Harvard University: Acceptance Rate and Admissions Statistics

HARVARD UNIVERSITY IN CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
Harvard University. Steve Dunwell/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard is an Ivy League university with an acceptance rate of 4.6%. Harvard accepts the Common Application, Coalition Application, and Universal College Application. Considering applying to this exceptionally selective school? Here are the Harvard University admissions statistics you should know, including average SAT/ACT scores and GPAs of admitted students.

Why Harvard University?

  • Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Campus Features: Harvard is home to the historic buildings of the nation's oldest university as well as numerous state-of-the-art research facilities. The school's Cambridge location gives students ready access to downtown Boston, and close proximity to hundreds of thousands of college students.
  • Student/Faculty Ratio: 7:1
  • Athletics: The Harvard Crimson compete in the NCAA Division I Ivy League.
  • Highlights: Harvard is the nation's most selective university, and it frequently tops the rankings of the best national universities. It is also the nation's wealthiest university with an endowment topping $40 billion.

Acceptance Rate

During the 2018-19 admissions cycle, Harvard University had an acceptance rate of 4.6%. This means that for every 100 students who applied, 4 students were admitted, making Harvard's admissions process highly competitive.

Admissions Statistics (2018-19)
Number of Applicants 43,330
Percent Admitted 4.6%
Percent Admitted Who Enrolled (Yield) 82%

SAT Scores and Requirements

Harvard University requires that all applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores. During the 2017-18 admissions cycle, 69% of admitted students submitted SAT scores.

SAT Range (Admitted Students)
Section 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
ERW 720 780
Math 740 800
ERW=Evidence-Based Reading and Writing

This admissions data tells us that most of Harvard's admitted students fall within the top 7% nationally on the SAT. For the evidence-based reading and writing section, 50% of students admitted to Harvard scored between 720 and 780, while 25% scored below 720 and 25% scored above 780. On the math section, 50% of admitted students scored between 740 and 800, while 25% scored below 740 and 25% scored a perfect 800. Applicants with a composite SAT score of 1580 or higher will have particularly competitive chances at Harvard University. 

Requirements

Harvard does not superscore the SAT for applicants who have taken the exam multiple times, but the university does take note of the highest scores for each section. The SAT writing section is optional at Harvard. The university recommends that all applicants take at least two SAT Subject tests.

ACT Scores and Requirements

Harvard requires that all applicants submit either SAT or ACT scores. During the 2017-18 admissions cycle, 47% of admitted students submitted ACT scores.

ACT Range (Admitted Students)
Section 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
English 34 36
Math 31 35
Composite 33 35

This admissions data tells us that most of Harvard's admitted students fall within the top 2% nationally on the ACT. The middle 50% of students admitted to Harvard received a composite ACT score between 33 and 35, while 25% scored above 35 and 25% scored below 33.

Requirements

The ACT writing section is optional for Harvard applicants. The university recommends that all applicants, including those who take the ACT, submit scores from at least two SAT Subject tests. Note that Harvard does not superscore ACT results; your highest composite ACT score from a single test date will be considered.

GPA and Class Rank

In 2018, the average high school GPA for Harvard University's incoming class was 4.18, and over 92% of incoming students had average GPAs of 3.75 and above. Class ranks were also high with 94% of all enrolled students having been in the top 10% of their high school class. 99% were in the top 25%, and no students were in the bottom half of their class. These results suggest that most successful applicants to Harvard University have primarily A grades.

Self-Reported GPA/SAT/ACT Graph

Harvard University Applicants' Self-Reported GPA/SAT/ACT Graph.
Harvard University Applicants' Self-Reported GPA/SAT/ACT Graph. Data courtesy of Cappex.

The admissions data in the graph is self-reported by applicants to Harvard University. GPAs are unweighted. Find out how you compare to accepted students, see the real-time graph, and calculate your chances of getting in with a free Cappex account.

Admissions Chances

Harvard University has a highly competitive admissions pool with a low acceptance rate and high average SAT/ACT scores and GPAs. However, Harvard has a holistic admissions process involving other factors beyond your grades and test scores. A strong application essay, Harvard writing supplement, and glowing letters of recommendation can strengthen your application, as can participation in meaningful extracurricular activities and a rigorous course schedule. 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." Students with particularly compelling stories or achievements can still receive serious consideration even if their grades and test scores are outside Harvard's average range.

In the graph above, the blue and green dots represent accepted students. 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. 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% still get rejected from Harvard. Even the most qualified students should consider Harvard a reach school.

All admissions data has been sourced from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Harvard University Undergraduate Admissions Office.