Harvard University GPA, SAT, and ACT Data

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Harvard's Admissions Standards

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.

With a single-digit acceptance rate of 5 percent, Harvard University is arguably the most selective university in the United States. This member of the Ivy League sends out a remarkable number of rejection letters.

Harvard says that most of the students that are admitted ranked in the top 10 to 15 percent of their graduating class and the strongest applicants took the most rigorous secondary school curricula available to them.

There are no test score cutoffs. Here is the middle 50 percent range for first-time students enrolled in 2016:

  • SAT Critical Reading: 710 to 800
  • SAT Math: 720 to 800
  • ACT Composite: 32 to 35
  • ACT English: 33 to 35
  • ACT Math: 31 to 35

How do you measure up at Harvard University?  Calculate your chances of getting in with this free tool from Cappex

Harvard GPA, SAT, and ACT Graph

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. Many students with perfect GPAs and test scores in the top 1 percent 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 GPA and 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.

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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

Stripping away the accepted student data from the Harvard graph, you 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 ​a successful Harvard application, be sure to read this article on how to get into an Ivy League school.

Learn more in-depth about these factors:

Compare GPA and Test Score Data for Other Ivy League Schools

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