How to Get into Harvard: SAT and ACT Scores, GPA and More

How to Get Into Harvard, SAT Score ACT Score GPA - magoosh

Real talk: as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not easy to get into Harvard University. Harvard’s admissions process is highly selective, and you’ll have to be a pretty impressive candidate to make it through (and that doesn’t just mean having the perfect Harvard SAT score or ACT score). After all, they are ranked #2 in National Universities! If this is your dream school, read on to learn how to get into Harvard.

So You Want to Go to Harvard…

You dream of singing the fight song as the Harvard Crimson thrashes 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.)

Quick Harvard Admissions Statistics

We’re going to dive in and take a closer look at all of Harvard’s admissions requirements, but here’s a quick overview of Harvard admissions statistics:

Harvard SAT scores (average composite)1510 on a 1600 scale
Harvard ACT scores (average composite)34 on a 36 scale
Harvard GPA4.18
Harvard acceptance rate4.6% (for the class of 2023)

As you can see, Harvard is extremely competitive. That doesn’t mean you can’t get in though! You can learn more about Harvard admissions here, but read on and we’ll tell you exactly how to get into Harvard University!

Harvard’s Acceptance Rate

Let’s start by acknowledging that statistically, it’s super hard to get into Harvard. The most recent numbers available are for the class of 2023, of which a mere 4.6% of students were accepted! That’s… a very small number.

According to Harvard admissions statistics, 43,330 students applied for the 2019-2020 school year and of that pool, 2,009 were accepted. Of those, 1,650 matriculated, or decided to attend, and 65 were admitted from the waiting list.

So what kind of student DOES get into Harvard? Let’s take a look at all aspects of Harvard admissions!

More About Harvard SAT Scores

First of all, Harvard requires that you take and provide scores for either the SAT or ACT, but not both.

If you take the SAT, you are not required to complete the essay portion.

Currently, the average composite SAT score for admitted students is 1510. The 25th percentile for Harvard SAT scores is 1460 and the 75th percentile is 1580. What does that mean?

It means that if you score below 1460, you’ll be below the average and will have a much harder time being accepted. If you score 1580 or higher, you’ll be above the average Harvard SAT score. So long story short? If you’re taking the SAT and want a strong chance of being accepted, aim for a 1580 or higher.

Now what about the percentiles for each sub section? Here’s how they shake out:

TestAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Reading and Writing740720780

So again, for a better chance of getting in, keep your eye on those 75th percentiles.

Here’s one last thing to keep in mind: while Harvard does not create a superscore for applicants, the admissions board will consider all of your highest tests scores across all testing dates. This means that you can take the SAT multiple times until you get the scores you desire in each section. That said, we don’t recommend taking it more than 5 or 6 times, as repeated attempts can reflect poorly on you.

For more insight into taking the SAT, check out this guide to SAT scoring.

More About Harvard ACT Scores

Again, you aren’t required to submit both SAT and ACT scores, but you’re certainly welcome to.

Like the SAT, if you submit your ACT scores, you don’t have to include your writing scores.

For the ACT, Harvard will consider your highest composite score on a given test date.

Currently, the average composite ACT score for students accepted to Harvard is 34! The 25th percentile for Harvard ACT scores is 33 and the 75th percentile is 35. So again, this means if you score less than 33, you’ll be below average compared to other applicants. If you score a 35 or higher, you’ll be above average.

The takeaway? Aim for a composite score of 35 or higher if you want a strong shot at getting in!

Here are the percentiles for the sub sections, in case you’re attempting to improve your score in a specific area:

Test25th Percentile75th Percentile

Again, make sure to keep your eye on that 75th percentile if you want to be a strong candidate.

Something to keep in mind when it comes to your Harvard ACT scores is that you don’t need to send every test result to the Harvard admissions board. That means that you can take the ACT as many times as you’d like and then submit your overall highest composite score.

For more insight into taking the ACT, check out this guide to ACT scoring.

A final word on Harvard SAT and ACT scores: according to Harvard admissions, “ “There are no score cutoffs, and we do not admit ‘by the numbers.'”

What does this mean? It means that there’s no minimum score required to apply. It also means that Harvard won’t ONLY take your standardized tests scores into consideration when reviewing your application. You’ll want to be as well-rounded a candidate as possible. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the other guidelines!

Harvard GPA Average

Your GPA, or grade point average, is a solid reflection of how you’ve performed in all of your academic courses in high school (or college, if you’re a transfer student).

And if you want to call Harvard home, you’ll have to have very high grades to get in. The current GPA of students admitted to Harvard is 4.18, so you’ll likely need straight-As all the way.

High schools vary in how they calculate GPA (on weighted vs. unweighted scales), but usually, challenging, college-level courses like AP and IB are weighed more heavily. For example, a “B” in AP Bio may be weighted the same as an “A” in a regular-level class.

So earning high grades in AP, honors, and/or IB classes is a good way to stand out as a candidate. More than likely, your GPA will be higher because of these grades, but they’ll also reflect your ability to take on and excel in rigorous courses.

A final word on GPAs: they tend to be very tricky to improve dramatically after your second year. So if you have your heart set on Harvard, you’ll want to start getting high grades even as a freshman and sophomore.

Harvard Freshman Profile

Taking a closer look at the most recent incoming freshman class can help give us a sense of who Harvard accepts. Now this doesn’t mean that the student demographic will be the same every year, but it’s good intel.

Harvard has published a profile of the class of 2023 that you can read, but here are some of the highlights.

As far as diversity goes:

  • 14.3% of freshmen are African American
  • 25.3% of freshmen are Asian American
  • 12.2% of freshmen are Latino or Hispanic
  • 1.8% of freshmen are Native American
  • 0.6% of freshmen are Native Hawaiian

Additionally, 12.8% of the incoming class of are international students. You can read more about Harvard’s commitment to diversity and access, but in short, Harvard is making a point to become increasingly inclusive and diverse within its student body. This is a good thing!

Other Admissions Requirements for Harvard

Okay so what do you actually have to DO to submit an application to Harvard? This is a great overview of the Harvard admissions process, and specifically, the first year application requirements.

Here’s a checklist of exactly what you’ll need to apply:

  • The Common App, Coalition app, or Universal App (psst… check out our guide to writing a killer common app essay)
  • Completed Harvard-specific questions on the apps above
  • A $75 fee (or fee waiver form)
  • ACT or SAT scores (with or without optional writing test scores)
  • 2 SAT Subject Tests (recommended but not required and will depend on your specific program of study)
  • AP or other exam results (optional)
  • High school transcripts, including a midyear report (your grades after the completion of your first semester)
  • Two letters of recommendation from teachers who know you well (or as Harvard refers to them, “teacher reports”). We have an awesome guide on how to ask for a letter of recommendation!
  • Your final school report/transcripts (once you’re admitted—yay!)

For more information, check out this detailed overview of how to complete your Harvard application.

Harvard FAQs

You may feel a little overwhelmed applying to one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, which can lead to a lot of questions. Here are some of the most common questions students tend to have:

What does your GPA have to be to get into Harvard?

Well, we’ve already discussed that the average GPA of students admitted to Harvard is 4.18, but that doesn’t mean you have to score this exact GPA. Technically, there are no minimum Harvard GPA requirements. That said, you’ll still want as high a GPA as possible, so aiming for a 4.0 or higher is a good call. And if your GPA is a little lower, then you’ll want to strengthen your application with stronger test scores and essays.

Is it hard to get into Harvard?

It’s very hard to get into Harvard, but it’s not impossible, as evidenced by how many students attend and graduate yearly. With enough hard work and preparation, you might just get in!

What are my chances of getting into Harvard?

This is actually a pretty hard question to answer accurately, since every applicant is a little different from the next and you never know which of your unique attributes will stand out to the admissions board (for example, your personal statements). That said, as we mentioned, Harvard’s acceptance rate is quite low—historically low even. For the class of 2023, Harvard only accepted 4.7% of its applicants!

Is Harvard need-blind?

“Need-blind” means that a school does not consider your need for financial aid when deciding whether or not to admit you. Harvard, like most universities, is indeed need-blind. This is good news, since it means that if you can’t afford the cost of attending Harvard out of pocket, this won’t hurt your chances of getting in.

We encourage you to read more about Harvard’s affordability (20% of admitted students pay absolutely nothing to attend), as well as Harvard’s financial aid options.


So there you have it! All in all, you’ll have to be an exceptional student and very impressive candidate if you want to call yourself a Crimson. Taking everything above into consideration, here are our recommendations:

  • Recommended Harvard SAT score: Composite SAT score of 1580 or higher
  • Recommended Harvard ACT Score: Composite ACT score of 34 or higher
  • Earn a GPA of 4.0 or higher (weighted)
  • Take and excel in challenging honors, AP, and/or college-level courses
  • Write strong, compelling, and unique essays that are professional but also communicate your unique voice and a vivid picture of you as a candidate.
  • Provide letters of recommendation from teachers who know you very well and can speak to your aptitude, potential, and growth. Ask for your letters early and give your teachers ample time to construct thorough, thoughtful reflections about you.
  • Participate in plenty of extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities, especially in leadership roles.

We also love this rundown of what Harvard looks for in a student. Keep in mind that, according to Harvard, there is “no such thing as typical student.” The type of thinker and person you are in the world is as important as your (predominantly) qualitative attributes on paper. Harvard values students who push themselves out of their comfort zones, who are self reflective, who are upstanding citizens of the world, and who are forward thinking.

Does this sound like you?

Finally, since test scores play such a significant role in your admission, we strongly suggest that you start preparing for the SAT and/or ACT in advance! We have a great 1-week SAT free trial and 1-week ACT free trial to get you started!

Best of luck!

Improve your SAT or ACT score, guaranteed. Start your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh SAT Prep or your 1 Week Free Trial of Magoosh ACT Prep today!

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  • Nadyja Von Ebers

    Nadyja von Ebers is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. Nadyja holds an MA in English from DePaul University and has taught English and at the high school and college levels for twelve years. She has a decade of experience teaching preparation for the AP exams, the SAT, and the ACT, among other tests. Additionally, Nadyja has worked as an academic advisor at college level and considers herself an expert in all things related to college-prep. She’s applied her college expertise to posts such as UCLA Admissions: The SAT Scores, ACT Scores, and GPA You Need to Get in and A Family Guide to College Admissions. Nadyja loves helping students reach their maximum potential and thrives in both literal and virtual classrooms. When she's not teaching, she enjoys reading and writing for pleasure and loves spending time in or near the ocean. You can connect with her on LinkedIn!

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By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

39 Responses to How to Get into Harvard: SAT and ACT Scores, GPA and More

  1. Amy March 25, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    I took SAT sophomore year and scored 2370. Will selective colleges like Harvard consider scores taken sophomore year

    • Rita Neumann
      Rita Kreig March 25, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Hi Amy,

      Yes, selective colleges like Harvard will certainly consider your score from sophomore year – especially since it’s well within the range that Harvard is looking for!

      It’s challenging for juniors and seniors to score a 2370, so if you were able to do so well as a sophomore there’s really no reason to take the exam again. Congratulations on acing the SAT and good luck with your college apps! 🙂


  2. A dude October 27, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    What about act scores? I got a 35 (34 science, 35 math, 35 English, 36 reading)

    • Rita Neumann
      Rita Kreig October 27, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

      That’s a great question! Here’s a post we wrote about Harvard ACT Scores. Looks like you’re definitely in the running with a 35. Well done!


  3. jannet December 12, 2015 at 9:06 am #

    will Harvard college consider a freshman with SAT score of 1800 

    • Rita Neumann
      Rita Kreig December 14, 2015 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Jannet,

      The average composite SAT score of Harvard’s most recently admitted class was 2237, which means that ~50% of students scored higher than that and ~50% of students scored lower. Only 25% of Harvard’s newest freshman class scored below 2100 on the SAT. So, in order to be considered for admission with an 1800 SAT score, the rest of your application must be absolutely stellar and really stand out from the crowd.

      If you’d really like to go to Harvard, I’d recommend investing more time in SAT prep and trying to get your score closer to Harvard’s average. There are lots of SAT prep options, including 1-1 tutoring and online prep. Magoosh offers online SAT prep, if you’re interested in trying it. 🙂

      I hope that helps! Good luck with your prep.

      All the Best,

  4. Emma Carpenter April 23, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    Hey, I am a sophomore that
     scored a perfect 2400 on
    November, 2015, and I
    Already took the 800 score
    On 5 Sat2 Subject tests. I also 
    Took a 5 on all of my 9 AP Classes.
    . Would Harvard even take a glance on my paper

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert May 2, 2016 at 4:02 am #

      Hi Emma,

      I hope you are joking and don’t think your profile is weak! You have done exceptionally well on tests and your scores definitely support your potential as a candidate at a place like Harvard (and many other places). You should make sure that your essays, other experiences, and overall candidate personality shine through as well (test scores are not enough to get in, honestly) but I would say you are definitely on track to go to whatever school you decide to pursue! 🙂

  5. orhan ersan April 23, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    good days i really liked your post and this questions are really easy even though i am an 8th student in turkey and i am really working but i heard that harvard might not accept me jut because i am turkish is this true and also they only getting high scores in sat isn’t enough what else should i do 

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 13, 2016 at 8:48 pm #

      Harvard– and U.S. schools in general– have no problem accepting students from every country in the world, including Turkey. If Harvard is your dream school, keep working toward it as you continue on from the 9th grade into high school. You’ve got plenty of time… And it’s always wonderful to hear from a student who is so ambitious and has such great long-term goals.

  6. Nerd May 5, 2016 at 5:30 am #


    I scored 2500 on my SAT and 800 in every Subject test.

    Will I get into Harvard?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 13, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

      Did you mean you scored a 2400? That would have been a perfect score on the old version of the SAT. (Pre-2016.) With that and an 800 on the subject tests you took, you’d certainly be in Harvard’s preferred score range. That being said, many factors other than test scores are considered in admissions decisions for Harvard and other top schools. If you have perfect scores as described, though, it’s probably worth your while to apply. Provided your high school grades were good and everything else on your application looks good, I’d say you have a good chance.

  7. Graham June 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Hi. I score 2380 in SAT 1. I had only 6A’s out of 9 subjects offered. I have little leadership qualities. Will Harvard admit me?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert June 4, 2016 at 4:55 am #

      Hi Graham,

      It is really hard to say xyz will definitely cause admissions. You have some great grades and a high SAT score, but leadership qualities, outside non-academic experiences, and the quality of your essays will also all matter. What you need to do is highlight your strengths to put your best foot forward and see what can be done! If you have admissions staff or counselors who can help through your currently institution, I highly recommend getting some help with crafting your application, too! 🙂

  8. Arjun September 12, 2016 at 3:33 pm #

    Hi, I am from UK.
    My grades at school are great for Maths and further math’s but are quite bad for physics and chemistry due to a debilitating illness I had during the exams. Ig I get a near perfect score in the SAT and both subject tests, will I have a good chance of getting in as an international student. Also, which test would you recommend I should take, SAT or ACT?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 15, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

      First off, sorry to hear that you got sick and your grades suffered. That’s the worst! The SAT and ACT are equally accepted by schools in the United States right now. A small handful of top schools are impressed with students who take both tests, but really you could be fine getting a top score on either one of the two exams.

  9. Rudra Shankar Das September 26, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

    hii I am Rudra from India
    I have scored 80.6 % marks in class 12 final exam in 2016. Now I want to study in US. And also scored 2410 in SAT exam.
    May I apply Harvard University for an undergraduate program??

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 1, 2016 at 8:06 am #

      Hi Rudra,

      University admissions in the US has a lot more to it than just scores and GPA. You will want to find an admissions expert who can help you with your essays and extra curriculars so that your entire profile is well-rounded. You seem to have academic strength, so you will now need to focus on other parts of your profile! 🙂

  10. anny October 3, 2016 at 6:24 am #

    Hi! I am an international student. I wrote the SAT without essay and i am going to write the SAT with writing on november, 5. The early action deadline at Harvard is on 1st november and i don’t know if they will see my SAT score from november, or if they will consider my application without it (in case if it gets lost). I have a good score at my previous SAT and also at my TOEFL test (which includes writing section). My application is also very strong.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 7, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

      According to Harvard’s official web page for application timelines, November 1 is the final deadline for the general application packet, but early November is still an acceptable SAT test date for Early Action applicants– the early November SAT is the “last acceptable testing date” for early applicants, to use Harvard’s exact words. (Read the “Early November” portion of the Harvard timeline to check for yourself.)

      So you should be taking the test with essay just in the nick of time. It may also help to send your previous no-essay SAT score with your initial application packet, along with a note that you’ve done an early November retake with essay. Contact Harvard Admissions directly about that though– you’ll want to check with the source to see if that really is a good idea.

  11. Katniss January 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    I am a student from 8th grade and I want to get into Harvard when I grow up. Just for practice, I gave a mock SAT test on Khan academy, and I got a total score of 1340 out of 1600 without any preparation. Plus, I am very much engaged in extra cuticular activities and I have other hobbies. I am an all rounder student in math, science, English, and social studies. So do you think that I’ll get into Harvard? I was just scrolling through the comments on this page and I guessed that I’m the only one who took the new  SAT test with a total of 1600. Please let me know if Harvard accepts students like me 🙂 

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 12, 2017 at 9:57 am #

      Hi Katniss,

      Admissions is much more complicated than just a quick glance at some parts of your profile, but it looks like you are on the right track! You need to talk to an admissions expert in the coming years to get more help crafting a complete admissions package as there is a lot more than test scores to consider. You will want to raise your SAT score, too, but a 1340 without any preparation is a fantastic start, especially in 8th grade. Congratulations, and keep at it! 🙂

  12. Ashwani July 27, 2017 at 3:16 am #

    Is it compulsory that we have to give SAT 1 and SAT 2 “BOTH” for the admission in Harvard?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 31, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

      Hi Ashwani. That depends on your desired department and program. Have you done some research on the Harvard site? That’ll be the best source of information!

  13. Umair August 21, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

    If I have low gpa but sat score is good so is there any chance of me to get in harward

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 23, 2017 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Umair. Harvard is a very competitive school, and if you have a very low GPA, it will be very hard to overcome that. Polish up all the other aspects of your application and give it your best shot! 🙂

  14. shery October 21, 2017 at 12:35 am #

    hi i m from india and i got SAT score of 1420 out of 1600.. how muchi need to improve to get into harvard of equivalent university

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 21, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

      Hi Sherry,

      First of all, congrats on taking the SAT and getting such a great score! I’m sure you worked and studied hard to achieve that 🙂 Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so we can’t really tell you whether these scores are good enough or how much you would need to improve. We do know, however, that test scores alone are not enough to get you into a university. The university will look at your test scores as well as your essays, transcripts, experience, letters of recommendation and other factors in order to create a strong class. Even getting a perfect score on the SAT is not a guarantee that you will be admitted! I encourage you to keep researching and working on your application–the stronger your overall application, the better the chance that you will be accepted!

  15. toki November 22, 2017 at 5:23 am #

    I’m toki.from bangladesh.
    if I get 2200+ in sat 2, have sufficient background
    in national physics olympiad as well as high school rank in notre dame college of 12 th,
    national awards on art,sing,recite,extempore speech
    and vice president in collge club, I have any chance to apply and get into havard?
    I would like to study in nuclear engineering for future sern job….

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert November 22, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

      Hi Toki,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not college admissions, so I’m afraid I can’t give you any more information than what we provide in this blog post! I recommend that you do some research into this (here’s a good place to start) to get a sense of what Harvard is looking for in an application!

  16. Paterne July 11, 2018 at 7:02 am #

    I am from Rwanda, Africa; I got 680 in Physics SAT subject, and 610 in Math.
    Is it a good idea to send them to Harvard, in fact, I want to study STEM?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 13, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      Hi Paterne,

      Our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice, so I’m afraid we aren’t the best people to answer this question. I recommend that you reach out to the admissions counselors or other friends who have gone to school in the US to learn about their experiences. While test scores aren’t everything in the college admissions process, these scores are below what most admitted Harvard students have. If you decide to apply to Harvard, then you may want to check out this blog post for tips on how to craft a strong application:

  17. Bob August 4, 2018 at 8:53 pm #

    “The top 25% of admitted students earned a combined SAT score of over 1570

    . The middle 50% earned between 1470 and 1570.

    And the bottom 25% earned below 1470.

    As you can see, 75% of Harvard’s recently admitted class scored above 1570 on the SAT.”

    Ummmm…no math majors in the house?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 8, 2018 at 10:57 am #

      Hi Bob,

      It looks like we made a mistake here! Thanks for letting us know 🙂 It should say that 25% scored above 1570. I’ll send this along to our content improvement team so that they can fix it!

  18. rue January 1, 2021 at 8:40 am #

    is it possible for me to get in with a lower (unweighted) gpa? my unweighted gpa is in between 3.7-3.9 and if i don’t have problems about other stuff, will this be a problem or i can make it up?

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 15, 2021 at 12:01 pm #

      Hi Rue, our expertise is in test prep, not admissions advice. I recommend that you reach out to the Harvard admissions office and see if you can talk with current students or alumni. They can help you with strategies to make your application more competitive.

  19. andreas haerul umam January 20, 2022 at 8:34 pm #

    thanks for the best article

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 1, 2022 at 1:14 pm #

      We’re so glad you liked it!

      Happy studying! 😀

  20. Endra Putra Raharja April 19, 2022 at 11:52 pm #

    good days i really liked your post

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