Harvard College is one of our nation’s most well-known institutions. Its renown comes partly from its rich history. But history isn’t enough to build the kind of reputation Harvard maintains. The school also has an excellent academic standing.
Harvard was the first college established in the American Colonies. It was founded in 1636 to train Puritan ministers. But as times changed, so did Harvard. The one constant that has driven the university to the top of the Ivy League is its proud claim that it “has always maintained its core as a haven for the world’s most ambitious scholars.”
It’s an exciting prospect to think of counting yourself among one of these “ambitious scholars.” But as you probably know, competition for admissions to Harvard is fierce. Of its most recent pool of 42,749 applicants, only 2,024 were admitted. That’s less than 5% admitted to the class of 2022.
Don’t lose hope. It just means you need to work hard to be competitive. You need to work to be well-rounded, have a high GPA, and earn good test scores. So, what SAT score is required for Harvard?
Harvard does not have a specifically published SAT score requirement. With so large a pool of applicants, it would be easy for the school to find 2,024 SAT heavy-hitters—those with perfect 1600 scores, or close to. But a perfect 1600 SAT score is not required for Harvard. Harvard is looking for more than just amazing test scores.
In a recent interview, Harvard Dean William R. Fitzsimmons stated that although SAT and ACT scores are an important part of the admissions process, they are not the only thing. “Students’ intellectual imagination, strength of character, and their ability to exercise good judgment — these are critical factors in the admissions process, and they are revealed not by test scores but by students’ activities outside the classroom, the testimony of teachers and guidance counselors, and by alumni/ae and staff interview reports.” In other words, they want their students to be more than just a piece of paper.
That doesn’t mean test scores for those admitted aren’t above average. Most are. But there is a range. Most students admitted, score between 600 and 800 on the individual SAT sections and on the SAT Subject Tests.
In the general population, the average SAT composite score is 1068. The average total composite score range for those admitted to Harvard is between 1470 and 1570. So don’t throw out that SAT study guide. A higher than average SAT score is required to get into Harvard.
Harvard applicants are required to take either the SAT or the ACT. The Writing portion is optional. Most students admitted to Harvard choose to submit the SAT over the ACT, but the college does not specify a preference. Harvard also recommends two SAT Subject Tests. The only exception is if paying for the SAT Subject Tests causes a “financial hardship.” Admissions counselors do recommend taking a Math Subject Test if you can only take one.
Some schools will take the top section score from each test submitted to create the highest composite score possible—this is called superscoring. You may submit more than one set of test scores, but Harvard does not superscore your results.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t take into account your highest scores across more than one test date. So if you score higher on Math but show no improvement in Language on your second go-around, it is still worthwhile to send them in.
You may send as many test date scores as you wish, but in Harvard’s view, “taking tests more than twice offers diminishing returns.” In other words, your third or fourth set of scores are not going to be as meaningful to the admissions team.
Here’s my testing recommendation. If getting into Harvard or another Ivy League school is important to you, you need to take the recommended two SAT Subject Tests. Fee waivers are available. And if you qualify, you may take two SAT tests and up to six SAT Subject Tests for free.
Remember that statement from Harvard Dean Fitzsimmons? Three qualities he highlighted for incoming students were “intellectual imagination, strength of character, and (the) ability to exercise good judgment.” Immediately throwing in the towel on the SAT Subject Tests may reflect poorly in these areas. So do everything you possibly can to take those tests.
And if for some reason it is an impossibility—sometimes circumstances are beyond your control—you need to provide a compelling explanation in your application.
Harvard has no other specific testing requirements. However, they will accept other test forms that provide a fuller picture of your academic abilities and interests. For example, you might provide AP scores, predicted A-level results, or IB scores along with your application. But these will not be accepted as a substitute for SAT or ACT scores.
Every time you register for the SAT you may send free score reports to four institutions. You can select these colleges or universities when you register. Scores then will automatically be sent 10 days after the SAT score release date. If Harvard is your goal, select that as one of the institutions when you register.
You also have the option of sending your four free score reports up to nine days after your SAT test date. If this is your situation, sign in to your College Board account and select Harvard as one of your choices. After this nine day period you will have to pay a $12 fee for each score report. Any scores ordered beyond your four free reports also come with that $12 fee.
Harvard will allow applicants to self-report scores. You may check their application tips for details on how to do this. But if you are accepted, you must provide official score reports. If you were eligible for an SAT fee waiver, keep in mind that you may send as many free score reports as you wish. Official reports are preferred, so take advantage of your free score reports if you can.
Well, there is no guaranteed way to get into the college of your dreams. But the best way to improve your chances is to work hard right now. The earlier in your high school career you start working toward your goal, the better. Take challenging classes and work hard in them. Study for the SAT and plan to take the test more than once. And remember, that Harvard is looking for more than just good grades.
Harvard is looking for a someone who is going to make a positive contribution to the world after graduation. So make sure you are developing your whole person—not just your academics. Develop non-academic interests, study music or the arts, take up a sport, get involved in politics, volunteer—you will be a better person for it no matter what the outcome.