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How to Get Into Harvard in 2023: Complete Guide

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Without a specific plan of attack, you simply won't get into Harvard this year.

Gaining admission to Harvard University is an achievement coveted by countless students around the world. However, the process is notoriously competitive, with only a small fraction of applicants securing a spot each year. If you aspire to be one of the fortunate few, you'll need to understand the intricacies of the application process, including the critical role of your admissions essay.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the nuances of applying to Harvard in 2023, considering not only the essay but also the broader factors that influence your chances of success.

How to Get Into Harvard in 2023: Complete Guide Application College Essay Help

What SAT and ACT score and GPA you will need to get into Harvard this year

Harvard's reputation for selectivity is well-earned, with an acceptance rate of just 3.2% for the Class of 2026. To stand out in this competitive landscape, you must meet or exceed certain academic standards. Harvard's middle 50% SAT range for the Class of 2026 was 1480-1580, while the middle 50% ACT range was 33-36. While Harvard has become test-optional, meaning you can choose whether to submit standardized test scores, having strong SAT or ACT scores can significantly bolster your application. In addition to standardized test scores, your high school GPA is a critical factor, with the average high school GPA of Harvard's Class of 2025 being 4.2.

These numbers are skewed downward by recruited athletes and people with the most impressive extracurricular activities. In my opinion, your SAT would need to be above 1530 to truly be competitive.

Remember that the most important factor is the classes you take in high school. They want to see that you are pursuing your academic interests as far as you can by taking AP classes when available. When they aren't available, you can explain the situation in the "additional information" section on the Common Application. You can also look into taking that extra class at a local community college or online. Going above and beyond shows how driven you are.

Crafting an Outstanding Admissions Essay To Harvard in 2023

While academic qualifications are essential, your admissions essay is your opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and make a memorable impression on the admissions committee. I won't delve into the mechanics of a great essay in this post, but see my other posts to avoid the major pitfalls!

Let's look at how to tailor an essay to Harvard, which is something you can do on the Common App:

A study by AdmitSee revealed fascinating insights into the impact of essays on the admissions process. The study found that the choice of words in application essays could influence admission outcomes. AdmitSee's study discovered that students whose essays had a somber tone were more likely to be accepted to Harvard than to Stanford. These essays often focused on overcoming challenging life moments and frequently included words like "cancer," "difficult," "hard," and "tough." In contrast, Stanford preferred essays featuring a creative personal story or a student's passionate interests. These acceptance-winning essays often featured words like "happy," "passion," "better," and "improve."

What these trends suggest is that Harvard wants students with character, resilience, and a track record of success. While Stanford wants students who understand what their aspirations are and are excited to follow their passion in a way that contributes. to their community.

Therefore, I strongly recommend going through Harvard's website to understand their core values -- you can then reflect those same words in your essay. It can even be helpful when choosing a senior project or picking an extracurricular.

A quick guide on the other Ivy League schools and what they look for in your college essay

Princeton appreciates essays that explore experiences with failure, while Brown places significance on essays discussing volunteer work and public interest.

Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, on the other hand, tend to favor essays that delve into students' career aspirations.

Stanford, Yale, and Brown have a greater affinity for essays addressing diversity, such as those related to race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Dartmouth and Columbia, interestingly, appear to be more open to various essay topics, providing applicants with a broader scope. However, applicants who shared life-changing moments found success with both schools.

How to apply to Harvard Ivy League application this year college essay writing help tutoring best local counselor  nearby Los Angeles at Ivy Guide Tutoring in Studio City

Does being a legacy student help you get accepted to Harvard? And what if you're not?

If you're a legacy applicant, meaning you have family members who attended Harvard, it's good to understand how your status might impact your application. AdmitSee's data showed that Harvard gives more preferential treatment to legacy candidates than Stanford. Legacy students at Harvard had an average SAT score 100 points lower non-legacy students. GPA could also be influenced, with Harvard legacy students having a slightly lower average GPA compared to non-legacy students. This means, that if you are not a legacy student, your competition will be fiercer than what you see online.

Reflecting Harvard's school culture in your application

Your essay should reflect not only your qualities but also the culture of the school you are applying to. Admissions officers assess whether you are a good fit for their institution, and your essay plays a pivotal role in conveying this. Consider what makes Harvard unique and how you can demonstrate that you understand and align with its values and mission. Showcase how you will contribute to the Harvard community during your college years and to society throughout your life, a core aspect that Harvard seeks in its applicants.

Crafting Your Harvard Admissions Essay

Now that we've explored the intricacies of Harvard's admissions process let's delve into some practical tips for crafting an outstanding Harvard admissions essay, whether it is your Common App essay or one of the Harvard short answer responses:

  1. Start Early: Begin your essay well in advance to allow time for multiple drafts and revisions. The more time you dedicate to crafting your essay, the stronger it will be.

  2. Choose the Right Topic: Select a topic that genuinely reflects your experiences, values, and aspirations. Be authentic and avoid clichés (like the plague) or topics that you think admissions officers have read millions of times already (the big service trip, the immigration story, the big game, etc). Be unique, fresh, and surprising in how you link your experiences with your worldview, values, and life lessons. Don't know how to make your story stand out in this way? Call me! That's literally my job.

  3. Showcase Your Unique Perspective: Harvard is looking for students with diverse perspectives and experiences. Share your unique viewpoint and what makes you stand out from other applicants.

  4. Use Powerful Language: Pay attention to your choice of words and sentence structure. Use vivid language to make your essay engaging and memorable.

  5. Tell a Story: Weave a compelling narrative that draws readers in. Your essay should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Do not recount your resume. They already have your resume! This is strictly storytime. And strictly about you -- do not talk on and on about a topic you're passionate about without tying it directly back to how one specific situation influenced you, made you feel, or changed your life. Lastly, don't tell the Harvard admissions office how prestigious and beautiful Harvard is. Again, they know it. They'd rather know exactly what Harvard means to you and why no other school is the perfect match (that's advice for the "why us" essay at any school, really).

  6. Address Harvard's Values: While showcasing your individuality, ensure your essay aligns with Harvard's values and mission of contributing to society.

  7. Seek Feedback: Don't hesitate to seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or peers. Fresh perspectives can help you refine your essay. But be careful!! Most people will tell you what they think your essay should be about. If you listen, you will lose what made your essay authentic to you. Instead, try to think of what the "note behind the note is" -- what part of your vision for your story is not coming across clearly, leaving your reader confused. I suggest asking people questions about your essay rather than asking for general feedback: What values did you learn I have? What challenges did I face in the essay? What words would you use to describe me? On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly did you want to keep reading after the first line (nothing below a 10 is good enough!)?

  8. Proofread Carefully: Typos and grammatical errors can detract from your essay's impact. Proofread rigorously or consider professional editing assistance. Be very careful with ChatGPT! It is still clueless with story structure, authenticity, and even grammar and spelling. Professional readers can spot a phony essay a mile away and it will ruin your chances. If you can't write your essay, it's time to ask for help.

2023-2024 Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts

Harvard University has revealed the supplemental essays for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. This year, there are five 200-word essays, and each one is a unique opportunity for you to showcase your character, experiences, and aspirations. Let’s delve into each prompt and how to tackle them effectively:

1. Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?

This question is Harvard's response to the Supreme Court's ruling against Affirmative Action. Your response should reflect your unique experiences, whether related to race, religion, thought, or any other form of diversity. Emphasize how your perspective will enrich Harvard's community.

2. Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.

Choose an intellectual experience that deeply impacted you. Ideally, it should align with your strengths or interests. For example, if you're passionate about engineering, share a moment about rebuilding your computer with your friends that ignited your curiosity and connected you with your community.

3. Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.

Highlight an extracurricular activity or experience that's significant to your personal growth. Avoid repeating activities mentioned elsewhere in your application. Showcase your character and how you've evolved.

4. How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?

This question is an opportunity to illustrate your vision and ambitions. Describe how Harvard will equip you to make a positive impact on the world, emphasizing the unique qualities you'll bring to your chosen field.

5. Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you.

Share insights that reflect your intellectual curiosity and kindness. Avoid frivolous responses. Use this chance to show how you think and your aspirations for the future.

Each of these prompts offers a unique window into your character. Be authentic, thoughtful, and concise in your responses. Make sure Harvard is eager to learn about the genuine you and how you'll contribute to their vibrant community. Good luck!

Conclusion: Navigating the Harvard admissions process in 2023 is a formidable challenge. However, by understanding the academic standards, tailoring your essay, and showcasing your unique qualities, you can enhance your chances of securing a spot at this prestigious institution. Remember, your essay is not only a reflection of your abilities but also an opportunity to demonstrate how you will contribute to the Harvard community and society at large.

If you want an edge over the competition this year, don't hesitate to call me for a free consultation!

In that quick call, we'll come up with the perfect game plan for your application.


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