In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.
As we read and discuss your application, many questions will be on our minds. Some things we consider:
Growth and potential
- Have you reached your maximum academic and personal potential?
- Have you been stretching yourself?
- Have you been working to capacity in your academic pursuits, your full-time or part-time employment, or other areas?
- Do you have reserve power to do more?
- How have you used your time?
- Do you have initiative? Are you a self-starter? What motivates you?
- Do you have a direction yet? What is it? If not, are you exploring many things?
- Where will you be in one, five, or 25 years? Will you contribute something to those around you?
- What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?
Interests and activities
- Do you care deeply about anything—intellectual? Extracurricular? Personal?
- What have you learned from your interests? What have you done with your interests? How have you achieved results? With what success or failure? What have you learned as a result?
- In terms of extracurricular, athletic, community, or family commitments, have you taken full advantage of opportunities?
- What is the quality of your activities? Do you appear to have a genuine commitment or leadership role?
- If you have not had much time in high school for extracurricular pursuits due to familial, work, or other obligations, what do you hope to explore at Harvard with your additional free time?
Character and personality
- What choices have you made for yourself? Why?
- Are you a late bloomer?
- How open are you to new ideas and people?
- What about your maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, warmth of personality, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure?
Contribution to the Harvard community
- Will you be able to stand up to the pressures and freedoms of College life?
- Will you contribute something to Harvard and to your classmates? Will you benefit from your Harvard experience?
- Would other students want to room with you, share a meal, be in a seminar together, be teammates, or collaborate in a closely knit extracurricular group?
Our admissions process strives to be deliberate, meticulous, and fair. It is also labor intensive. But it permits extraordinary flexibility and the possibility of changing decisions virtually until the day the Admissions Committee mails them. This is especially important since we are always receiving new information about applicants.
Of course, no process is perfect. Inevitably, some students who are not admitted will see great success, and even with a 97 to 98 percent graduation rate, some admitted students might have been better served at another institution. However, we do everything possible to make the best admissions decisions for each student.
Two additional resources you may wish to review:
- An overview of our admissions process in the New York Times
- An essay by Helen Vendler, a beloved professor of English at Harvard and former member of the Faculty Standing Committee on Admissions