. If you get an SAT score of 1460, you would be in the 25th percentile of applicants (below average), while a score of 1580 would mean you would be in the 75th percentile (above average). It would benefit you to aim for a higher score — prepare well and retake the SAT if necessary!
What ACT score is required for Harvard University?
Just like with the SAT scores, Harvard does not publish any required ACT scores. That doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to aim for!
In the 2018 admissions cycle, the average reported ACT score was 34. If you get an ACT score of 33, you’d be in the 25th percentile (below average), while a score of 36 would make you above average, landing you in the 75th percentile of applicants.
Over the last three years, Harvard’s acceptance rate has been between 4% and 5%, giving it one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country. This makes applying for Harvard highly competitive, but getting in is not impossible. This figure has dropped further to 3.19% in the 2022 admissions cycle.
Your application will need to be strong in a range of areas: like most colleges, your GPA and SAT scores need to be good and you’ll also need a compelling personal essay. What GPA do you need to get into Harvard? The higher the possible, with a 4.0+ giving you better chances of success.
But if you want to stand out from the thousands of other students applying to Harvard, you also need to shine in other areas such as your extra-curricular activities, community service, leadership, or advanced courses. Meeting Harvard GPA requirements will not be enough.
On the one hand, this means it takes a lot of work to put together a successful application to Harvard. But on the upside, if you feel like your application is lacking in certain aspects, you can make up for this in other areas. For example, you can compensate for a lower GPA with excellent SAT scores or GRE scores.
Start preparing early, work hard, and pay attention to all aspects of your application. Though Harvard is a dream for many, there is no reason why you should not be that one successful applicant in 20 if you do the right things in the right way!
For more advice, check out our guide on how to get into Harvard.
Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you’ll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.