Update: This post contains data based on Harvard’s Class of 2018, and preliminary data from the Class of 2019’s early action applicants. (January 27, 2015)
So You Want to Go to Harvard…
You dream of singing the fight song as the Harvard Crimson thrash Yale at Harvard Stadium. You want to join the ranks of such notable alumni as FDR, Bill Gates, and Conan O’Brien. Maybe you’ll even get to hear Will Ferrell give your commencement speech, while dressed as a sailor (yeah, this really happened.)
I love your ambition! Let’s make it happen.
The Magic Formula
There is no magic formula for getting into Harvard. The newest class of students admitted into the hallowed halls of Harvard (including Magoosh’s own Lena Felton) represents a tiny-but-diverse portion of the group that applied. Of the 35,023 students who applied last fall, 2,029 were admitted – a competitive 5.8%. Harvard says that this represents a record low.
So, getting into Harvard isn’t easy, and it’s not getting any easier. But you knew that already. That’s why you want to attend!
What You Need to Get In
When reviewing your application, Harvard is looking for the total package. They want to admit students who will not only thrive academically, but who will also add something new and interesting to their student body. They are creating a community of scholars, and they truly value diversity.
The Truth: You will definitely need to have a good GPA and be amongst the top of your high school class. You will need to excel on your SAT. You will also need to demonstrate, through extracurricular activities and hobbies, that you value civic engagement, teamwork, and non-academic endeavors.
What SAT Score Do I Need to Get In to Harvard?
Don’t worry – Harvard isn’t looking at you as a faceless SAT score on an online application. In fact, Harvard’s Class of 2018 is a fairly diverse group.
There is no absolute minimum SAT score that you need to get into Harvard. Though, considering that Harvard only admitted 5.9% of applicants last year (2,023 of 34,295), it’s safe to say that your entire application has to make an impression.
(Note: Harvard just admitted 16.9% of the 5,919 students who applied early action for the Class of 2019 – their lowest early action admission rate in 6 admission cycles.)
Harvard Admissions By the Numbers:
Some interesting stats about the Harvard Class of 2018:
- 2237: Average composite SAT score
- 13,500: Number of students who scored 700 or above on SAT Critical Reading
- 16,400: Number of students who scored 700 or above on SAT Math
- 14,200: Number of students who scored 700 or above on SAT Writing
- 2.14: Average number of times each student took the SAT
- 8: Percentage of students who achieved a perfect 2400 SAT score
SAT score range for the Class of 2017:
|25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
We can see that most students admitted last year scored between 600 and 800 on each section of the SAT. The top 25% of students earned a combined SAT score of over 2350 (that’s near-perfect). The middle 50% earned between 2100 and 2350. And the bottom 25% scored below 2100 points.
As you can see, 75% of Harvard’s recently admitted class scored above 2100 on the SAT. For comparison, the College Board reported that the average SAT score, of all the students who took the SAT in 2013, was 1498. Harvard expects high, but not impossible scores. They are definitely achievable with a lot of focus, preparation, and a good study schedule (see SAT Study Resources below for help.)
It’s also important to note here that you can take the SAT more than once. Harvard Admissions understands that people get nervous, and that their first test score is not always indicative of their ability to perform well on the SAT.
So, if you have already taken the test once and didn’t manage to earn a 2100 or above, don’t stress. Harvard will see all of your SAT scores, but will only consider your highest scores. There is one caveat, though: Harvard Admissions believes that taking the SAT more than twice offers diminishing returns. And the evidence supports their claim (duh, it’s Harvard – they did their research.) After taking the SAT two times, your score isn’t likely to change much in either direction.
Study for the SAT! If Harvard is your dream, then you need to start planning early. Take the PSAT your sophomore year, create an SAT study schedule that works in your busy life and in your time frame, beef up your vocab with find an SAT prep program that works for you (I recommend checking out the Free 1-Week SAT Trial at Magoosh), and consider taking the test twice if you need to.
Prepare yourself to the best of your ability and have no regrets. Hopefully, Harvard will admit you with open arms (and some financial aid.) But, if not, there are plenty of other amazing universities out there that would love to add you to their community.
SAT Study Resources
- SAT Lesson Videos
- SAT Vocab Flashcards
- SAT Study Schedules
- SAT Question Types
- How to Skip SAT Questions