Harvard is one of the top universities in the world. It has a dozen graduate schools offering an education in almost any subject that you can think of.
As you know, though, getting into Harvard isn’t easy. As an Ivy League school, its prestige means it’s one of the most selective institutions out there, but if you’re eager to work with some of the best and brightest (and have the application to cut it) it’s worth applying.
About Harvard University
Founded in 1636, Harvard is one of the oldest and best-known universities in the United States. It is considered one of the top schools in the world and boasts many famous alumni, including politicians, celebrities, businessmen, and entrepreneurs.
Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts and with a subway stop named after the school, Harvard is in the heart of the Boston metro area, giving students easy access to all the experiences and amenities of the Boston area.
Harvard also has the largest endowment of any school in the United States, with more than $40 billion in its accounts as of 2019. This endowment is essential to Harvard’s mission of providing an education to all students, regardless of their financial ability. And Harvard is known for its generous financial aid. 55% of students receive aid from Harvard and 20% pay nothing at all.
Though Harvard is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of (TK), tens of thousands of students apply to the school each year because of its reputation and its facilities. If you’re considering applying to Harvard, you’ll need to put together a strong application package and make sure you have good grades and test scores.
Total # of applicants
Diversity (based on out of country applicant)
Average time of admission results released
Total number of degree programs offered
Total # of programs (i.e. – Economics, Psychology)
Total # of degree types (i.e. – PhD, master’s)
Average GPA accepted
Average GRE accepted
Undergraduate application requirements
Harvard’s admissions office states that “there’s no formula for gaining admission to Harvard.” However, the application process is the same for each person who wants to get into the school.
The first step to applying is to fill out one of the applications Harvard accepts, including the Common Application, the Universal College Application, or the Coalition Application. You’ll also need to provide:
Answers to Harvard’s supplemental questions
A midyear school report
Two teacher evaluations for the admissions officer to read
An SAT score or ACT score (optional for the 2021-2022 school year)
Optionally, you may submit additional material, such as artwork, pieces of music, or academic samples
Undergraduate program information
If you are lucky enough to receive admission to Harvard as an undergraduate, you’ll get to choose from a variety of courses of study.
The core of Harvard’s education is the liberal arts and sciences. These courses provide a broad level of knowledge in a variety of disciplines to help make students well-rounded and able to think critically.
Students must complete general education courses, at least one course in each major division of the school, quantitative reasoning courses, expository writing courses, and language courses.
Students will also choose from more than fifty different concentrations to guide their education. Students can specialize in various topics within the arts and humanities, sciences, engineering and applied sciences, and social sciences, including:
Art, Film, and Visual Studies
Roughly half of Harvard’s undergraduate students pursue an honors track within their chosen concentration. Students also have the option to build their own concentration to help them meet a specific academic goal.
Graduate application requirements
Harvard operates about a dozen graduate schools, each with its own specialization and application requirements. Though each has its own application, there are similarities between them.
For example, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires that students submit:
Online application form
Application fee payment ($105)
Letters of recommendation
Statement of purpose
Writing sample, where required
The application requirements for other Harvard schools are similar.
Total # of applicants
Most popular rejection reasons
Diversity (based on out of country applicant)
Average time of admission results released
Average GPA accepted
Average GRE accepted
Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
The Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) is one of Harvard’s largest graduate schools. It offers dozens of degree programs, including Master’s degrees and doctorates.
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is the natural next step for Harvard students who want to continue their education after completing an undergraduate program as it offers programs that line up well with the school’s undergraduate programs. Those who have more specialized interests will instead want to apply to Harvard’s more focused graduate schools, such as the law school or business school.
Like Harvard’s undergraduate programs, GSAS offers plenty of financial aid to each admitted student who displays financial need. Harvard “guarantees full financial support to PhD students—including tuition, health fees, and basic living expenses—for a minimum of five years.” It also helps students apply for grants and other sources of funding.
To give yourself the best chance of Harvard admission, complete your application well before the deadline and submit all of the required materials as early as possible. Also work to make sure you submit the best possible test scores, including GRE scores.
Harvard Extension School
Harvard Extension School is a relatively unique school in that anyone can take classes at the school without applying or receiving admission to Harvard. The Extension School is a largely online school that offers both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Students can take many classes online, though Harvard Extension also offers in-person education and the school’s degrees typically require some amount of in-person education. This can take the form of full semesters on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or an intensive, three-week period of study, making it easy for most people to fit the classes into their schedule.
One major advantage of the Extension School is the unique admissions process. Whether you get admitted to your degree program of choice is entirely in your control. There’s no need to worry about an admissions committee declining your application. Instead, the school offers “earn your way in” admissions.
To gain admission, you have to complete three courses toward your degree and earn a grade of B or higher. If you meet the requirements and submit an application, you’ll automatically gain admittance to the school. International students may need to meet a few additional requirements, such as sending transcripts from previous schools to the admissions office.
Harvard Business School
Harvard Business School (HBS) offers a two-year residential program that confers master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and doctoral degrees on students and prepares them to be business leaders. The program focuses on real-world practice to give students an experience true to what they’ll experience after graduating.
HBS also offers continuing and executive education programs for students who don’t want to commit to a full degree program or who have already earned an MBA and want to continue gaining new skills.
Getting into HBS’ MBA program involves the typical graduate school application, including essays, test scores, such as a GMAT score, and letters of recommendation. You’ll also have to submit a resume for the admissions office to review.
If you make it past the first stage, HBS will invite you to an in-person interview on campus, in a city near you, or an online interview via a videoconference. Interviews last thirty minutes and are tailored to your application. You’ll also have to submit a reflection after the interview.
To give yourself the best chance of gaining admittance, make sure to submit a strong application with good essays and letters of recommendation and be ready to show your best self during the interview.
Harvard School of Dental Medicine
The Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s (HDSM) primary degree program is the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program. Students who have already received a DMD can also apply to study advanced subjects in the world of dentistry, such as dental public health, orthodontics, oral medicine, or pediatric dentistry. The programs are accredited and sufficient to gain a license to practice dentistry in all fifty states.
The school offers crossover programs with other Harvard graduate schools, including the Business School, School of Public Health, and the Kennedy School.
To apply, students must submit the ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service application (AADSAS) along with three letters of evaluation. The admissions office will interview students who make it to the second round by phone.
To give yourself the best chance of gaining admission, submit a strong application with good letters of evaluation and make sure you’re fully prepared for the interview.
Harvard Graduate School of Design
Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) focuses on topics such as urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture. It’s the place for people who want to help design the buildings, cities, and communities of the future.
The school’s application requirements are relatively standard for graduate schools. It requires that you submit transcripts from previous education, three letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, or other people in a position to evaluate your capabilities. You also have to submit test scores, a resume, and an essay. The essay prompt will vary based on the program you’ve applied to.
You also have to submit a portfolio of work that represents your experience in the world of design. To give yourself the best chance of getting into GSD, make sure to have a strong portfolio to submit and do your best to submit the best possible test scores.
Harvard Divinity School
Harvard Divinity School (HDS) is a school of theology that educates students on religion and leadership within their communities. The school is non-sectarian, meaning that students of any religious belief can attend and gain valuable skills that they can use in their religious communities.
Students at HDS can pursue degrees in Theology, Theological Studies, or Religion and Public Life. The school also offers doctoral degrees in Religion.
To apply, students must submit an application, three letters of recommendation, and a transcript from previous studies. Test scores, such as GRE scores, are optional. You will also need to submit an essay that discusses your reasons for wanting to pursue higher education in religious studies.
To give yourself the best chance of admission, make sure to submit a strong essay and letters of recommendation.
Harvard Graduate School of Education
The Graduate School of Education (GSE) focuses on teaching the next generation of educators. It offers both master’s and doctoral programs in education. Students can concentrate on specific topics such as early childhood education, higher education, literacy, or global education.
The application process is typical for a graduate school, requiring an application, recommendation letters, and test scores. You also have to provide transcripts from any other colleges or universities you’ve attended. And, depending on the program that you apply to, you may have to schedule an interview with an admissions officer.
To better your chances of acceptance, make sure to submit strong letters of recommendation and be well-prepared for the interview process.
Harvard Kennedy School
The Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) is Harvard’s graduate program for students interested in government, politics, and public policy. Students can pursue both master’s and doctoral degrees with concentrations in topics including public policy, public administration and international development, and health policy. There are also continuing education programs available at HKS for students who don’t want to commit to a full degree program.
The admission process is similar to other Harvard schools, requiring an application, letters of recommendation, test scores, and transcripts from other schools.
HKS states that for executive education applicants, it looks for candidates with a variety of educational experiences and significant experience. Most executive education admittees have at least ten years of work experience. That makes your experience an essential part of a strong application. This is less true for the master’s and doctoral programs, but emphasizing any experience you may have could improve your chances.
Harvard Law School
Founded in 1817, Harvard Law School (HLS) is one of the top law schools in the world. It offers Juris Doctor (JD) and other graduate programs related to law. To apply to programs other than the school’s JD program, including LLM and SJD program, students must hold a JD from an accredited school in the United States or an equivalent degree from a university in another country.
Applying to a program at HLS involves submitting an application along with a resume, LSAT or GRE scores, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a statement about your reasons for pursuing an education in law. You will also have to do an interview with an admissions officer if the school chooses to move your application on to the second phase.
Strong test scores are important for any applicant’s chances. You’ll also want to make sure you provide a good personal statement and do well in the interview to give yourself the best odds of admittance.
Harvard Medical School
Located in the Longwood Medical Area of Boston, Massachusetts, Harvard Medical School (HMS) is one of the top medical schools in the world. Students can study for both master’s and doctoral degrees at the school.
To apply, students must meet eligibility requirements, including showing that they have the qualities to succeed in medicine, demonstrate an aptitude for biology and physical sciences, spending at least one year on undergraduate studies in the US or Canada if they received an undergraduate degree outside of the US, and demonstrating fluency in English.
HMS does not accept transfer students and you can only apply for admission twice.
To give yourself the best chance of admission, focus your undergraduate studies on topics that will help you succeed in medicine. Also make sure that you have strong grades, good scores on the MCAT, and good letters of recommendation.
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Located next door to HMS, the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) focuses on teaching global health leaders and studying ways to improve health throughout the world.
To apply, students must fill out an application, which includes transcripts and letters of recommendation. You also have to provide a statement of purpose that discusses your reasons for wanting to study public health and your areas of interest.
The statement of purpose is a very important part of your application, so focusing on that can help give your chances a boost.
Harvard Radcliffe Institute
The Harvard Radcliffe Institute focuses on interdisciplinary research and exploration. It doesn’t focus on any specific topic or discipline. Instead, it supports scholars who want to study a wide variety of topics and creates opportunities for crossover work between multiple subjects.
Unlike Harvard’s other schools, the Radcliffe Institute doesn’t confer degrees. Instead, it provides opportunities for students at Harvard’s undergraduate and graduate schools to take on a fellowship or join discussion groups to help them further their studies in a unique way.
Only current Harvard students may apply for a fellowship or admittance to Radcliffe’s other programs. Applicants must submit a statement about how working with Radcliffe would benefit them, a resume, a dissertation abstract and table of contents, and two letters of recommendation.
The Institute states “While a candidate’s scholarly qualifications, the merits of the dissertation topic, and faculty references are important in the selection process, consideration is also given to graduate fellows with research interests matching those of one or more of the year’s Radcliffe Institute fellows.”
Harvard offers dozens of different programs and one of the best educational experiences in the world. While the competition is fierce, if you feel like you have a chance to get into the school, you should take that opportunity.