Home › College Admissions › How to Get into Harvard: SAT and ACT Scores, GPA and More
By Nadyja Von Ebers on March 27, 2020 in College Admissions
Real talk: as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not easy to get into Harvard University. Harvard’s admissions process is highly selective, and you’ll have to be a pretty impressive candidate to make it through (and that doesn’t just mean having the perfect Harvard SAT score or ACT score). After all, they are ranked #2 in National Universities! If this is your dream school, read on to learn how to get into Harvard.
So You Want to Go to Harvard…
You dream of singing the fight song as the Harvard Crimson thrashes Yale at Harvard Stadium. You want to join the ranks of such notable alumni as FDR, Bill Gates, and Conan O’Brien. Maybe you’ll even get to hear Will Ferrell give your commencement speech while dressed as a sailor (yeah, this really happened.)
Quick Harvard Admissions Statistics
We’re going to dive in and take a closer look at all of Harvard’s admissions requirements, but here’s a quick overview of Harvard admissions statistics:
|Harvard SAT scores (average composite)||1510 on a 1600 scale|
|Harvard ACT scores (average composite)||34 on a 36 scale|
|Harvard acceptance rate||4.6% (for the class of 2023)|
As you can see, Harvard is extremely competitive. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in though! You can learn more about Harvard admissions here, but read on and we’ll tell you exactly how to get into Harvard University!
Harvard’s Acceptance Rate
Let’s start by acknowledging that statistically, it’s super hard to get into Harvard. The most recent numbers available are for the class of 2023, of which a mere 4.6% of students were accepted! That’s… a very small number.
According to Harvard admissions statistics, 43,330 students applied for the 2019-2020 school year and of that pool, 2,009 were accepted. Of those, 1,650 matriculated, or decided to attend, and 65 were admitted from the waiting list.
So what kind of student DOES get into Harvard? Let’s take a look at all aspects of Harvard admissions!
More About Harvard SAT Scores
First of all, Harvard requires that you take and provide scores for either the SAT or ACT, but not both.
If you take the SAT, you are not required to complete the essay portion.
Currently, the average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1510. The 25th percentile for Harvard SAT scores is 1460 and the 75th percentile is 1580. What does that mean?
It means that if you score below 1460, you’ll be below the average and will have a much harder time being accepted. If you score 1580 or higher, you’ll be above the average Harvard SAT score. So long story short? If you’re taking the SAT and want a strong chance of being accepted, aim for a 1580 or higher.
Now what about the percentiles for each sub section? Here’s how they shake out:
|Test||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
|Reading and Writing||740||720||780|
So again, for a better chance of getting in, keep your eye on those 75th percentiles.
Here’s one last thing to keep in mind: while Harvard does not create a superscore for applicants, the admissions board will consider all of your highest tests scores across all testing dates. This means that you can take the SAT multiple times until you get the scores you desire in each section. That said, we don’t recommend taking it more than 5 or 6 times, as repeated attempts can reflect poorly on you.
For more insight into taking the SAT, check out this guide to SAT scoring.
More About Harvard ACT Scores
Again, you aren’t required to submit both SAT and ACT scores, but you’re certainly welcome to.
Like the SAT, if you submit your ACT scores, you don’t have to include your writing scores.
For the ACT, Harvard will consider your highest composite score on a given test date.
Currently, the average composite ACT score for students accepted to Harvard is 34! The 25th percentile for Harvard ACT scores is 33 and the 75th percentile is 35. So again, this means if you score less than 33, you’ll be below average compared to other applicants. If you score a 35 or higher, you’ll be above average.
The takeaway? Aim for a composite score of 35 or higher if you want a strong shot at getting in!
Here are the percentiles for the sub sections, in case you’re attempting to improve your score in a specific area:
|Test||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
Again, make sure to keep your eye on that 75th percentile if you want to be a strong candidate.
Something to keep in mind when it comes to your Harvard ACT scores is that you don’t need to send every test result to the Harvard admissions board. That means that you can take the ACT as many times as you’d like and then submit your overall highest composite score.
For more insight into taking the ACT, check out this guide to ACT scoring.
A final word on Harvard SAT and ACT scores: according to Harvard admissions, “ “There are no score cutoffs, and we do not admit ‘by the numbers.'”
What does this mean? It means that there’s no minimum score required to apply. It also means that Harvard won’t ONLY take your standardized tests scores into consideration when reviewing your application. You’ll want to be as well-rounded a candidate as possible. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the other guidelines!
Harvard GPA Average
Your GPA, or grade point average, is a solid reflection of how you’ve performed in all of your academic courses in high school (or college, if you’re a transfer student).
And if you want to call Harvard home, you’ll have to have very high grades to get in. The current GPA of students admitted to Harvard is 4.18, so you’ll likely need straight-As all the way.
High schools vary in how they calculate GPA (on weighted vs. unweighted scales), but usually, challenging, college-level courses like AP and IB are weighed more heavily. For example, a “B” in AP Bio may be weighted the same as an “A” in a regular-level class.
So earning high grades in AP, honors, and/or IB classes is a good way to stand out as a candidate. More than likely, your GPA will be higher because of these grades, but they’ll also reflect your ability to take on and excel in rigorous courses.
A final word on GPAs: they tend to be very tricky to improve dramatically after your second year. So if you have your heart set on Harvard, you’ll want to start getting high grades even as a freshman and sophomore.
Harvard Freshman Profile
Taking a closer look at the most recent incoming freshman class can help give us a sense of who Harvard accepts. Now this doesn’t mean that the student demographic will be the same every year, but it’s good intel.
Harvard has published a profile of the class of 2023 that you can read, but here are some of the highlights.
As far as diversity goes:
- 14.3% of freshmen are African American
- 25.3% of freshmen are Asian American
- 12.2% of freshmen are Latino or Hispanic
- 1.8% of freshmen are Native American
- 0.6% of freshmen are Native Hawaiian
Additionally, 12.8% of the incoming class of are international students. You can read more about Harvard’s commitment to diversity and access, but in short, Harvard is making a point to become increasingly inclusive and diverse within its student body. This is a good thing!
Other Admissions Requirements for Harvard
Here’s a checklist of exactly what you’ll need to apply:
- The Common App, Coalition app, or Universal App (psst… check out our guide to writing a killer common app essay)
- Completed Harvard-specific questions on the apps above
- A $75 fee (or fee waiver form)
- ACT or SAT scores (with or without optional writing test scores)
- 2 SAT Subject Tests (recommended but not required and will depend on your specific program of study)
- AP or other exam results (optional)
- High school transcripts, including a midyear report (your grades after the completion of your first semester)
- Two letters of recommendation from teachers who know you well (or as Harvard refers to them, “teacher reports”). We have an awesome guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation!
- Your final school report/transcripts (once you’re admitted—yay!)
For more information, check out this detailed overview of how to complete your Harvard application.
You may feel a little overwhelmed applying to one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, which can lead to a lot of questions. Here are some of the most common questions students tend to have:
What does your GPA have to be to get into Harvard?
Well, we’ve already discussed that the average GPA of students admitted to Harvard is 4.18, but that doesn’t mean you have to score this exact GPA. Technically, there are no minimum Harvard GPA requirements. That said, you’ll still want as high a GPA as possible, so aiming for a 4.0 or higher is a good call. And if your GPA is a little lower, then you’ll want to strengthen your application with stronger test scores and essays.
Is it hard to get into Harvard?
It’s very hard to get into Harvard, but it’s not impossible, as evidenced by how many students attend and graduate yearly. With enough hard work and preparation, you might just get in!
What are my chances of getting into Harvard?
This is actually a pretty hard question to answer accurately, since every applicant is a little different from the next and you never know which of your unique attributes will stand out to the admissions board (for example, your personal statements). That said, as we mentioned, Harvard’s acceptance rate is quite low—historically low even. For the class of 2023, Harvard only accepted 4.7% of its applicants!
Is Harvard need-blind?
“Need-blind” means that a school does not consider your need for financial aid when deciding whether or not to admit you. Harvard, like most universities, is indeed need-blind. This is good news, since it means that if you can’t afford the cost of attending Harvard out of pocket, this won’t hurt your chances of getting in.
So there you have it! All in all, you’ll have to be an exceptional student and very impressive candidate if you want to call yourself a Crimson. Taking everything above into consideration, here are our recommendations:
- Recommended Harvard SAT score: Composite SAT score of 1580 or higher
- Recommended Harvard ACT Score: Composite ACT score of 34 or higher
- Earn a GPA of 4.0 or higher (weighted)
- Take and excel in challenging honors, AP, and/or college-level courses
- Write strong, compelling, and unique essays that are professional but also communicate your unique voice and a vivid picture of you as a candidate.
- Provide letters of recommendation from teachers who know you very well and can speak to your aptitude, potential, and growth. Ask for your letters early and give your teachers ample time to construct thorough, thoughtful reflections about you.
- Participate in plenty of extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities, especially in leadership roles.
We also love this rundown of what Harvard looks for in a student. Keep in mind that, according to Harvard, there is “no such thing as typical student.” The type of thinker and person you are in the world is as important as your (predominantly) qualitative attributes on paper. Harvard values students who push themselves out of their comfort zones, who are self reflective, who are upstanding citizens of the world, and who are forward thinking.
Does this sound like you?
Finally, since test scores play such a significant role in your admission, we strongly suggest that you start preparing for the SAT and/or ACT in advance! We have a great 1-week SAT free trial and 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!
Best of luck!
Nadyja Von Ebers
Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!
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Average GPA: 4.18
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.
While your SAT would make you competitive for the Ivy League, it will be harder to overcome your low GPA at highly competitive schools. They simply have too many applicants with both high test scores and high GPAs to admit many people with a serious deficiency in either. That 2360 alone won't get you into Harvard...Is a 4.2 GPA good enough for Harvard? ›
This is a very good GPA, and it should give you a strong chance of admission at most colleges. 99.29% of schools have an average GPA below a 4.2. The average high school GPA of admitted students to Harvard's class of 2025 was 4.2 and almost three-quarters of them had a 4.0.What GPA SAT and ACT do you need for Harvard? ›
To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1580 SAT or a 35 ACT. You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.Is a 3.8 GPA bad for Ivy League? ›
A weighted GPA between 3.9 and 4.0 should put you in good standing at most Ivy League schools, as long as you've taken the most challenging curriculum available to you.Is 3.8 GPA too low for Harvard? ›
If you achieve a 3.8 GPA, your grades are likely above many of your peers. However, classing a 3.8 GPA as “good” depends on your chosen colleges and the difficulty of your courses. For example, Harvard's average GPA is 4.18, so you'll have to get straight As in nearly all of your classes to be a competitive applicant.What is the lowest GPA ever accepted into the Ivy League? ›
And maybe, you can get into a top tier college with a low GPA. We've always stated that the lowest GPA student we've ever helped get into an Ivy League school had a 3.3 unweighted GPA. And we're not saying that we could get anyone in with a 3.3 GPA. But it has happened before – and the student was Asian American too.What is the easiest ivy to get into? ›
Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate.What is the lowest grade Harvard accepts? ›
After being admitted with a 3.0 or higher grade-point average (GPA), you must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 to be considered in good academic standing. If your GPA falls below 2.0, you are in poor academic standing.What kind of students does Harvard look for? ›
In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.
No matter what you might've heard, Ivy League schools have no preference between the ACT and SAT. You can submit scores from either test or from both of them without worrying that your application will be dinged.What is the highest GPA ever? ›
Normally, you would expect the highest score to be the 'perfect' 4.0 score, however, there are several things that a student can do to receive an even higher score. For example, one student actually managed to get a 10.03 GPA score. He did this by taking 17 advanced classes at his school, which awarded him many points.What is my chance of getting into Harvard? ›
Test Type. With an acceptance rate of 4.5%, admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. Based on our analysis, to have a good chance of being admitted, you need to be at the top of your class and have an SAT score of at least 1560, or an ACT score of at least 35.What GPA does MIT require? ›
GPA. There is no minimum required GPA, but competitive applicants generally have a GPA of 3.5 or above, and mostly A's in mathematics and science courses. Testing must be completed by the October test date for spring (February) entry and by the March test date for fall (September) entry.What SAT ACT do you need for Ivy League? ›
Generally speaking, you need a minimum ACT score of 31 to get into an Ivy League School. The minimum score is 32 at a few of these schools, including Harvard and Yale. The minimum SAT score to get into an Ivy League school ranges from 690 to 730 for the reading section and from 700 to 730 for the math section.Can I get into Harvard with 2 B's? ›
Does Harvard Accept B Students? Yes, just like I mentioned above, it's completely possible to get admitted into Harvard University with B grades.Is a 4.7 GPA good enough for Ivy League? ›
However, for college applicants, the average GPA is more likely between 3.5 and 4.0. If you're aiming for a top university such as one in the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, or others of the same caliber, a 4.0 GPA — or close to it — is expected.How do you get a 5.0 GPA? ›
Students in an AP class with weighted grading receive a five-point weighted average for each of the four-letter grades: As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. As a result, a student who only takes AP classes and receives A's will have a 5.0 GPA.Does Harvard accept 4.8 GPA? ›
Score at least a 1515 on the SAT or 100 on the ACT. Maintain a GPA of at least a 4.18.Does Harvard accept 4.6 GPA? ›
While there isn't a specific minimum GPA requirement for Harvard, successful applicants generally have a GPA that reflects outstanding academic performance. The average GPA of admitted students varies each year and can also depend on the rigor of the high school curriculum.
Let's break it down. A 3.8 GPA, or Grade Point Average, is equivalent to an A- letter grade on a 4.0 GPA scale. This means is equivalent to a 90-92%. The national average GPA is 3.0 which means a 3.8 is far above average.Which Ivy gets the least applicants? ›
Dartmouth University is the Ivy League school that receives the least amount of applications. On average, they receive nearly 23,000 applications each year, and this year they received 28,841 applications.Does Harvard kick out lowest GPA students? ›
This does not mean that a 3.0 GPA candidate has no chance. Admittedly, the chances are slim, but Harvard will consider an applicant with a GPA lower than 3.75 if there is a compelling reason, such as extraordinary extracurricular activities or a low socioeconomic background.What is a solid C GPA? ›
Common examples of grade conversion are: A+ (97–100), A (93–96), A- (90–92), B+ (87–89), B (83–86), B- (80–82), C+ (77–79), C (73–76), C- (70–72), D+ (67–69), D (65–66), D- (below 65).Will one C ruin my chances of Ivy League? ›
While receiving a “C” will impact your GPA, it will certainly not ruin it. That “C” won't ruin your chances of getting into college either.What is the happiest Ivy League? ›
Brown is ranked by the Princeton Review as the 10th happiest campus in the country and the happiest school in the Ivy League, and has a general reputation for being the “Happy Ivy.” But why does Brown have this reputation?What is the hardest Ivy academically? ›
The most challenging Ivy League school to get into is Harvard, established in 1636 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Harvard Admissions, only 2,008 out of 43,330 candidates were accepted to the college.
Under the current regulations, both allow various degrees of work permission before and after graduation. Most admitted full-time international students to Harvard University are eligible for the F-1 visa. Only some students are eligible for the J-1 student visa.What is a failing grade in Harvard? ›
|B B-||Failing (Pass/Fail) Incomplete (pending completion of work)|
|C||Absent from Exam|
- Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 33: Ancient Fictions: The Ancient Novel in Context. ...
- Anthropology 1010: The Fundamentals of Archaeological Methods and Reasoning. ...
- Culture and Belief 16: Performance, Tradition and Cultural Studies: An Introduction to Folklore and Mythology.
Harvard is looking for students who are more than just academic achievers. They seek outgoing leaders who can positively impact their campus and the world. Admitted students typically have a strong record of involvement in extracurricular activities, such as sports, music, theater, community service, or other pursuits.What is the most famous class at Harvard? ›
CS50 is Harvard's most popular class, and you can take it for free online. This introductory computer science course covers algorithms, data structures, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development.How many AP classes should I take for Harvard? ›
Be cautious of overloading your schedule: Harvard would rather see a high GPA with 4 AP courses each year than a low GPA and a daunting 8 AP courses. Consider your AP, honors, and regular options carefully each semester based upon your own self-knowledge, schedule flexibility, and course offerings.How can I go to Harvard without SAT? ›
When you apply for admission, you can choose whether or not our review of your application will include your standardized test scores (SAT and ACT). If your scores already are on file before you apply and you choose at the time of your application to proceed without scores, we will not consider those scores.Can I get into an Ivy without SAT? ›
In addition, all highly selective universities (with the exception of MIT) including The Ivy League, Stanford, Northwestern, and Boston University, all have announced that they will remain test optional through the high school class of 2024.What weighted GPA do you need for Harvard? ›
What GPA Is Accepted at Harvard? According to the 2022-2023 Harvard common data set, the average weighted GPA for accepted applicants is 4.2. Most applicants aim for at least 4.0, but higher is better.Can you get a 6.0 GPA? ›
Not All GPAs are Created Equal
There is wide variability in the scale used to calculate GPA. GPAs can be based on a 4.0, 5.0 or 6.0 scale.
Is it possible to get a 5.0 GPA? Typically, high schools that employ weighted GPAs use a 0–5 scale, with 5.0 being the best score available. Although a GPA above 5.0 is uncommon, schools occasionally design their point systems so that students enrolled in difficult courses might accrue extra points.Has anyone ever gotten a 10.0 GPA? ›
One student even managed to land a stunning 10.03 GPA by taking 17 advanced classes at a school that awarded bonus points. If the different GPA scales seem a little confusing, check out our guide on how to calculate GPA for a straightforward explanation of weighted and unweighted GPAs.Do you need all A's to get into Harvard? ›
Harvard students typically have very strong high school GPAs, meaning that the average student gaining admission had a 4.0 high school GPA. A 4.0 indicates that a student received primarily – if not exclusively – A's in high school (or 7s if you're an IB student with a minimum score of a 42).
Approximately 0.07% of students (7 in 10,000) who take the SAT achieve a perfect score. Since roughly 1.7 million people take the test each year, that comes out to around 1,000 people who score a perfect 1600.What makes Harvard so hard to get into? ›
Why Is It So Difficult? It's so difficult to get into Harvard because of the sheer number of well-equipped and well-educated students trying to get in! The school regularly ranks in the top 5 in the country and employers are impressed if you have a degree from there.How many years of Math do you need to go to Harvard? ›
Harvard recommends that students should complete the following secondary coursework: Four years of English with a strong writing component. Four years of mathematics. Four years of science, including biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course.Does MIT prefer ACT or SAT? ›
Some students do better on the SAT while others do better on the ACT. MIT accepts scores from either test and does not favor one over the other.What is the hardest school to get into? ›
Niche, a ranking and review site, recently published its list of the “2023 Hardest Colleges to Get Into.” Using data from the U.S. Department of Education on various colleges' acceptance rates and SAT/ACT scores, they found, unsurprisingly, Harvard University to be the most difficult college to get into.Should I retake a 1490 SAT? ›
A 1490 SAT score will make you eligible for some of the top schools in the country. However, if you're dead-set on applying to some of the most selective schools in the country – those that submit less than 5% of applicants – you might want to consider retaking the SAT.Do Ivy Leagues prefer SAT over ACT? ›
A common myth is that prestigious schools, like the Ivy League (Yale University, Princeton University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Brown University, Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania) prefer the SAT. This is not true, though. Schools have no preference in regards to ACT vs.Is SAT no longer required? ›
Feder said over 80% of institutions granting bachelor's degrees will not require students seeking admission for Fall 2023 to submit an ACT or SAT score.Is a 4.7 GPA good for Ivy League? ›
However, for college applicants, the average GPA is more likely between 3.5 and 4.0. If you're aiming for a top university such as one in the Ivy League, Stanford, MIT, or others of the same caliber, a 4.0 GPA — or close to it — is expected.Is 4.7 weighted GPA good for Ivy League? ›
Having above a 3.9 unweighted GPA is generally the GPA Ivy League schools are looking for.
So, is a 4.7 GPA good? The national average GPA is around 3.0, so a 4.7 GPA is well above the national average. However, keep in mind that the 3.0 national average represents the average GPA of all students, not just those applying to universities.Is it possible to have a 6.0 GPA? ›
GPAs can be based on a 4.0, 5.0 or 6.0 scale. Also, there are different weights applied to grades used in calculating a GPA. Some schools give plus/minus grades and some do not.How rare is 1600 on SAT? ›
Approximately 0.07% of students (7 in 10,000) who take the SAT achieve a perfect score. Since roughly 1.7 million people take the test each year, that comes out to around 1,000 people who score a perfect 1600.What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›
Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.How rare is a 4.3 GPA? ›
This GPA is above a 4.0, which means it's weighted (it takes into account the difficulty of your classes in conjunction with your grades). This is a very good GPA. It most likely means you're taking high level classes and are earning As and Bs. 99.55% of schools have an average GPA below a 4.3.Is a 4.3 GPA good enough for Ivy League? ›
Ivy League schools are looking for a GPA over 3.5.
However, remember an unweighted GPA does not account for course difficulty. If a student takes AP courses and receives a 3.3 unweighted GPA, they might be more competitive than those in regular classes with a 3.5.
The unweighted GPA scale goes up to a 4.0 and doesn't take class difficulty into account. A weighted GPA scale typically goes up to a 5.0 and does consider the difficulty of a student's classes. It is important that student's know which GPA scale their school uses and how it effects them.What is the highest possible GPA? ›
Most schools calculate GPA on a 0.0-4.0 scale.What is the lowest GPA let into Harvard? ›
To get to Harvard your GPA has to be at least a 4.0 and even then if you get in your lucky but they require at least a 4.18 GPA only .What was the lowest GPA accepted to Yale? ›
We do not set a minimum GPA, nor do we attempt to re-weight GPA's to any standard other than what a school provides. An applicant's complete secondary school transcript (not just the GPA or class rank, if they are provided) is evaluated during the admissions process.