Admissions Process

Harvard seeks to assemble an extraordinary and diverse class of undergraduate students by conducting a wide-ranging review of every aspect of each applicant’s background and experience. Our admissions process values academic excellence, but never reduces applicants to any one factor, such as grades or test scores. Decisions to admit an applicant are made by the full, diverse, 40-person admissions committee through which each member has one vote.

Harvard College application process explained

Whole person review

The College treats each applicant as an individual, and holds an expansive view of excellence; the admissions committee looks at the whole person and considers each applicant’s unique background and experiences, alongside grades and test scores, to find applicants of exceptional ability and character, who can help create a campus community that is diverse on multiple dimensions (including on academic and extracurricular interests, race, socioeconomic background, and life experiences), and who can take advantage of all that Harvard offers and contribute to the learning and social environment for their classmates. Factors such as life experiences, overcoming adversity, or specific talents are particularly important in deciding who will be offered admission. 

Factors admissions committee considers when reviewing applicants

Race is one of many factors that Harvard considers in evaluating each applicant as a whole person, an approach that helps create a diverse campus community where students from all walks of life have the opportunity to share ideas and learn from each other. Harvard also uses many race-neutral means to pursue diversity—including extensive recruiting and one of the most generous financial aid policies in the country—and it has carefully studied other potential race-neutral measures, ultimately concluding that the consideration of race, among many other factors, remains necessary to attain an exceptional class that is diverse on many dimensions and central to the ability of Harvard College to pursue its educational mission.

Key statistics

Applicant academic qualifications A large percentage of applicants are academically qualified to be admitted to Harvard. For example, each year, far more applicants have perfect SAT verbal scores or perfect SAT math scores than are admitted. While academic ability is important and necessary, and transcends test scores and GPAs, for applicants who are academically qualified, other factors bear significantly on admissions decisions.

Large majority of Harvard College's 40,000+ applicants are academically qualified.

In a recent admissions cycle (in which fewer than 2,000 applicants out of approximately 40,000 were admitted):

  • Over 8,000 domestic applicants had perfect GPAs
  • Over 3,400 applicants had perfect SAT math scores
  • Over 2,700 applicants had perfect SAT verbal scores 

Applicant pool In recent years, there has been a steady increase in applicants across racial categories. Since 2010, the share of the Harvard admitted class that is Asian-American has grown by 27%. The percentage of the class that is Asian-American fluctuates from year-to-year, though with overall growth. For example, the admitted class of 2016 had 16.3% more Asian-American students than the admitted class of 2015, while the admitted class of 2017 had 3.9% fewer Asian-American students than the admitted class of 2016.