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Get Admitted to your Dream University- Harvard

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest university in the U.S. as well as one of the most prestigious. Located outside Boston in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is made up of 13 schools and institutes, including the top-ranked Business School and Medical School and the highly ranked Graduate Education School, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Law School, and John F. Kennedy School of Government. Harvard is a private, non-profit institution that was founded in 1636 colonial America by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Harvard’s Mission statement
Our mission to educate future leaders is woven throughout the Harvard College experience, inspiring every member of our community to strive toward a more just, fair, and promising world.

Harvard University considers the following “very important” factors in admission decisions:

  • Course rigor
  • GPA
  • Test scores
  • Essay
  • Recommendation letters
  • Interview
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Talent/ability
  • Character/personal qualities
  • First generation
  • Legacy
  • Geographical location
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience

How to Improve your Chances of Getting into Harvard.

1. Achieve a high GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

It’s extremely important for Harvard applicants to not only possess outstanding grades but for those grades to come in challenging courses. Students accepted to a top 10 school like Harvard typically complete between 8 to 12 advanced courses in high school.

Another reason why Harvard applicants need great grades is that selective schools use a tool called the ‘Academic Index’ to filter out their enormous number of applicants. At its most basic, the Academic Index is a distillation of a student’s academic performance (grades and test scores) into a single number. This is a single score that represents the strength of your GPA, test scores, and class rank (if your school ranks). Highly selective universities use this (or a similar) metric to filter out students that don’t meet their academic standards.

2. Aim for a 1580 SAT or a 35+ ACT

The middle 50% of Harvard’s class of 2025 earned SAT scores of 1460-1580 and ACT scores of 33-35. Any score in the middle 50% is good, however, the higher the score, the better your odds of admission. Harvard does not super score standardized test scores but evaluates the highest test scores in each section across test dates.

3. Explore your favourite subjects via Research Papers:

One common factor that we have noted in the resumes of students admitted to the Ivy Leagues and other top colleges is the prevalence of research work while still in high school. In this article we explain how and why exposure to research helps students and the key steps in planning and writing high quality research papers.

There are three main reasons, as to why research papers help students stand out. A high-quality research paper shows that you have the energy and the initiative to go beyond what is taught in the class and apply it to real life problems. It shows that your interest in the subject extends beyond the questions provided at the end of the chapter. Secondly, you learn the discipline of not rushing intuitively to the likely answer, instead using a deliberate process in which you are guided by the data. Lastly, in working with a skilled professor or mentor you learn how to organize your thoughts better, ask the right questions and try to answer those questions in the best way possible subject to the constraints. A good work product provides an insight into your mind, thought process and way of working.

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4. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “niche”)

For selective institutions like Harvard extracurricular activities can play a larger role in admission decisions. Up to 25% of an admissions decision can be determined by a student’s activities outside of the classroom. While it’s true that there is no such thing as a bad extracurricular activity, some extracurricular activities are more impressive than others.

Admissions officers evaluate extracurriculars with one being the most exceptional and four being the most common. For example:

  • Tier 1 activities are rare and demonstrate exceptional achievement or leadership at a national or international level. Some examples are, 1) Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a national prize awarded to top 20 pre-collegiate musicians, 2) Regeneron Science Talent Award, one of the most prestigious opportunities for high school students to present original scientific research in the USA, 3) World Robot Olympiad, a global competition where youngsters (13 to 19 years age) from different countries participate, 4) International Mathematical Olympiad, a math competition for pre- university students, 5) International Science Olympiads in various areas of the formal sciences, natural sciences and social sciences.
  • Tier 2 extracurriculars show high levels of achievement and leadership but aren’t quite as rare as activities found in Tier 1 (they’re more of state-level achievements). These include making an all-state selection in athletics, serving as student body president, or being selected for a prestigious state-wide summer program like governor’s school.
  • Tier 3 extracurricular activities are great for showing an applicant’s interest outside of the classroom but don’t have the cachet of higher-tiered extracurricularsThese activities are smaller leadership roles and achievements that often appear on applications. These include being captain of a sports team or holding a lesser officer position in a club.
  • Tier 4 extracurriculars are the least impressive and most common activities seen by admissions officers. These activities include playing a sport or instrument, participating in a club but not holding a leadership position, and volunteering.

5. Write engaging essays

Harvard requires one essay and has two optional essays as part of its application. however, it’s wise to consider all three essays a necessity if you’re aiming to stand out from a crowded field of impressive applicants.

Research the university and the faculty of the department you are planning to join. Explain in your essay how your values tie with the expectations of the university and how you expect to utilize the knowledge to make the world a better place.

Also research the extra-curricular activities and the clubs at Harvard and how you will spend your time outside the classroom. Some of the popular clubs at Harvard are:

  1. Breakers: This group of students get together to learn street dancing and bboying (breaking/breakdancing).
  2. Data Ventures: Meant to educate undergraduates about the new information age. They train interested students in computational and analytical methods needed to make sense of numerical and quantitative data in a meaningful way.
  3. Eleganza: It is a student group that highlights diversity and charity. Their goal is to showcase the diversity of the student body through fashion and performance at their annual fashion show.
  4. Ecdysis: The purpose of Ecdysis is to publish a bi-annual undergraduate student journal. This journal showcases writing, visual and auditory art that focus on scientific subjects. The journal hopes to reveal the beauty inherent in science using an artistic medium.
  5. Fallen Angels: The Harvard Fallen Angels are Harvard’s all female, contemporary a capella group. They perform twice a year, as well in joint concerts with other a capella groups.

There are different extracurricular activities and clubs present in the campus. There is something for everyone. And best of all everyone is invited. Students could take up different activities or join a sorority. Joining a sport or activity helps students meet other like-minded people who share common interests with them. It is a good way to make friends.

 

6. Recommendation Letters

Letters of recommendation (LoR) help paint a complete picture of who you are in front of the admission officers. Like any good painter, you want to be in control of your whole application. It is important to ensure that you are approaching teachers, mentors etc. that know you well. The LoR provide an insight into your personality, behaviours and work ethic and are crucial to your application. Harvard requires you to send recommendations from

  • Teachers – Required 2, Optional 1
  • High School Counsellor Required
  • Other Evaluations – Optional 2 (Example: Art teacher, Clergy, Coach, College Access Counselor, Employer, Family Member, Peer etc.)

You should approach your high school teachers several months in advance. Requesting a letter of recommendation from a teacher is a big ask—they’re busy and don’t get paid to write recommendations. Make it easy for your recommenders by giving them plenty of time, providing them with as much relevant information as possible.

7. Apply Early Action/Early Decision

Harvard offers restrictive early action (REA), a non-binding program that places no obligation on you to enrol if admitted.

  • REA might be a good option for a student if all of the following apply:
  1. They have identified Harvard as their first choice.
  2. They have taken a challenging academic schedule through grade 11 and have done well.
  3. They have sufficient time before the November 1, REA deadline to write compelling essays.
  • If you are applying to Harvard under Restrictive Early Action, you may not apply to any other private institution under an Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action plan, or to a binding early program at a public university.
  • You are welcome to apply early to any public university, military academy, or university outside of the United States under a non-binding program.
  • Additionally, you are able to apply to other universities under their Regular Decision or Early Decision II programs.
  • If your application is deferred in the early action round, you may apply to a binding early decision program at another college (i.e. Early Decision II).
  • You may apply for scholarships or special academic programs with an early deadline at another institution, public or private, if the timing is proven to be a necessary aspect for consideration, and the outcome is non-binding.

The primary criterion for admission to Harvard is academic excellence. Harvard values students who are committed, dedicated, passionate, have potential to succeed and those students with a genuine interest in expanding their intellectual horizon. Following the guidelines above will help you present your best self to Harvard University and maximize your admission chances.

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About the Author: 

Shubhi Joshi is an Editor at Scholarly. She has a B.A. in English and a M.A. from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology. She has an interest in history and current affairs. An avid blogger, Shubhi loves to write about higher education and self-improvement.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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