College Intel

Harvard University Admissions

Harvard University's Harvard Yard is featured after a snowfall.

It is almost a cliche at this point to put Harvard on a pedestal, venerating it as the most prestigious university in the world and as an admissions Holy Grail. Harvard’s esteem derives from a legacy of excellence in higher education that has gone unparalleled for generations. Between the eight U.S. presidents, 188 billionaires, and 49 Nobel Laureates who can call themselves Harvard alumni, many would probably agree that they were mystified by this Harvard mythology prior to arriving on campus. The crowning jewel of the Ivy League, Harvard has a renown that is ubiquitous with American culture itself.

With that being said, many would be surprised to learn that Harvard is not considered one of the more academically rigorous Ivy League schools. It certainly takes near perfection to be admitted, but once the pearly gates are opened, students find themselves faced with grade inflation, robust academic support resources, and moderate workloads. It is very difficult to fail out of Harvard (don’t ask Mark Zuckerberg — he dropped out!). 

The Harvard College core curriculum requires coursework taken in a variety of disciplines, including a quantitative reasoning requirement that is the bane of humanities students, and an expository writing requirement that stumps many STEM students. Undergraduates must also take one course each in the arts and humanities, science and engineering, and social sciences divisions, as well as courses from the four following general education categories: Aesthetics & Culture; Ethics & Civics; Histories, Societies, Individuals; and Science & Technology in Society. 50 “concentrations” (the Harvard term for major) are offered, including a special concentration that allows students to shape their own studies.

Harvard was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making it the oldest post-secondary institution in the United States. Its long history has been marked by leadership in American higher education: Harvard is a founding university in the Association of American Universities, a pioneer of the meritocratic admissions system that prevails across the higher education sphere today, and is home to the largest academic library in the world. In 1979, Harvard merged with the adjacent Radcliffe Women’s college and integrated female students into all aspects of campus life, but it wasn’t until 1999 that women graduating from Harvard were awarded degrees from Harvard exclusively, and not also Radcliffe.

With approximately 6,700 undergraduates, Harvard College has the fifth highest undergraduate population in the Ivy League, trailing Cornell, Penn, Columbia, and Brown. Another 15,000 students are enrolled in Harvard’s graduate and professional schools. “The Harvard Bubble” refers to the self-contained universe of classes, events, and parties that disincentivizes students from leaving Harvard Yard and venturing into greater Cambridge, which houses nearby MIT, or the city of Boston. While some students participate in the “club” scene at Final clubs on campus (the Harvard analogue to Greek life) many turn to student organization parties and dorms for their fill of social life. While athletics are not as popular at Harvard as at other schools, many turn out sporting crimson for the annual Harvard-Yale football game in the fall.

At Harvard College and eleven world renowned graduate and professional schools, students have been taught by faculty such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, psychologist Steven Pinker, and activist-philosopher Cornel West. Harvard manages billions of dollars in research funds each year from revenues generated by its $50 billion dollar endowment (the largest university endowment in the world), and funding from government sources such as the National Institutes of Health.

The acceptance rate at Harvard is usually the lowest in the Ivy League, while the matriculation rate is usually the highest; for the Class of 2027, Harvard offered admission to 1,942 out of 56,937 applicants, for an acceptance rate of 3.4%. Applicants must have a stellar academic record, strong writing samples that espouse a unique perspective, and an activity list that has a quality over quantity approach to extracurricular engagement.

Harvard University Admissions Statistics

Harvard University Overall Accept. Rate Regular Decision Accept. Rate Regular Decision Apps Accepted Regular Decision Apps Received Early Decision / Action Accept. Rate Percent of Class Filled by Early Apps Early Decision / Action Apps Received Early Decision / Action Apps Accepted Expected Number of Students to Enroll Total Apps Received Total Apps Accepted
2027 3.41% 2.34% 1,220 47,384 7.56% n/a* 9,553 722 1,665 56,937 1,942
2026 3.19% 2.34% 1,214 51,814 7.87% n/a* 9,406 740 1,665 61,220 1,954
2025 3.4% 2.6% 1,223 47,349 7.4% n/a* 10,086 747 1,665 57,435 1,970
2024 4.9% 3.2% 1,085 33,824 13.9% n/a* 6,424 895 1,665 40,248 1,970
2023 4.5% 2.8% 1,015 36,372 13.4% n/a* 6,958 935 1,665 43,330 1,950
2022 4.6% 2.8% 998 36,119 14.5% n/a* 6,630 964 1,665 42,749 1,962
2021 5.2% 3.4% 1,118 33,033 14.5% n/a* 6,473 938 1,670 39,506 2,056
2020 5.2% 3.4% 1,119 32,868 14.9% n/a* 6,173 918 1,660 39,041 2,037
2019 5.3% 3.2% 1,013 31,388 16.5% n/a* 5,919 977 1,660 37,305 1,990
2018 5.9% 3.5% 1,031 29,603 21.1% n/a* 4,692 992 1,660 34,295 2,023
2017 5.8% 3.8% 1,134 30,167 18.4% n/a* 4,856 895 1,660 35,023 2,029
2016 5.9% 4.2% 1,260 30,054 18.2% n/a* 4,231 722 1,661 34,285 2,032
2015 6.2% 6.2% 2,158 34,950 n/a* n/a* n/a* n/a* 1,655 34,950 2,158
2014 6.9% 6.9% 2,110 30,489 n/a* n/a* n/a* n/a* 1,655 30,489 2,110
2013 7% 7% 2,046 29,112 n/a* n/a* n/a* n/a* 1,655 29,112 2,046
2012 7.1% 7.1% 1,948 27,462 n/a* n/a* n/a* n/a* 1,675 27,462 1,948
2011 9% 6.2% 1,183 18,947 21.8% n/a* 4,008 875 1,675 22,955 2,058
2010 9.3% 6.9% 1,305 18,881 20.8% n/a* 3,872 804 1,684 22,753 2,109
2009 9.1% 6.4% 1,189 18,583 21% n/a* 4,213 885 1,650 22,796 2,074
2008 10.3% 7.1% 1,123 15,861 23.3% n/a* 3,889 906 1,650 19,750 2,029
2007 9.8% 6.8% 906 13,366 15.1% n/a* 7,620 1,150 1,650 20,986 2,056

n/a* = not applicable since an EA policy was in place

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