How Hard is it to Get Into Harvard?

Getting into Harvard is an aspiration for many, yet it remains one of the most challenging achievements in academia. The admission process is notoriously competitive, with acceptance rates hovering around 4-5% in recent years. [1] 

Understanding the competitive nature of Harvard’s admissions process is crucial for prospective students. The journey to Harvard is demanding and requires preparation, self-reflection, and a clear understanding of what the university seeks in its students.

In this guide, we will explore what makes Harvard a desirable university for study, the entry requirements, why it is difficult to get in, and how Dukes Plus can help you succeed in your application.

If you want to go to Harvard, read our guide: How to Get Into Harvard

Is Harvard a Good University?

Harvard University, established in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, embodying a rich heritage of academic excellence and innovation. [2]

Choosing Harvard University for your studies offers a pathway to unparalleled academic rigour, global networking opportunities, and personal growth in a diverse and inclusive environment. 

Known for its state-of-the-art facilities, Harvard encourages innovation and learning at the highest levels across various disciplines. 

The university’s distinguished alumni, including U.S. presidents, global leaders, and pioneers in various fields, underscore its legacy of shaping individuals who can influence and change the world.

The Entry Requirements for Harvard University

The Harvard University admission journey requires an understanding of its comprehensive and holistic application process. 

This section breaks down the entry requirements Harvard employs to evaluate its applicants:

Academic Achievements and GPA

Harvard seeks students who demonstrate exceptional academic prowess, which is often reflected in academic achievements and high grade point averages (GPA).

The university values students who challenge themselves with advanced placement courses, honours classes, and other forms of academic enrichment.Although there is no minimum GPA to gain admission, according to the 2020–2021 data from The Common Data set, the following is the GPA breakdown of the members of Harvard’s Class of 2024 & 2025 [3][4]:

GPAPercentage of Harvard University Class of 2024
GPA percentage of Harvard University class of 2024
GPAPercentage of Harvard University Class of 2025
GPA percentage of Harvard University class of 2025

Standardised Test Scores (SAT/ACT)

In the competitive world of Ivy League admissions, Harvard stands as one of the most challenging schools to get into. Part of the admissions process at Harvard includes the requirement for standardised tests, either the SAT or ACT. The SAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based test overseen by the College Board. At the same time, the ACT is a multiple-choice, pencil-and-paper test administered by ACT, Inc. Both tests are critical tools used by colleges and universities to assess the academic preparedness of applicants.

Initially, Harvard had adopted a test-optional policy due to extenuating circumstances, which was to remain in effect through the application period for the Class of 2030. However, this policy has recently changed. As announced by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, beginning with the fall 2025 admissions, all applicants must submit standardised test scores. This requirement will affect applicants up to the Class of 2029 and will be periodically reviewed.

For those aiming to secure a place at Harvard, the bar is set high.

Typical scores in the standardised tests for Harvard University are [6]:

SAT: a score of between 650-800 in each of the two main sections

ACT: a composite score of between 29-36

These scores reflect the academic calibre expected by Harvard and highlight the competitiveness of the admissions process. Prospective students should prepare diligently, ensuring they meet or exceed these benchmarks to strengthen their applications.

Extracurricular Activities

Although it’s not a necessity, Harvard places significant emphasis on extracurricular activities. The university appreciates students who have made impactful contributions to their communities, schools, or any areas of personal interest. [7]

This could include roles in clubs, organisations, sports teams, or involvement in arts and community service projects.

Personal Essays and Referrals

A personal essay and letters of referral offer a window into the applicant’s character, aspirations, and personal background. 

Personal essays require individuals to delve deep into their experiences, showcasing their personality, intellectual curiosity, and potential to contribute to Harvard’s community.

Similarly, obtaining impactful letters of recommendation, from mentors or teachers, must highlight the applicant’s academic prowess, character, and potential for future success. The difficulty here lies in ensuring that these recommendations provide a detailed and personalised account of the applicant’s strengths and contributions, further differentiating them from a highly competitive applicant pool.

Why is it difficult to get into Harvard University?

Harvard’s rigorous selection criteria reflect the university’s commitment to creating a community of scholars who can contribute significantly to both the university and society. 

The difficulty in gaining admission to Harvard can be attributed to several factors including the volume of applicants and the amount of places available.

Harvard employs a holistic admissions process, evaluating candidates on a variety of factors beyond academic achievements. This includes extracurricular commitments, personal strengths, and potential contributions to the Harvard community.

This approach highlights the importance of showcasing a well-rounded profile that demonstrates intellectual curiosity, leadership potential, and a commitment to making a positive impact.

What is the Harvard acceptance rate?

Harvard University’s acceptance rate for the Class of 2027 was 3.4%, making it one of the most selective universities in the world.

This acceptance rate reflects a consistent trend toward greater selectivity, with the university’s acceptance rate having steadily declined over the past decade, from above 5% to now below 4%​​. The decreasing acceptance rate is indicative of the intensifying competition for admission as the number of applications continues to grow, with a total of 56,937 applications received for the Class of 2027​​. [9]

What subjects are hardest to get accepted into Harvard for?

The popularity and rigour of certain subjects can influence the competitiveness of the application process. Fields such as Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer and Information Sciences stand out as particularly sought-after majors at Harvard. [10]

How can Dukes Plus help your Harvard application succeed?

At Dukes Plus, we provide support for applications to various universities across the world, including Harvard. Our programs offer personalised guidance, and strategic advice to strengthen your Harvard application. 

We can support you to identify and showcase your unique strengths, align your application with Harvard University’s values, and effectively communicate your accomplishments and potential contributions to the admissions committee. For more information on how Dukes Plus can assist with your Harvard application, please visit our private US admissions consulting page. Alternatively, you can contact us here, and we can help you submit a winning application.


[1], [2], [3] [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10],