Harvard University : Eligibility Criteria, Courses & more

Started in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, right outside the town of Boston, Harvard has risen to prominence as the most highly coveted Ivy League university in the world. The 400-year-old institution, started by John Harvard- a puritan minister, now stands as the most significant marker of holistic liberal arts and sciences education. 

Harvard University is now a fully residential, 5000-acre campus and houses a highly elite crowd. The institution is home to 13 schools that have produced some of the most brilliant minds in the field. These include:

  • Business School 
  • Medical School 
  • Graduate School of Education
  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Law School 
  • John F. Kennedy School of Government
  • Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
  • Extension School
  • School of Dental Medicine
  • Graduate School of Design
  • Divinity School
  • T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Radcliffe School

University rankings

Harvard has consistently ranked among the upper echelons of different universities across the globe. The QS World University Ranking® placed it at number 5 in its World’s Top 100 Universities ranking list of 2023. Times Higher Education also placed it at number 2 overall, among over 1000 institutions worldwide in its World University Rankings of 2022. 

Acceptance rate (general)

Despite having a whopping 61,221 applications in 2022 alone, the Harvard University acceptance rate stayed limited to only 1,984 applicants, with 36 from the waiting list. This is a minuscule 5% rate of acceptance. However, it remains one of the most elite institutions in all of America. 

Furthermore, US News reports a 13.9% early admissions Harvard University acceptance rate. In addition, the student-to-faculty ratio at Harvard stands at 7:1. In fact, the school only accommodates an average of 20 students per classroom to ensure an optimal learning environment. Moreover, the graduation rate early stands at a very high 98%.

Admission eligibility criteria

Harvard does not specify any scores on its website. In fact, the institution often accepts its candidates based on their supplemental essays. However, the ACT, SAT as well as GMAT, and GRE scores for Master’s courses do hold some value. 

With the introduction of the new digital SATs, Harvard University also encourages the submission of standardized test scores. Nevertheless, they continue to remain optional for Harvard university admission requirements.

Documents required

Harvard University admission criteria, like any other institution, require applicants to submit the following documents: 

  • High School Transcript and GPA
  • Application Form
  • Application Fee (Unless Waived)
  • English Language Proficiency (optional)
  • SAT and ACT Scores 
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Supplemental Essays
  • Interviews (Optional)

Harvard may also skip the interviews and rely solely on the range of essays that an individual submits along with their application. However, this does not affect the applicant’s chances of getting into the University. 

Furthermore, English language proficiency tests are also optional. Nevertheless, if an individual is taking them to apply to a different institution, they can submit those results. Regardless, the Harvard university admission criteria emphasize English proficiency, given that the entire curriculum is taught in the language.

Tests required and average scores

The question “how to get into Harvard University” almost always begs the follow-up of “with how many marks.”  Listed below are all the test requirements of the Harvard University admission criteria:

  • SAT or ACT (undergraduate applicants)
  • GRE or GMAT, or LSAT (postgraduate applicants)
  • Two additional SAT Subject Tests
  • IELTS/TOEFL (not required if the applicant’s first language is English)
  • Writing samples, video or audio samples (for non-academic or performance arts courses)

As stated previously, Harvard does not specify any scores. However, applicants typically have a very high score. 

While Harvard boasts the best faculty in the world in its varied departments, it stands out in quite a few. Some of the most popularly studied courses at Harvard include:

  • Accounting and Finance
  • Economics
  • Linguistics
  • Music
  • History
  • English Language and Literature
  • Medicine
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Earth and Marine Science
  • Liberal Arts and Science
  • Mathematics 

In addition, Harvard University offers some of the best Pre-law and Pre-medical courses for those aspiring to move into these professions.

How does the University evaluate applicants?

The Harvard University admissions requirements promote academic brilliance but never limit candidates to a single aspect. Admissions decisions are decided by a diverse 40-person admissions committee, with each member having one vote.

The University undertakes what they call the “Whole Person Review.” This review includes a range of factors since most applicants at the University have perfect scores or grades on each of their tests. These criteria are:

  • Awards
  • Essays
  • Teach or counselor recommendation
  • SAT/ACT optional and GPA
  • Leadership
  • Alumni interview
  • Life experiences
  • Race/Ethnicity/Background 
  • Extracurricular activities and athletics
  • Additional considerations

Tips for applying to the University

As established, the Harvard University acceptance rate is extremely low. Therefore, the key to acquiring admissions to the University is to stand out from the crowd of high scores and perfectly-written supplemental essays. 

Some of the ways to do this have been stated below:

  • Present the best scores: While scores are not the be-all, end-all of it all, they are vital.
  • Send the application early: This way, the applicant can avoid the last-minute application rush.
  • Remain authentic: Harvard may be an elite university, but it values authenticity, including the applicant’s non-upper-class family background.
  • Emphasize what matters: The supplemental essays are there for this exact reason. The different prompts allow the applicant to focus and elaborate on what matters to them and why.
  • Avoid counterfeit or fake information: The university holds all authority to cancel an application or admission or even rescind a degree if they discover misleading or inaccurate information. So ensure absolute accuracy in all the submissions.
  • Don’t worry if there is no Alumni interview: With thousands of eligible applicants each year, they can skip over a few alumni interviews. But that will not affect the applicant’s chances at admissions, so fret not.
  • Proofread the application: Nothing is more crucial than conveying accurate information. Moreover, ensure that the grammar and spellings are on point in all the supplemental essays.

Application deadlines

Here is a detailed timeline of the application deadlines at Harvard University.

  • Restrictive Early Action application deadline: October 31
  • Restrictive Early Action applicant additional material deadline: November 1
  • Regular Decision application deadline: Early November
  • Restrictive Early Action applicant decisions: Mid-December
  • Regular Decision applicants additional material deadline: January 1
  • Financial Aid requirement: February 1
  • First-year admission decisions: End of March
  • Reply deadline for accepted students: Early May

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