Harvard University is, to many members of the general public, the archetype of a prestigious college. Its name recognition, reputation, and long history make it world-renown, even iconic, in its stature. Even if it’s not actually the very best at everything, it’s still an incredible place to learn and grow with the backing of an exceptional array of resources and opportunities, and many high school students dream of joining its ranks.
Of course, getting admitted to such a respected university is an extremely competitive process. If you’re a high school student who’s planning to apply to Harvard, you need to take time to familiarize yourself with the university, its expectations, its culture, and its application process. Here’s what you need to know if you plan to include Harvard on your college application list.
Harvard: The Quick Facts
Type: Private University
Location: Cambridge, MA
Enrollment: 6,710 undergraduates, 20,324 students in total
Tuition: $48,949 (2017-2018)
Average Financial Aid Award: $50,562
Acceptance Rate: 5.2% (class of 2021)
Average SAT Score: 2235 (class of 2020), roughly equivalent to 1530 on the new SAT
An Introduction to Harvard
Students and Culture
With over 6,700 undergraduates and over 20,000 students altogether, Harvard is a fairly large university. (You won’t always encounter all the graduate students, though—some of their campuses are separated from the main campus area.) These students, who hail from all over the world, bring in experiences, perspectives, and expertise from innumerable sources.
Harvard students are intelligent, driven young people with great potential who appreciate a rigorous academic experience, so coursework is challenging and the environment is heavily intellectual. Their numbers include currently high-profile people like Olympic athletes and children of well-known figures, as well as people who are destined for future greatness.
At the same time, Harvard isn’t just an icon; it’s a real place full of real young people learning, exploring, and shaping the future on a daily basis.
Tuition and Financial Aid
A Harvard education is an expensive commodity, with the average student’s cost of attendance (including room, board, books, and personal expenses) adding up to roughly $67,000 for the 2017-2018 year. However, the school does offer need-based financial aid to help mitigate this expense, which can make attending Harvard a much more viable possibility for many students and their families.
You should know that Harvard awards only need-based financial aid, not merit-based, academic, or athletic scholarships. Your aid will depend upon your family’s income, assets, and ability to contribute. Around 55% of students currently receive financial aid, and recently, Harvard replaced all required student loans in their aid packages with more grant aid that students don’t have to pay back later.
Cambridge, Massachusetts is a small, dense town right across the Charles River from Boston, close enough to share in its subway system and many other city amenities. Within the next few years, Harvard is planning to expand its facilities in Boston itself, but for now, most undergraduate activity takes place in the Harvard Square neighborhood of Cambridge.
Boston and Cambridge are steeped in American history, and reminders of the American Revolution are everywhere. The large number of colleges and universities in the area gives it an enduring legacy of intellectual excellence, with Harvard as a major part of that tradition. You’ll find a combination of big-city benefits and quirky local traditions, a strong devotion to the Red Sox, and easy access to the rest of the East Coast.
Academics and Popular Majors
Harvard’s most popular majors lie within the fields of biological and physical sciences, social sciences, history, and math, but these are by no means the only strong academic options. The university is home to exceptional programs and scholars in many disciplines, and even if you can’t study with a star professor directly, their influence helps make the academic offerings at Harvard truly world-class.
Student Life and Activities
Harvard students come from all over the world and bring in a huge range of exceptional talents and backgrounds, and this is reflected in the wide range of student activities available. No matter if you’re interested in athletics, politics, cultural groups, or even rare hobbies, you’re likely to find your people somewhere.
As you can imagine, high-achieving Harvard students often like to compete, whether it’s in debate, crew, or robotics. There are plenty of competitive opportunities, especially given the large number of other colleges in Boston, as well as Harvard’s membership in the tight-knit Ivy League.
However, not everything is so high-stakes; there’s plenty of fun to be had. In recent years, the university has also put more resources toward helping students relax and better manage the stress of their busy academic and extracurricular schedules.
Harvard is a residential community, with 98% of undergraduates living on campus. First-year dorms are located in the campus center, on the iconic Harvard Yard, and the ornate first-year dining hall that reminds many students of Hogwarts is nearby.
After this first year, students are divided among the twelve “residential colleges,” smaller communities within the Harvard campus that combine housing with dining halls and other common spaces. RAs and staff in each college head up activities that range from study breaks to fun group outings.
For many students and families, Harvard is the dream. Consistently one of the few best schools in the world, Harvard is also one of the most competitive. With application season getting more and more difficult, how can students step up and make their essays stand out? Take a look at the following essay intros from Harvard students on AdmitSee:
Class of 2019
I would be perfectly content if I were to meet Dave Grohl, the singer of the band Foo Fighters. Of course the situation would have to be a bit more contrived than just bumping into the man on the street; it would happen at a concert. View full profile.
Class of 2020
We didn’t call our car the “Pile of Junk” for nothing. That was just the most logical title for a vehicle that broke down so often that my dad recognized the men who operated the tow trucks. The name made sense given the pervasive odor of French fries that followed the car wherever it went, the swim gear and tools cluttering the backseat, and the shuddering sound that betrayed its approach from a mile away. Read more.
Class of 2019
I sit anxiously as I wait for the light to turn from red to green. Anticipation consumes me as I clench my hands around the steering wheel, prepared for the hard left turn that comes after the start/finish straight. The vibration of the twin engine that sits about five inches behind my seat shakes my whole kart. I can hear the spilling rain slam against the asphalt and my helmet and I can feel its moisture covering my hands. Continue reading.
Class of 2018
As I struggled to understand the theory of relativity, the opening of my door startled me. No one was there. Then…BAM! In came a dancing fool, wearing only a pair of tighty-whiteys, high socks, a vest of chest hair, and a thick coat of shaving cream covering his face (except his prized mustache, of course). It was my papa! Using his microphone razor, he started singing his personal rendition of “Party in the U.S.A.” But then he realized I was over-preparing once again, so he stopped in his tracks and, on cue, shouted his famous phrase: “Just get a zero!” This was just another one of my papa’s orchestrated shenanigans to teach me to be optimistic. I couldn’t help but smile. View full profile.
Class of 2018
I think it is safe to assume that no one would consider me incredibly ladylike. I usually have a calculator in one hand and my lacrosse stick in the other. I’m never one to draw any attention to myself either. During school, I sit quietly working on my latest math or science assignment. After school, I have been known to roll my eyes as my team announces that tomorrow is “dress-up day,” which is a regular promotion for our game. I have always been content to be a silent force, wearing blue jeans and sweatshirt. Read more.
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About The Author
Drew is a content and social media guru. When he’s not working, he loves to photograph, play music, play sports, and travel. He is also weirdly obsessed with Thai food, Girl Scout cookies, and learning new languages (even though he’s not fluent in any). For any editorial ideas, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.