The Admissions Committee does not use quotas of any kind. We rely on how candidates present themselves in their application and on their teachers, counselors, Heads of schools, and our own alumni/ae to share information with us about each applicant’s strengths and personal qualities – all of which play a part in the Admissions Committee’s decisions. Our admissions process is “holistic” meaning that many factors, including but not limited to your grades and test scores, are important in the admissions process.
There is no formula for gaining admission to Harvard. Academic accomplishment in secondary school is important, but the Admissions Committee also considers many other criteria, such as community involvement, extracurricular activities, and work experience. Strength of character, ability to overcome adversity, enthusiasm, creativity, and other personal qualities often play a part in the Admissions Committee’s decisions. Your grades and test scores help us to assess your academic promise, but they are by no means relied upon exclusively.
Evidence that you are willing and able to take on academic challenges, or that you possess strengths not fully revealed in objective information, is also of interest to the Admissions Committee. Applicants can distinguish themselves for admission in a number of ways. Some show unusual academic promise through experience or achievements in study or research. Many are “well rounded” and have contributed in various ways to the lives of their schools or communities. Others are “well lopsided” with demonstrated excellence in a particular area- academic, extracurricular or otherwise. Still others bring perspectives formed by unusual personal circumstances or experiences.
Our main Admissions Office website has a fine description of what we’re looking for here:
Some Guidance for UK applicants:
While we encourage all interested and talented students to think about Harvard as a possibility, it’s also true that it’s quite competitive to be admitted. Typically we receive about 37,000 applications and can only admit about 2,000 to fill our 1,660 places in the first-year class. In recent past years, we’ve received about 500 applications from the UK and have admitted 25-40 students. There are no quotas by country, school or any kind of background — we’re just looking for the most talented and promising students wherever they may live. If you feel that the US-style of liberal arts education is appealing to you, be sure to apply to a range of colleges and universities to maximize your chances of being admitted to one or more of them.
Expected Grades: Most successful Harvard admitted students will present very strong academic credentials — mostly or all A/A* at GCSE and AS plus predicted 3 or 4 (or sometimes more) A/A* at A-level. In the IB system, a predicted 39+ out of 45 is what most admitted students would present.
Typical Test Scores: While we have no firm cut-offs on test scores, since we realize that students are applying from a range of different educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, most admitted students will have SAT scores in the 600-800 range on each segment of the test or an ACT composite score of 28+. We do take background into account when looking at scores, and know that UK applicants will not have had the same kind of preparation for these US-based tests as our American students. Our experience is that international students tend to score higher on the SAT Subject Tests than on the main SAT, so we encourage those applicants to take both sets of testing (SAT or ACT, and SAT Subject Tests) if at all possible.