Harvard GPA, SAT and ACT Data

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Harvard GPA, SAT and ACT Graph

Harvard University GPA, SAT and ACT Data for Admission
Harvard University GPA, SAT Scores and ACT Scores for Accepted, Rejected, and Waitlisted Students. Data courtesy of Cappex.

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Discussion of Harvard's Admissions Standards:

With a single-digit acceptance rate, Harvard University is arguably the most selective university in the United States (in recent years, Stanford University has had a similar acceptance rate). This member of the Ivy League sends out a remarkable number of rejection letters. In the graph above, the blue and green dots represent accepted students, and you can see that most students who got into Harvard had solid "A" averages, SAT scores (RW+M) above 1300, and ACT composite scores above 28. The density of data points in the upper right corner is extremely high, so typical scores for admitted students are higher than they might appear at first glance (a 1400 SAT score or 32 ACT are actually on the lower end of the accepted student range). Also realize that there's a lot of red hidden beneath the blue and green in the upper right corner of the graph (see below). Many students with perfect GPAs and test scores in the top 1% still get rejected from Harvard. Even the most qualified students should consider Harvard a reach school.

Don't be misled by the data points in the graph that seem to represent mediocre grades and standardized test scores. Many of these data points can be explained by Harvard's large international applicant pool. Non-native speakers will, understandably, often have standardized test scores on the English language sections that aren't perfect. Also, many foreign countries have entirely different grading standards than the U.S., and a "C" average in one country might be the equivalent of an "A" in some U.S. schools.

If you are from the U.S., don't give up hope of getting into Harvard if you don't have a 4.0 and a 1600 on the SAT. Harvard has holistic admissions, and the university is looking for students who bring to campus more than good grades and test scores. Students who have some kind of remarkable talent or have a compelling story to tell will get a close look even if grades and test scores aren't quite up to the ideal. According to the Harvard admissions website, the school looks for "strong personal qualities, special talents or excellences of all kinds, perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances, and the ability to take advantage of available resources and opportunities."

Thus, while Harvard will certainly want to see a strong academic record punctuated by success in AP, IB, Honors, and/or dual enrollment classes, they are also looking for students who bring more than studiousness to the campus community. Make sure your application clearly highlights what it is that distinguishes you from your peers. True depth and accomplishment in your extracurricular activities can play a significant role in your application. Also, make sure you use your essays to showcase your personality and passions. Finally, make sure you ask the proper people to write letters of recommendation: the right words from a teacher who knows you well can provide a useful perspective for the admissions folks.

To learn more about Harvard University, high school GPAs, SAT scores and ACT scores, these articles can help:

Articles Featuring Harvard University:

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    Rejection Data for Harvard University

    Waitlist and Rejection Data for Harvard University
    Waitlist and Rejection Data for Harvard University. Data Courtesy of Cappex

    When we strip away the accepted student data from the Harvard graph, we can see the reality of the situation. Many, many extremely qualified students who apply to Harvard do not get in. A straight "A" average keeps you in the running for admission to Harvard, but you're going to need much more than good grades to receive an acceptance letter. It is not an exaggeration to say that students with 4.0 averages and extremely high SAT and ACT scores get rejected from Harvard. For some strategies on creating an successful Harvard application, be sure to read this article on how to get into an Ivy League school.