How to get into Harvard as a UK student

Studying at a prestigious university like Harvard is a dream for many students around the world. The most important thing to remember is that there is no reason why you shouldn’t aim for Harvard. At The Profs, we’ve helped many students get into top-tier US universities. Our team has plenty of experience in university admissions so if anyone has the know-how, it’s us.

As a UK student, you may wonder about the specific steps and strategies to boost your chances of gaining admission to Harvard University. Well, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we guide you through the process and provide valuable tips on how to make your application stand out to Harvard. 

If you’re in need of bespoke guidance, just reach out to our expert US admissions team. 95% of our students get into their first and second-choice universities. Also, don’t forget to check out our main article on getting into US universities as a UK student.


  1. Build your foundation blocks
  2. Craft your application
  3. Stand Out from the Crowd
  4. Connect with Harvard
  5. Seek Guidance

What are Harvard’s entry requirements?

The University of Harvard typically expects students to have a GPA ranging from 3.9 to 4.18 depending on their chosen course and individual application. This is equivalent to almost straight A’s. Harvard claims that it has no preference regarding your type of programme e.g. whether you have taken A levels, IB or Scottish Highers. 

Harvard is a competitive and prestigious university, so generally speaking, you want to ensure that your academic track record is as impressive as possible. Also note that Harvard will request multiple academic transcripts. 

Beyond demonstrating academic excellence, there are a number of other factors that will determine the success of your application. All of which will be broken down in this article.

What is Harvard’s acceptance rate?

Harvard’s acceptance rate for international students

Harvard released statistics regarding its admitted students for the class of 2027. There were 56,937 applicants. 1,966 of them were admitted, and 15.4% of those were international students.

Harvard’s acceptance rates per course

It’s also worth noting how much Havard’s acceptance rates can vary between courses. Check out the table below:

CourseAcceptance rate
Social Sciences28.2%
Biological Sciences17.4%
Physical Sciences6.7%
Engineering 9.5%
Computer Science9.0%

Do I have to apply for a student visa?

You’ll be glad to know that you need only deal with this step once/if you are admitted to Harvard. Hence, applying for a student visa is not part of the application process. You need only do so if you receive an offer and accept it.

About the student visa

All student visas sponsored by Harvard University require both a visa document issued by the Harvard International Office (HIO) and a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. 

There are generally two visa categories for studying in the United States: the F-1 student visa and the J-1 student visa. Both require full-time personal study in the US.

Most admitted full-time international students at Harvard are eligible for the F-1 visa. Only some students are eligible for the J-1 student visa. Check out the table below:

F-1 Student VisaJ-1 Student Visa
All students who have accepted offers to study a course full-time, on-campus are eligible for the F-1 visa.Students eligible for the J-1 student visa must be receiving 50% of their tuition funding from a government agency, official scholarship or an employer (student or personal loans do not qualify) OR they must have a government scholarship (hence the government requires that they use the J-1 visa) OR their visa must be sponsored by an agency such as Fulbright, USAID, or AMIDEAST.

Please note: Students who are eligible for both the F-1 student visa and the J-1 student visa must indicate which visa category they wish to use. 

If you need more information on US visas, check out this page.

5 tips to get into Harvard University

Before embarking on the application journey, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research and prepare yourself for the rigorous admission process. Here are some key steps to follow:

1. Build your foundation blocks

Before you get to the point of filling out your application, you need to be prepared. Have you got an appropriate profile? Are you a suitable candidate? If you’re unsure, check out these factors below. The earlier you get started on your Harvard application, the more time you have to check off these pointers!

Get to know Harvard’s requirements:

First things first, familiarise yourself with Harvard’s admission criteria, including academic requirements. As previously mentioned, you should be aiming for straight A’s or higher in your A levels or IB grades for your best possible chance at receiving an offer.

Have you got a strong academic profile?

As has been mentioned, focus on achieving excellent grades throughout your secondary school years. Even consider improving any weak GCSE grades, especially if they are in your chosen discipline or in Maths or English.

Take challenging courses that demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and passion for learning. Ensure that your subject combinations complement your chosen course at Harvard. If not, pursue related activities and projects outside of school.

Consider taking the SAT or ACT

Harvard offers applicants the chance to submit standardised test scores as part of their application (the SAT and ACT). Whilst this is not mandatory, taking these tests and submitting high scores could certainly boost your application and prove your academic aptitude. For the SAT you should aim for a minimum of 1460, and for the ACT you should aim for a minimum of 34-36. 

Unsure whether you should take a test or worried that you might not achieve a decent grade? Contact our admissions team for further advice, or our talented SAT and ACT tutors for expert help. We even have articles on how to prepare for the SAT and ACT.

However, it’s important to note that you can choose whether or not Harvard will review your standardised test scores, even if your scores are already on file before you apply! As long as you choose at the time of your application to proceed without scores, your scores will not be considered.

Consider taking the GRE

Harvard also offers applicants the chance to submit GRE scores. This is totally optional, so applicants will not be disadvantaged by opting not to take the GRE or submit a GRE score. However, submitting a GRE score of 300 could really maximise your chances of obtaining an offer. This is especially the case if you are applying for a quantitative degree.

Please note that the advice in this article is based on undergraduate applications. The GRE or GMAT is a requirement for applicants for multiple two-year Master’s degree programmes.

Unsure whether you should take the GRE/GMAT or worried that you might not achieve a decent score? Contact our admissions team for further advice, or our talented GRE and GMAT tutors for expert help. We even have articles on how to prepare for the GRE and GMAT.

Say yes to extracurricular activities:

Do not underestimate extracurricular activities, especially if you intend to apply to a US university! Harvard specifically highlights its interest in extracurriculars and activities on its website. 

Participate actively in extracurricular activities that align with your discipline or demonstrate relevant skills and showcase your leadership, teamwork, and passion. Consider pursuing internships, volunteering, or joining clubs and organisations related to your intended field of study. It’s also a good idea to get work experience that’s related to your interests. 

Whilst it’s ideal for your extracurriculars and work experience to be as relevant to your discipline as possible, it’s still valuable if it’s not. Unlike UK universities, US universities tend to value seemingly irrelevant activities and student jobs because US applications are more personal and focused on applicants’ individual character and experiences. 

So, mention anything that you are proud of, have achieved, that you feel has been a large part of your life, or shaped you to be who you are. Harvard welcomes applicants to mention hobbies even if they’re new rather than longstanding or purely for fun rather than competitive. Just be sure that you write with purpose, rather than dumping in a sentence on your new interest in knitting for the sake of it. 

Watch out for deadlines

Note down your deadlines in advance so that you can work towards an organised timeline of goals. Again, the earlier you start preparing, the better. Be sure not to miss any deadlines or find yourself rushing at the last moment. The best way to do this is by checking the deadline for your chosen course on Harvard’s website for your intended year of admission.

Harvard has two deadlines for UK applicants: ‘early action’ in November and ‘regular action’ in January. 

  • Regular action refers to the standard deadline for submitting your application to US universities. You may apply to as many universities as you choose by this deadline.
  • Early action refers to an early deadline that allows you to pursue your favourite university earlier than the others. If you choose this route, you can receive a decision by mid-December. 

There is no guaranteed advantage or disadvantage to either of the above routes of application. However, Harvard might interpret your early application to mean that they are your top choice and as a result, might favour your application. But you should also consider the standard of your peers in each cycle as you will be competing against them.

You can check on the deadlines for UK applicants here.

Does Harvard offer scholarships?

Yes, Harvard University offers scholarships and bursaries. Ensure that you scout these out in advance of your application as applying for financial help at Harvard is very competitive. There are scholarship application deadlines which are separate from your standard application and close much earlier than general deadlines. 

If you’ve missed the scholarship or bursary deadlines, or maybe you didn’t win the race, you might explore other affordable options. For instance, you could study for a semester or a year at Harvard as part of an undergraduate course in the UK. Check out this page for further information. 

Please note: There is a $85 application fee to apply to Harvard but you can request an application fee waiver, as discussed here

2. Craft your application

Once you have laid the foundation, it’s time to focus on creating a compelling application that highlights your unique strengths and experiences. 

First, Harvard requires all its applicants (including those from the UK) to apply via the Common Application or Coalition. Hence, UCAS is not used as is the norm for undergraduate applications to UK universities. So, check out the platforms and decide which one is best for you.

Next, prepare the following aspects:

  • Choose the right course for you. Research the specific programme or field of study that you are interested in and ensure it aligns with your academic and career goals. Check out all the courses available at Harvard here.
  • Gather your academic transcripts, standardised test scores and any extra materials (music, dance, drama, art portfolios, publications).
  • Complete the application supplement for your chosen college at Harvard (most colleges will have their own supplement that you have to complete in addition to the main application form).
  • Collect your 2 teacher reports and 3 school reports (the first includes a counsellor letter and high school transcript, the second will be after you receive your grades in the first term, and a final school report should be submitted after/if you’re admitted).
  • Complete your statement of purpose (part of the application form).

Further details of Harvard’s application requirements can be found here.

Don’t underestimate your letters of recommendation:

It goes without saying that you should select teachers who know you and can vouch for you. You want them to convince Harvard that you’re an exceptional student who aligns well with your chosen course and Harvard itself. 

You also want your referee to boast for you: what are your achievements and talents, and how do your extracurriculars demonstrate your drive and/or leadership skills?

It’s ideal if your referee teaches your chosen subject or something related to it, but the most important thing is that they know you well and can speak in depth about your academic aptitude, personality, and potential. 

Don’t worry if you don’t have any teachers who know you well enough, it’s not too late to build this bond. Ask your teachers to grab coffee at break time or to meet with them over lunch. Get to know your referees so that they can get to know you!

Invest time in this step as it’s not to be overlooked. Harvard takes your references very seriously and cares a lot about who you are as a person. 

Harvard’s admissions committee often values your referee a little more than your scores. Are you driven, or trying to change the world? How have you grown from difficult situations and experiences? 

If there are things you’d like your referees to mention, then tell them about these things and politely ask them to reference them for you e.g. achievements and goals.

Make it personal:

In the US, your personal statement is referred to as a statement of purpose. It’s also different from a personal statement, which is very specific and academically focused. 

In the UK, our statements are supposed to demonstrate why we are the perfect student for X course and a good student. 

In the US, that matters too but the discussion is more broad and you can choose from a set of prompts/titles to guide you. The statement of purpose is supposed to be an introduction, where Harvard meets you, the real you. Show who you are as a person and why you deserve to be at Harvard. 

Craft a well-written and authentic personal statement that showcases your personality, motivations, and aspirations. Mention your future ambitions and highlight your achievements and wins. You should especially not shy away from personal factors that are relevant to who you are and your experiences. 

Harvard wants to know if you would be a good classmate and roommate and what you offer them as a university. Use this opportunity to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and how you can contribute to the Harvard community.

You can check out our previous article on personal statements which can offer some helpful tips for this step, however, as the guidelines and goals are different we recommend chatting with our US admissions team. We can match you with expert coaches who specialise in US university admissions, we also have professionals on our team who have graduated from Harvard! 

Harvard published its previous student essay titles for 2023/24 on their website. You can view them below:

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback or failure.  How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  • Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  • Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment, event or realisation that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  • Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time.  Why does it captivate you?  What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  • Share an essay on any topic of your choice.  It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Harvard also published a few of its successful statements of purpose on their website here, so you should read all of these to gain an understanding of what is expected from you.

Important note: Prompts on the Common App and Coalition App are similar but not the same. Hence, it’s worth checking out the prompts for the year of your application via each app and deciding what suits you best.

Please also note that Harvard asks for a supplemental essay which you can read about here.

Worried about your writing skills, or fretting over what to say? We know how to help! Here, at The Profs, we have excellent writing tutors with plenty of experience who can help you craft a compelling body of work. If you need any assistance, just reach out.

3. Stand out from the crowd:

Harvard is incredibly competitive, hence the students who apply there are of very high calibre. Meaning, it is tough to stand out. A polished academic track record and glowing references are a must, but they’re not enough as many of your peers will also have this. You need to offer more.

As previously mentioned, highlight your extracurriculars and/or work experience. But try to go beyond this. 

Have you won any prizes for STEM or essay competitions? Did you tutor younger students? Maybe you kickstarted a small side business selling phone repairs. Perhaps you worked in a high street shop to support yourself through school or upcycled all of your sister’s clothes for her. Or maybe you have a blog or vlog where you share nutrition tips. Or perhaps you speak Polish and Arabic as well as English because of your family. 

Anything that colours who you are as a person, or shows tenacity or heart could help you to stand out. Think, how are you different?

Identify unique experiences, perspectives, or talents that set you apart from other applicants. If you could do with a little more to mention, consider pursuing independent research, starting a meaningful initiative, or engaging in impactful community service.

This is why it’s great to start thinking about your application as early as possible. If you’re in year 11 or 12 you have time to focus on what you have accomplished and think about what aspects of yourself you’d like to highlight or develop. Remember, this doesn’t have to be at school or even during term time. 

Showcase your achievements:

The advice for the personal statement in the UK typically encourages students not to mention ALL their achievements. For the personal statement, the aim is precision and your constant topic should be your chosen course, thus it’s recommended that you only mention achievements relevant to it. 

However, US universities want to hear about all your achievements. Harvard loves to see that you managed to balance getting a grade 8 in the violin and trumpet whilst maintaining straight A’s and getting a gold in the Duke of Edinburgh! So, highlight your academic accomplishments, awards, research projects, or significant contributions to your community.

Create a comprehensive CV that reflects your experiences and achievements and then refer to this when you are drafting your statement of purpose.

Kill the interview

Interviews are a part of Harvard’s application process, so whatever course you’re applying to, if you’re shortlisted, you will be interviewed! Even UK students are interviewed. 

An interview can make or break whether you receive an offer. It’s the last step of the application process and you should really aim to be memorable, as a lot of students will give the same interview performance.

In-person interviews are usually carried out in a cafe somewhere close to your UK address by a Harvard alumnus living nearby in the UK. The interview tends to be informal and is about getting to know each other, like a regular conversation. 

Not all colleges offer alumni interviews in the UK, so you might have your interview remotely by Zoom, WhatsApp, or over the phone.

Previous applicants that experienced a Harvard interview recall questions like: “What drives you as a person?”, “What have you read recently?”, and “What are your hopes for the future?”. It’s also common that Harvard asks situational-based questions about a time or hardship, and how you dealt with it or learned from it.

It’s key to start practising for your interview early on. Try out common interview questions and check over your statement of purpose as you could be asked questions regarding this. You should also gather some readings and think of some life experiences that you may want to reference to help you in your answers.

Be sure to check out our previous article on preparing for an online interview and our video on how to smash a university interview. 

Worried about your Harvard interview, or any university interview for that matter? You don’t want to fall at the last hurdle. Your interview performance is crucial! Reach out to our experienced interview coaches for expert guidance.

4. Connect with Harvard:

It’s important that you connect with Harvard. Your application should not appear generic and the best way to do that is to build a bond with Harvard itself. 

You can do this by:

  • Attending information sessions, webinars, or virtual tours offered by Harvard to gain firsthand knowledge about the university.
  • Reaching out to current students or alumni to learn more about their experiences and seek advice.
  • Attending open days and virtual days – see here for more information.
  • Researching your course and department at Harvard: what research do they carry out, what achievements and awards have they received, and what activities do they get involved with on campus or within the student community?
  • Researching what societies and sports Harvard offers so that you can plan (and demonstrate) intentions to get involved.
  • Researching the opportunities and vibe in Massachusetts.
  • Reaching out to people by calling/emailing your department (or during the open days or via LinkedIn) to network and ask questions. If this goes well, you might even have some names that you can note down in your application, or should you need any help.

Following the steps above will boost the quality of your application as you will be able to demonstrate alignment with Harvard University. However, these steps should also serve you in your quest to be sure that Harvard is a good fit for you.

Please note that it’s important to refer to the official Harvard University website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

5. Seek guidance:

Consider working with one of our experienced US university admissions tutors who can provide personalised guidance, review your application, and help you polish your essays. 

We have a track record of success in applying to top-tier universities like Harvard and Oxbridge. In fact, 95% of our students receive offers to their first and second-choice universities. If Harvard is your dream, take every step to make it happen and reach out to our expert team.

How we can help

Gaining admission to Harvard University as a UK student requires dedication, hard work, and careful preparation. By seeking guidance from our experienced and accomplished admissions team, you can maximise your chances of achieving your dream of studying at Harvard. 

We offer a talented team of tutors, including specialists in:

We are here for every step of the process. Call us for a Harvard application review and a bespoke plan of action. There’s no reason you shouldn’t succeed! Just reach out to join our winning team.


How much does it cost to study at Harvard?

Harvard reports (2022-2023) that it costs each student $52,659 for tuition, $12,056 for housing, and $7,446 for a meal plan per year. This comes to $76,763. Harvard reports (2023/24) that it costs a UK student $82,950-$87,450 per year (including tuition, fees, room & board, books, travel, and personal expenses). 

More information, as well as how to receive financial aid, can be found here. You can also read this article for further information on scholarships and bursaries etc.

What are the minimum academic requirements for admission to Harvard University as a UK student?

Harvard University does not have specific minimum academic requirements. However, successful applicants typically have outstanding academic records with high grades and challenging coursework. It’s essential to strive for academic excellence and take advantage of advanced academic programmes or qualifications, such as A-levels or the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. Read this article for further advice.

Can extracurricular activities enhance my chances of getting into Harvard as a UK student?

Yes, extracurricular activities play a significant role in the admission process at Harvard. Engaging in activities that align with your interests and demonstrate leadership, teamwork, and passion can showcase your well-roundedness and commitment to personal growth. It’s important to choose activities that genuinely interest you and make a meaningful impact. Read this article for further advice.

How important is the personal statement/essay in the Harvard application?

The personal statement/essay is a crucial component of your Harvard application. It provides an opportunity for you to showcase your unique voice, experiences, and motivations. A well-written and authentic personal statement can demonstrate your intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and how you can contribute to the Harvard community. Read this article for further advice.

Should I seek guidance from an admissions tutor when applying to Harvard?

Seeking guidance from an experienced university admissions tutor can be beneficial when applying to Harvard. They can provide personalised advice, review your application materials, and help you highlight your strengths effectively. An admissions tutor can offer valuable insights and help you present your application in the best possible light. We have a US admissions team dedicated to your success, and we have a proven track record of helping our students receive offers to top-tier universities including Harvard! Reach out today.