How to Get Into Harvard
How to get into Harvard — smart people want to know! Actually, everybody wants to know, because getting into Harvard is a life-changing event. It gives you opportunity in life. It gives you a community of equally smart and interesting peers whom you will be able to fall back on, as part of a very tight community, for the rest of your life.
The high school seniors who attend Harvard today become the very well-known, authors, scientists, politicians, Presidents, humanitarians, doctors, scholars and artists of tomorrow. They truly are the voice of the next generation.
So, what does it take to really get in to Harvard University? How do these successful college applicants do it?
You can try to substitute Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, or Brown, etc., here, but it’s somehow not the same. Even Stanford and MIT while excellent, extremely competitive schools (and, in some cases, even better for what you may specifically want to study) still doesn’t quite equate to that Harvard degree.
What is it then about Harvard University? How do you become one of the lucky 1600 students admitted each year to not only the Ivy League, but “the” Ivy League?
As a former Harvard admissions interviewer and a Harvard graduate myself, allow me to provide some tips and advice. In my overall experience, not only interviewing for Harvard’s incoming class for the College of Arts & Sciences, but also running my own Ivy League admissions consulting firm for the last 15 years, these are the top things you need to check off, if you’re even going to be seriously considered for that Harvard acceptance letter.
The points are, as follows”
- High School GPA
- High SAT / ACT scores
- Showing how you are UNIQUE + DIFFERENT in your interests, education, experience, achievements, creative work, or hobbies.
- Being able to communicate this well in your Harvard admissions essays.
- Having an excellent college interview
- Providing additional material with your application, when appropriate, like a portfolio of creative work, that supports all of the above
- Great teacher recommendations
And that’s really the key! The secret sauce. The map to TREASURE.
I’m going to now go through, in much more detail, all of the above mentioned steps so you fully understand what Harvard actually looks for in an undergraduate applicant, and then, in terms of better understanding how to get in to Harvard, you’ll be able to adjust what’s in your power to control, and then just try not to think about the rest!
- Your GPA – it obviously needs to be high. Really high. That doesn’t mean that if you have a fews “B’s” on your transcript that you still can’t get in. You can. Everyone who gets accepted to Harvard doesn’t have a 4.0. Really. What this does mean though is that the higher your grades the more you’re showing the admissions committee that you belong at their school. In other words, don’t give them a reason to say no.
- Your SAT/ACT scores – I know, I know, “but everyplace says it’s optional now!” It is. That’s not incorrect — BUT, a high SAT or ACT score will still help you, and a REALLY HIGH SAT or ACT score will help you even more. It adds to the same thing I said above: show them you belong at the school. Take the test if you think you can do well. For all others, optional (but then you may not get in).
Showing how you are UNIQUE + DIFFERENT in your interests, education, experience, achievements, creative work, or hobbies.
This is the most important point in my entire list. This is everything in terms of the Harvard application (and hold true for really any of the highly competitive schools). What makes you unique? What makes you different from the girl you sit next to in AP Calculus or Lit? If you want to get into Harvard you MUST find something in your academic interests, experience, background, talent, skills, or philosophies that make you DIFFERENT.
Your Harvard Admissions Essays:
This, too, is everything. Your essays have to be well-written, and your topic choice for your Common App is going to be incredibly important, if not the most important choice you make. I’m linking to a recent blog post on my Ivy League College Admissions Blog that talks about how to make sure your Common App topic is GOOD, as the choice is that important (and same goes for supplementals and any short answer questions): How to Choose A Topic For Your Common App
Your Harvard Interview
Also incredibly important. The two tips I’ll give you here are 1). That you need to prepare by going over some possible interview questions, and 2) You need to keep your interview as “conversational” as possible. In other words, relax and try to have a normal conversation. The best interviews just flow naturally.
This means if there’s an optional essay, you take the opportunity and answer it. This also means that if you have any creative or academic material at all (like a scientific paper) you submit it here. Too many students leave this section blank. Guess who doesn’t? The students who get in. Every question, even the ones not officially “required” are all opportunities to tell the admissions committee more about who you are. Again, take all opportunities.
This falls in the category of things you can’t fully control, but you obviously need to ask for recs from the teachers whom you at least THINK know you well, and will write you a good one. Teacher recs are more important than people realize, and the students who tend to get into Harvard usually have at least one teacher who puts their own reputation on the line by saying that a student is truly “one of the best they’ve ever taught, in all the years I’ve been teaching.”
Sentences like that actually do get the admissions committee’s attention, though if everything else in your Harvard application isn’t stellar, then it won’t get you what you need.
So, I hope that sheds some good light on what you need to get into Harvard, and this information holds true really for all of the top Ivy League schools. The most important thing I’ve said here is that Harvard is looking for those who are the voice of the next generation. They’re looking for the next leaders, writers, scholars, doctors, scientists, and artists in their field.
Show them that’s you, and Harvard will be lucky to have YOU.
For more free tips and advice, check out my award-winning Ivy League Admissions Consulting Blog
And don’t hesitate to reach out to me over social media or my website: IvyCollegeEssay.com
[I’m a former Harvard admissions interviewer + Harvard grad, and currently run the Ivy League college admissions consulting firm Ivy League Essay. Contact me today for a free consultation about your Ivy League strategy, and get into the Harvard of your dreams!]
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