Harvard University Requirements and Campus Guide
School Name: Harvard University
School Location: Cambridge, MA
School Type: Ivy League / Research University
Class of 2025
- Regular Applications: 57,435
- Regular Admitted: 1,223
- Regular Acceptance Rate: 3.4%
General Info (Test Optional)
Historical SAT/ACT Score
- SAT Math: 740-800
- SAT ERW: 720-780
- ACT: 33-35
- High Reach
- Restrictive Early Action: November 1
- Early Results: Mid-December
- Regular Deadline: January 1
- Regular Results: Late March
- Schedule: Semester
- Curriculum Type: General Education
- Greek Life: No (though exclusive social clubs still abound)
- Athletics: D1 – Ivy League
Quote from person at Command who went there
- “One of the most accurate things I heard about Harvard before going was that student life is often as competitive as getting in was. For better or for worse, everyone is better than you at something, which can be a fascinating, exciting, scary experience. If you can take it, the rewards are more than worth it.” – Mike, Class of 2018
Harvard University Requirements and Campus Guide
Here’s everything you should know before you apply to Harvard:
Harvard is one of the most well-known schools in the U.S. and the world. Because of this, they receive a huge volume of applications each year and it is a Harvard requirement to be an excellent student to gain admission. With that in mind, you should carefully consider whether or not applying to Harvard is worth all of the time and effort it will take to apply there, or if you’re just applying because of its prestige. This page is designed to help you get to know Harvard and its admission process a bit better so that you can go into application season as well-informed and efficiently as possible.
How do I get into Harvard?
There’s no one-size-fits all path to getting into Harvard. You don’t have to be a CS genius or a world class violinist. However, Harvard does have certain academic expectations for all of their applicants: “An ideal four-year preparatory program includes four years of English, with extensive practice in writing; four years of math; four years of science: biology, chemistry, physics, and an advanced course in one of these subjects; three years of history, including American and European history; and four years of one foreign language.” While these are not official Harvard requirements, If your school offers AP or IB programs, you should definitely consider enrolling in those courses, to demonstrate that you can handle the academic rigour at a competitive school like Harvard.
How to apply to Harvard?
Like many other US universities, Harvard requires you to submit an application through a third party platform like the Common Application, the Universal College Application, or the Coalition Application. In addition to one of these applications, you will need to submit Harvard’s supplemental materials, the ACT or SAT, two SAT Subject Tests (strongly recommended), school report and high school transcripts, two teacher reports, and a midyear school report. Clearly there are a lot of moving pieces to keep in mind throughout your senior fall if you’re applying to Harvard. Check out Harvard’s application timeline, which provides a monthly schedule for both early and regular decision applications.
Can I afford Harvard?
For the 2019-2020 school year, the total cost of attendance at Harvard is $69,607. At first glance, Harvard seems astronomically expensive to the average family. Harvard is committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all four years. Harvard has several tiers of financial need, so that the money you receive corresponds with how much your parents earn per year. The aid package for families with incomes $65,000 or less is a full ride, requiring no loans and no contribution from families. Families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from 0-10% of their income, and those with incomes above $150,000 must pay proportionately more than 10%, based on their individual circumstances. Unlike some schools, Harvard offers financial aid to foreign and undocumented students as well. Harvard makes no distinction based on citizenship during the financial aid process, so non-U.S. citizens are equally eligible for aid as U.S. citizens. If you want to get a clearer picture of what you would have to pay if you attended Harvard, use this helpful net price calculator.
What is Harvard faculty like?
Harvard is a good choice for you if you thrive in intimate learning environments and benefit from lots of one-on-one instruction and advising. If you’re more of a “get lost in the crowd” type, Harvard’s median class size of 12 students, 7:1 student to faculty ratio, and more than 400 advisors who work with students from freshman fall through senior year might be overwhelming to you. That being said, the small class sizes and wealth of advisors ensures a supportive and productive environment. On top of that, Harvard’s faculty consists of Nobel laureates, pulitzer Prize-winning authors, eminent researchers, and national Book Award winners. The close-knit Harvard community allows you to have access to some of the brightest minds at your fingertips, as well as generates a competitive and challenging environment.
Should I apply to Harvard Early Action?
Harvard has a “Restrictive Early Action” option, which differs from Early Decision in that it is non-binding (if you are accepted you are not required to enroll), but restrictive in the sense that you can’t apply early action to any other universities. Harvard does not explicitly offer any advantages to students who apply early, however the acceptance rate for Early Action is higher (13.9% compared to an overall rate of 4.92%). If you are confident that your application can hold its ground against other competitive applicants, and you are rather certain that you want to attend Harvard, then applying early action is a good choice for you. But you should do research on other college’s early action or early decision programs to be sure that you are willing to restrict your choices so early on in the college application process.
How is Campus Life?
Residential living is a huge part of the Harvard experience. Harvard cultivates a warm community among its students beginning with Opening Days, a sort of initiation week for incoming first-years during which you’ll get to know many of your peers, especially those in your Freshman dorm. Most first-years live in suites of two-four students, with roommates paired together by the college. All of the first-year students eat in Annenberg dining hall, which is conveniently located near the dorms, and looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. At the end of your first year, you’ll attend your first “Housing Day” during which you find out where you’ll be living for the next three years.* You can think of the houses as mini colleges—they each have their own faculty deans, dining hall, library, gym, intramural sports teams, and academic advisors. Do you want to have a better idea if you can picture yourself living and studying at Harvard? Take a virtual campus tour to learn more about the school and its facilities.
*Some upperclassmen move off campus or transfer houses, but the overwhelming majority live in a house for all three years.
What are academics at Harvard like?
Harvard allows you to determine your own academic path, but there are some, somewhat complicated, guidelines. The General Education requirements are four main categories (Aesthetics & Culture, Ethics & Civics, Histories, Societies, Individuals, and Science & Technology in Society), with a decent amount of flexibility within them. In addition to the Gen Ed courses, Harvard requires that each student complete a “distribution requirement.” All students must take one departmental (non-Gen Ed) course in each of the three main divisions of the college: Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science and Engineering and Applied Science. Additionally, all students must complete a foreign language and a Quantitative Reasoning with Data requirement. Most requirements can be taken at any time during your undergraduate career, with the exception of an expository writing requirement for all freshmen.
Now that we have all the mandatory courses out of the way, we can talk about all of the fun you’ll have designing your unique course at Harvard. Harvard offers more than 3,700 courses in 50 undergraduate fields of study (called concentrations). If none of these concentrations match your exact intellectual interests, you can apply for a special concentration, which is a path you design yourself. All of these options might seem overwhelming, but fortunately at Harvard you don’t have to declare your concentration until the end of your sophomore fall, and, in certain cases, can change it as late as senior spring.
On top of all of this, there are even more unique opportunities for study at Harvard. Although Harvard has incredible STEM faculty and courses, its neighbor, MIT, outshines Harvard in this regard. Harvard knows this, and consequently allows students from each school to cross-register at the other. There are also dual degree music programs with two of Boston’s most renowned music schools, New England Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. As nice as it is to have the chance to study at other schools in the area, Harvard’s wealth of summer study abroad programs means that the whole world is your classroom.
Is Harvard diverse?
Harvard is the oldest university in the U.S., celebrating its 383rd birthday this year. For over 300 of those years, Harvard was home to almost exclusively white men. Today, Harvard prides itself on diversity of all kinds, whether that be gender, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or religious diversity. Their students represent all fifty states and nearly 100 countries. The class of 2023 consists of 24.5% Asian American, 14.8% African Americans, 12.7% Latinx from 12.4, and 2.2% Native American or Native Hawaiian admits. These numbers are relatively consistent from year to year. Harvard ensures the growing diversity at Harvard by implementing the Undergraduate Minority Recruitment Program, the Harvard First Generation Program, and the Harvard College Connection. In particular, the Harvard College Connection serves to integrate students from every socioeconomic background feel welcome and comfortable at Harvard, despite it traditionally being a space for the children of elite and affluent families.
The variety of backgrounds from which students make each class year unique and vibrant. Plus, while you’re not in the classroom learning from famous lecturers, you’ll be in the dining hall, sitting in Harvard Yard, or at club meetings learning from your peers every day. If you feel comfortable within certain familiar settings, you have over fifty cultural, ethnic, and international organizations to choose from to spend your time with communities you’re more familiar with, or to learn about groups you’re interested in. Although Harvard generally trends toward a secular, liberal environment, there are groups representing dozens of religious and political perspectives. Plus, there are more than 30 on-campus chaplains representing religions from around the world, so if your spirituality is an important part of your life, you don’t have to put the fellowship aspect of it on pause just because you’re in college.
Can I play sports at Harvard?
Harvard offers 42 Division I intercollegiate varsity teams for women and men, which is more than any other D I college, as well as several club and intramural sports and recreational activities. 20% of the students body participate in intercollegiate sports and more than 80% of Harvard students participate in athletics in some way, so if you plan on playing a sport at Harvard you definitely won’t be alone! Professors are very understanding of athletic commitments, so the balancing act won’t be too impossible. If you didn’t do a sport in high school, now is your chance to try! You can play intramural soccer for your Freshman dorm, or try something totally unfamiliar. Club sports include everything from Shaolin kempo to archery to ultimate frisbee.