For more information, use these links:
SAT Tests: detailed information and how to sign up for tests at the College Board website
ACT Tests: detailed information and how to sign up for tests at the ACT website
Fulbright Commission information about Studying in the US
FAQ: In the past few years, these are the most frequently asked questions:
What are realistic scores and grades in order to be admitted to Harvard?
Admitted students typically will have excellent grades (A*/A with perhaps a B or two at GCSE, A*/A predicted in three or four A-level subjects (or D1, D2 or D3 on Pre-U), or 39+ on predicted IB (out of the total 45 possible). SAT scores are typically in the 600-800 range (out of 800 max) on each test; ACT composite typically would be in the 28+ range (out of 36 max). Most of the 37,000 applicants each year will present grades and scores that put them in academic range for Harvard, but we only have about 2,000 spaces to offer, so in addition to grades and scores, your extracurricular activities, how you present yourself in your application and essays, the recommendations from your school and teachers and your alumni interview are all equally important factors in our final admissions decision. If you are a top student interested in the US liberal arts system of education, be sure to apply to a range of schools to increase your chances of being admitted somewhere.
What are the entry requirements for Harvard? What about for Medicine? Law? Business?
See the answer above for general grade and score guidelines. It’s also important to realize that like other liberal arts colleges in the US, Harvard College is a four-year undergraduate program that can prepare students for further postgraduate study in fields such as medicine, law, and business. We do not offer programs in those fields at the undergraduate level, but many of our students do pursue those fields eventually and might take a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Biology and then go to Medical School, or might study Economics before a further degree (MBA) in business, or might study Government before taking a law degree. After you complete the four year first degree (BA), you must apply separately to a post-graduate program in the area of specialization such as business, law or medicine. There are some undergraduate degrees in the US in business (and if that is your main interest, you can search for them specifically), but you cannot study law or medicine at the undergraduate level in the US.
Should I take A-levels or IB?
The UK A-level and Pre-U programs and the International Baccalaureate (IB) are all excellent preparation for study in the US, and Harvard does not have a preference among the programs.
How do you view BTEC credentials in the admissions process?
BTEC courses are more vocationally directed and are not normally appropriate preparation for Harvard’s liberal arts program.
How do you evaluate Scottish, Welsh, or Irish credentials in the admissions process?
We do understand the different educational systems and credentials in these countries and will be able to evaluate them. Typically admitted students will have taken a strong program and will have done very well, the same as in the standard UK program.
How are self-study, home-schooling, or online study credentials evaluated in the admissions process?
These credentials are evaluated on a case by case basis, with the goal being to understand what the student has learned and how well prepared she/he is for our programs. The SAT or ACT tests also provide some measure of standardized assessment.
Which A-levels should I take? How many?
The choice of A-levels is completely up to you. Typically admitted students will have three or four A-levels in college-prep courses (such as History, Literature, Languages, Sciences). Less well suited for our type of educational program would be A-levels in Physical Education, Business Studies, or Media, unless they are in addition to three or four “solid” courses. Since you do not apply to “read” a specific subject in the US, but rather just “apply to Harvard” and do not need to choose your area of concentrated study until your second year, any strong A-level preparation will be fine. Students who have A-levels ALL in the sciences or with NO sciences will still be fine in the US, as long as their interests are broad and they enjoy studying all subjects.
How do I set up an admissions interview?
Once you have submitted your Common or Universal Application online, your name will be given to our alumni interviewer coordinator in London. She will assign you to one of our 200 interviewers who will be in touch with you to set up the interview. The interviews typically take place in October or November for Early Action and in January or February for Regular Action. As much as possible, we assign you to an interviewer who lives close to where you are, but in some cases you may be asked to travel to London or even to have a Skype interview if you live relatively remotely.
What is the difference between Early Action and Regular Action? Which should I choose?
Our Admissions Office website addresses these questions in detail: https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/apply/application-timeline/restrictive-early-action
Can I get a fee waiver?
Yes! If paying the application fee would cause a hardship for your family, please request a fee waiver. You or your guidance counselor (careers advisor, sixth form head) may simply write a short letter asking us to waive your fee. Do not let this fee prevent you from applying! Unfortunately we do not have any way to waive the fees for the required SAT or ACT testing.
How do I apply as a transfer?
Full information about our transfer program can be found here: https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-process/transferring-harvard-college. Be aware that in recent years because of limited housing we have only been admitting about a dozen transfer students per year.
How to I apply for various graduate programs?
At Harvard University, there are ten graduate schools in addition to the undergraduate Harvard College. Start at our main Harvard website www.harvard.edu and choose the appropriate graduate school for more details on applying to each program.
What is the basis for the admissions decision?
At Harvard College we use a “holistic” admissions process that looks at your objective credentials (grades and SAT/ACT scores) plus the equally important factors of your extracurricular activities, how you present yourself in your essays, educational and family background, recommendations from your school, teachers, and alumni interviewers and your personal qualities as presented in the application and interview.
If I have A levels (or IB) results, do I still need testing?
Yes, all applicants must present the required testing of either the SAT or ACT with the writing portion. In addition, it is highly recommended, especially for international students, to take two SAT Subject Tests as well.
Can I use my UCAS personal statement for my essay?
We do not recommend that practice as the content and format of the UCAS essay is not really what is asked for in the US system. Take a look at some of the personal essays given as examples on this website (in the Assembling Your Application section) and you will see that they are VERY different from the UCAS statement. We’re trying to learn about you as a person to see what motivates or intrigues you, what you’d be like as a classmate or roommate, so the essay that helps us get to know you better will be more helpful than the typically academic, possibly somewhat dry, UCAS essay.
Can I take a gap year if admitted?
Yes. All admitted students are given the option to matriculate that year or to postpone entry for one year. We heartily approve of the concept of the gap year and wish more American students would choose that option.
If I’m planning to take a gap year, should I apply during that gap year or during the upper sixth year?
Either way is fine. Some students prefer to apply while in their final year of secondary school when teachers know them best and they still have the option to take the gap year or not. Other students prefer to wait until they are in their gap year to work on the application since that gives them more time to study for the required SAT/ACT tests and narrow down a list of US colleges for application. The gap year experience can also often become a good topic for the essay.
What is a “Guidance Counselor”? Who should complete the Secondary School Report at my school?
Guidance Counselor is a US term for the person who advises students about university options. The closest equivalent in the UK might be your Careers Advisor, your Sixth Form Head, IB Coordinator or possibly your Housemaster or even Headmaster. Any of those people would be fine; just choose someone who knows something about the program you are taking and can make some comments about you as a student and a person. Please choose someone in addition to two teachers; it is not helpful to have the same person write a Teacher Report and the Secondary School Report.
Is my US admissions offer unconditional? In the UK the offers are conditional based on final A-level results received in August.
All admissions offers are given based on the continuation of high level academic and personal performance. If actual results received are significantly lower than what was predicted, the admissions offer can be rescinded. In the US, we receive the Final School Report in June and each year we write to any students whose final grades are disappointing; from time to time an offer is rescinded. For UK students, we do not receive the final A-level results until mid-August, but we do review them and contact students with disappointing results. It’s rare, but it has happened that an offer was withdrawn in August. So keep up your work even after being admitted!
What is the SAT (or ACT?) How do I prepare for and register for the tests? When should I take the tests? Where are they given?
Please read the SAT & ACT Fact Sheet and FAQ section on this website for full details.
Do you need TOEFL? Do you use the IELTS? Can any other tests be substituted for SAT or ACT?
We do not require the TOEFL from any applicants. However, if English is not your first language and you have taken the TOEFL as part of application to other universities, you may send it to us and we will include that information as part of your application. We do not accept the IELTS test. The SAT or ACT are required components of the application process and cannot be replaced by any other testing.
Can I get a fee waiver for the SAT or ACT tests?
While low income US students in the US may have access to a test fee waiver from the testing agencies, no such waiver exists for international students. Sorry…
Is the January test date acceptable for Regular Action?
Yes, we will receive the results from the January testing in February, in time for our March Regular Action final decisions. In the same way, the November test results arrive to us in December and may be used for Early Action candidates.
What is the difference between SAT and ACT? Which should I take?
The format and content of the two tests are somewhat different but they test the same basic things. There is no difference in chances of admission based on which test you take. If you are not sure which one to take, look at sample tests on each test’s website, and see which one seems best fitted to you. In the UK, open slots for SAT often fill up rapidly while there still may be ACT seats available.
Is an SAT or ACT prep course recommended?
Such a prep course is not required, but if you feel it will help you to prepare for the test in an organized way, you may feel you wish to take such a course. Most international applicants will not have taken such a prep course and our experience is that they do just fine on the tests with a bit of self-study as provided on the SAT or ACT websites. Additional good news is that the new SAT format (starting in 2016) will have free online tutoring from Khan Academy available, so no one should any longer feel a need for taking a prep course.
How can I be put in touch with a current Harvard student? How can I be put in touch with someone in the UK to talk about Harvard?
Because of the volume of such requests, we cannot arrange individual contacts with current Harvard students or alumni in the UK. If you decide to apply, you will have the chance for an alumni interview in the UK. We hope that the information on this website, plus the links to other useful websites (SAT, ACT, Fulbright Commission) will provide enough helpful information for you to move forward with your thinking about US college applications.
Are there info sessions available in the UK?
Yes, from time to time. You can sign up to receive an e-newsletter from the Harvard Club of the UK which will alert you to any Harvard visits or talks in your area. Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/Eymw1 Harvard always has a table with several alumni at the September Fulbright Commission College Day in London.
How do I get my visa?
If you are admitted and commit to matriculating at a US college, you will receive information and paperwork about obtaining your visa and the I-20 form. You cannot start the visa process until that point.
I’m a mature student who has been out of school for several years. Are there different admissions or financial aid processes for me?
No, the admissions process and requirements are the same for all applicants. If there are special circumstances in your situation or if your school is unable to provide the needed documents, include that information in your own application forms and we can let you know if you need to take any additional steps.
What if I have attended more than one secondary school in the UK? What if I am in the UK for only two years and was schooled in another country prior to this?
In both cases we need to receive academic information for four years of secondary education, so you will need to ask each school to submit a separate Secondary School Report with any grades received and a letter of recommendation.
Questions from Secondary Schools
How can I best help my students apply to university in the US?
We hope that by reading the information on this website (and the linked website of the Fulbright Commission) you will learn enough about the US system to be of help and support to your students. Encourage them to start thinking early, to do research about the US system in general and about specific colleges that seem like a good fit for them. Read the sample Teacher Reports and Essays in the Assembling Your Application portion of this website to see just how different they are from the UCAS model; help your teachers and other recommenders to understand the difference so that they can write the most convincing letters on behalf of the students. If your students have the means, encourage them to visit the US to tour colleges (which typically have information sessions and tours daily during the week) to get a direct sense of what each has to offer.
Can we request an admissions visit to our school?
We are always willing to receive invitations to visit, but cannot accommodate them all. If your school is willing to host a presentation to which students, parents, and teachers from several surrounding schools are also invited, we would be more likely to be able to offer a visit. Please submit the request to our UK-based Outreach team via the Contact form on this website.
Are predicted A-levels satisfactory if the student has not yet completed the course?
Yes, we understand that schools do not yet have final A-level results if the student is still in the middle of the course, but our experience is that schools are very accurate in their predictions and we can use those until the final results are available in late summer.