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So You Want to Go to Harvard...

August 28, 2017, 12:00 PM

so you want to go to harvard

So You Want To Go To Harvard…


All over the world, students (and parents) dream about the possibility of attending Harvard, recently named “The Best University in the World” by US News and World Reports. Who wouldn’t want to join the ranks of such notable alumni as Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Mark Zuckerberg, and Conan O’Brien? 


So what does it take to get admitted to Harvard? Luckily, the university publishes answers to almost any question you might have about the application process. We will stick to the basics: What academic qualifications and test scores does a student need to be a competitive applicant?


Academic Expectations


Harvard advises students to take the most rigorous secondary school schedule available to them. That means if your high school offers tons of AP and IB classes, you should be taking as many as you can handle. Remember, you need to do well in these classes, so don’t take too many. Take only as many as you can score high marks in.


Harvard also suggests that potential applicants meet the suggested minimum preparatory program: fours years of English, with excellence in writing; four years of math; four years of science: biology, chemistry, physics and an advanced course in one of these subjects; three years of history, including American and European history, and four years of a foreign language.




On its website, Harvard declines to state any specific GPA requirements, stating only that “most admitted students rank in the top 10-15% of their graduating classes”. On CollegeData, however, the average weighted GPA of enrolled freshmen at Harvard was listed as 4.10 (which means basically straight-As and some advanced classes that give you a grade boost). 


Does that mean everyone admitted had that GPA? No, because not all students attend high schools that weight classes or offer advanced course work, like AP and IB classes. If you attend a school like that, Harvard will take your situation into account.


Harvard also does not penalize students who attend alternative schooling, like homeschool or charter schools, but they do want to make sure that all students are making the most of what classes and learning opportunities are available to them.

want to go to harvard 

SAT® Test Scores


Okay, let’s start with what testing is actually required for Harvard admission. Every student must take an official SAT® or ACT® test (and yes, a student can submit scores from both tests, but it is not required). Harvard will note the highest test scores in each section across test dates for the SAT® (in other words, an SAT® superscore) and the strongest sitting for the ACT® (sorry, no superscoring).


So how well do you need to score to get in? Well, pretty high considering Harvard once rejected 1100 applicants with perfect scores in Math for fall admission! Here is what the Harvard website says:


            “The majority of students admitted represent a range of scores from roughly 600 to 800 on each section of the SAT® as well as on the SAT® Subject Tests. The 25th percentile for admitted students on the SAT® is about 2100; the 75th percentile is about 2350. We regard test results as helpful indicators of academic ability and achievement when considered thoughtfully among many other factors.”


Note: Because the New SAT® is just now filtering into college admissions, these averages will be adjusted to the 1600 scale, but it is safe to say that the average score range for each section will stay in the 700-800 range. The College Board also publishes an updated table of score comparisons between the Old and New SAT®, which might help interpret your scores.


Harvard does not give any specifics on ACT® score averages, but these would most likely be in the 32-35 range.


Don’t Forget about Subject Tests!


Although not technically “required”, Harvard strongly suggests that students submit two SAT® Subject Test scores. These tests are scaled from 200-800 (just like the SAT®) and match to the high school curriculum, similar to AP exams (but no essays). Aim to score in the 650-750 range, if you can. These exams are generally more difficult than the SAT®, so make sure to study for them.


Not sure which Subject Test to take? Here is a list of several topics, ranging from history to science to foreign languages.


Perseverance Pays Off


The perfect score and perfect application does not happen overnight, so keep studying and whatever you do, don’t give up! Yes, even perfect scorers, like our own Shaan Patel, had to study hard to get amazing results. 


Get 30% off digital SAT® PSAT/NMSQT® prep course enrollment with code COACH30 when ordering online at

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