Get Into Harvard
Harvard University ranks at #2 in US News and World Report rankings of National Universities. Founded in 1636, it is both the oldest and most competitive of the Ivy League schools, admitting just 4.5% of applicants for the Class of 2023. Today, approximately 6,700 undergraduate students attend classes on Harvard’s urban campus in Cambridge, MA.
Almost all Harvard undergraduates (97%) live in on-campus housing throughout their college careers. All first-year students live with other freshmen in shared suites on Harvard Yard, allowing them to form strong bonds with each other. At the end of freshman year, students are welcomed into one of twelve residential Houses, each of which offers students a close-knit community within the larger college. Houses present students with a variety of educational and recreational opportunities, ranging from seminars and film screenings to intramural sports teams.
Harvard offers students many other extracurricular opportunities, including over 450 student organizations and 125 community service programs through the Phillips Brooks House Association. Harvard also holds multiple arts festivals each year — including Cultural Rhythms, ARTSFirst, and Yardfest — while Harvard’s extensive library system houses the oldest collection in the United States and the largest private collection in the world. In addition, Harvard students have the opportunity to participate in or cheer on Harvard’s athletic teams, which compete in the NCAA Division I Ivy League.
Academically, Harvard offers students the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of subjects. Undergraduates at Harvard University can choose from more than 50 concentrations, as well as a range of secondary fields, many of which offer interdisciplinary study. (As of 2017, the most popular majors were economics, government, and computer science.) Undergraduate students at Harvard also have the ability to cross-register at most of Harvard’s 10 graduate schools and at MIT. For musicians, Harvard offers dual-degree programs with the New England Conservatory and the Berklee College of Music, allowing students to earn both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Music degree simultaneously.
One of the most exciting opportunities for a Harvard undergraduate is the ability to conduct high-impact research with world-renowned faculty. Over the past few years, students have received more than $7 million in research support from more than 60 organizations, ranging from academic departments to scientific research initiatives.
Applying to Harvard
Students can apply to Harvard in either the early or regular rounds. For students who choose to apply early, Harvard offers a Restrictive Early Action option (REA), with an application deadline of November 1. The regular application deadline is January 1.
REA is non-binding, meaning that admitted students do not have to attend Harvard. Students applying to Harvard REA may also apply to public or foreign schools in the early round. However, students applying REA are not allowed to apply to any other private schools under either Early Action or Early Decision programs. In other words, a student applying REA to Harvard could also apply early to Penn State (public) and St. Andrews (foreign), but he or she would not be able to apply Early Decision to Brown or Early Action to Georgetown.
Students can apply to Harvard using the Common Application, Universal Application, or Coalition Application. Harvard requires all applicants to complete the SAT or ACT (with or without writing). Students can self-report test scores on their applications, although admitted students will be required to submit official score reports. Harvard also recommends that students submit two SAT Subject Tests, except in cases where the cost of test-taking would be a financial hardship. (Based on our experience working with applicants for the past 20+ years, we know that most successful Harvard applicants submit at least four Subject Tests.) Harvard particularly recommends that international students consider submitting Subject Tests, as these students “are unlikely to be admitted on the basis of SAT or ACT alone.” (For more, see Harvard’s notes about Subject Tests here.)
Applicants will typically have the opportunity to carry out an in-person interview, usually after their application is submitted. In the U.S., students can generally hold interviews either on campus or with a regional Harvard representative in or near their community. International students may be able to carry out an interview with a local representative, although students’ candidacy will not be negatively affected if no interviews are available in their country. Applicants should check Harvard’s informational page on interviews to see if interviews are available in their area.
Harvard received a record 43,330 applications for the Class of 2023, setting a new record for the fifth year in a row. 6,958 these applications were submitted in the early round, marking a 4% increase over last year’s REA applications. In fact, this early application cycle saw the highest number of applicants since Harvard reinstated early action admissions in 2011. 36,372 applicants applied during the regular round, which was — once again — an increase over previous years.
Overall, Harvard had a 4.5% admit rate, a record low for the college. The school accepted a significantly higher percentage of applicants (13.4%) in the early round than it did in the regular round (2.79%). Keep in mind, however, that both rounds were incredibly selective: Harvard admitted only 935 students in the early round (1.1% fewer students than were admitted the year before) and 1,015 students in the regular round. The REA admit rate was also the lowest since 2011.
Of these admitted students, 25.3% identified as Asian American, 12.2% as Latino, 14.3% as African American, and 1.8% as Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. The largest number (24.5%) of admitted students expressed an interest in the social sciences, while 18.4% were interested in biological sciences, 15.7% in the humanities, and 12.3% in engineering. 8.3% of successful applicants expressed an interest in computer science, 7.4% in the physical sciences, and 7.1% in math. Only 6.4% of admitted students were undecided about their expected college concentration. The lesson here for future applicants: as we’ve noted before, it’s a good idea to apply to Harvard (and to all other colleges) with a clear academic focus.