How to Get Into Harvard 2/2

In part 1 of this blog series, we looked at admission statistics and what Harvard has to offer. In this second part, we will discuss what it takes to get into Harvard. If you have been following our other blogs, you will see a pattern. There are quantitative (or hard) factors and qualitative (or soft) factors.

Quantitative Factors

Harvard wants to see you adequately prepared for their coursework rigor. So they recommend the following high school preparation:

  • 4 years English

  • 4 years single language other than English

  • History 3 years (American, European, other)

  • 4 years Math

  • 4 years Science (Phy, Bio, Chem, one of them at advanced level)

  • Significant advanced level writing through the above courses

Harvard accepts either of the ACT, old SAT or new SAT. Essays, of course, are required. Here are the scores for recent admits:


Harvard also needs 2 SAT Subject tests and relevant AP and IB tests, 2 letters of recommendation and an alumni interview.

Talking about AP and IB, as an added bonus, a 5 on 4 or more AP tests or a 7 in 3 or more IB tests may shave off 1 year from your Harvard undergraduate stay. Harvard’s language requirement may be waived with a 700+ in Subject SAT or 5 in AP test or 7 in IB test as well. These are some tricks to get more out of your Harvard stint or cut the cost of your degree.

You might have noticed there’s no guideline for GPA. Harvard deliberately does not set a number.

Qualitative Factors

Compared to some other colleges, Harvard places a greater emphasis on qualitative factors. Harvard is very serious about producing the next brilliant poet, novelist, screenwriter, philosopher, and so on, and realizes that these individuals may not straight As or perfect standardized test scores upon high school completion. So the admissions office places a lot of emphasis on the following softer attributes. That is the also the reason the 25 percentile scores in the above table are lower than other selective colleges, and there are no GPA guidelines. Here's what's needed:

  • Special talents & outstanding personal qualities: Are you outstanding at something?

  • Growth & potential: Have you made the most of your opportunities? Do you stretch? Are you likely to continue to do so in the future?

  • Interest & activity: What do you care about - intellectual, personal, extra curricular? What have you learned and/ or done with it? Do you demonstrate leadership or genuine commitment? What will you do with free time in Harvard?

  • Character & personality: What sort of a human being are you now and in the future? How pleasant are you to hang out with?

  • Pressure: Can you handle pressure?

  • Contribution: What will your contribution be to Harvard? How about to the community after Harvard? How will you benefit from Harvard?

  • Creative: How creative are you? See note on poets etc. above.

It is critical to make sure that these attributes are adequately represented throughout the application. Without these, even stellar numbers are unlikely to get you into Harvard. For more information, please contact us. Our CEO is a Harvard alumni, and our team of counselors has successfully placed numerous students into Harvard.

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