How to Get into Harvard from India after 12th

How can I get into Harvard for undergraduate“, “can I get into Harvard from India after 12th“, “what does Harvard look for in international applicants” – we get these questions pretty often.

Firstly, why single out Harvard when we’ve already written a post on what top colleges look for in applications?

Well, the simple answer is – because it’s Harvard!

There are many posts around this topic from a general perspective. Here we have tried to answer this question from an Indian applicant’s perspective.

With a thin acceptance rate of around 5%, not every student gets a chance to be at Harvard. Thousands of high school students apply to Harvard every year. Out of which those who are capable, qualified, and stand out are selected by the admission committee. The application process is influenced by your previous record, leadership potential, future goals, and what you have to offer to the Harvard community. 

Committed to Liberal arts and sciences, Harvard offers more than 46 undergraduate majors across vast fields to its students. Read best courses to study at Harvard.

There is no accurate roadmap that guarantees your entry into Harvard but having a better perspective and knowledge can help you step up your chances of selection.

In this post, we will give you a perspective of both the application process (along with application requirements) and an overall view of how to get into Harvard.

Before moving on to the how-to part, let’s tackle some of the pre-application questions about Harvard College (University).

How to apply to Harvard University from India after 12th?

Here are Harvard University Admission Requirements for Indian Students.

Online Application:

The digital or online application is the first thing to submit. Once they formally receive your duly filled-in online application form, only then the admission committee will review other application materials like transcripts, test scores, essays, etc. Harvard accepts the Common Application (Common App), the Universal College Application, and the Coalition Application. You can apply to Harvard using any of those application portals. Read more about Harvard’s application requirements.

Application Fees: The online application has to be submitted with the application fee, which is $75. You can check the application fee on your school’s (department’s) website.

School Reports and Teacher Recommendations:

Midyear School Report (Grades from Class 9 – 11)

When you apply, your school counselor will often send your transcript with few or no senior year course grades included. That is why the midyear school report is required – to allow the admission committee to review your performance in the first half of your Grade 11 courseworkThe midyear school report must be completed by your school counselor or other school officials.

Teacher Evaluations

Usually, you need to submit 2 letters of recommendation. If you wish to submit additional letters of recommendation, you can do so after you submit your application. In your application confirmation email, there will be a personalized link to send to your recommenders.

Final School Report and Transcripts

  • All admitted students who choose to enroll are required to send a Final School Report and transcript as soon as their final grades (Class 12 results) become available – no later than July 1.
  • The Final School Report and transcript should be completed and sent by a school counselor or other school official through Parchment/Docufide or Scrip-Safe International if your school has access to these submission options.
  • IB students should send their final results as soon as they are released in mid-July. We will expect to see final A levels results by mid-August.

Standardized Test Scores:

  • Harvard College requires standardized test scores from either the SAT or ACT (with or without writing). They even recommend submitting two SAT subject tests, neither of which may be the SAT II English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT).
  • All international students, including Indians, are required to take the standardized English language tests, especially if their native language is English. In India, even if you’re raised as bilingual or went to an English-medium school, you still need to submit your TOEFL score. Some Harvard schools also require a minimum TOEFL score from all applicants. So make sure to check that while preparing to take the test.

Supplemental Materials:

Personal Statement / Essays –

This is one of the most important components of Harvard University admission requirements for Indian students. Or any student for that matter. Your essay should describe your experience, ambition, and why you’re applying to the particular program. It should basically identify why you’re the perfect candidate to be admitted, and how it will help you with your long-term passion or goal.

Resume –

Not all Harvard grad schools require applicants to submit a resume. For example, Harvard Business School requires applicants to submit a business resume. Mostly, graduate schools that prefer work experience may require resumes. It may even be optional, so check on your school’s website admission requirements to cross-check.

Portfolio –

Certain schools like Harvard Graduate School of Design require applicants of certain degree programs to submit a design portfolio. For these schools, the portfolio is one of the most important Harvard University admission requirements. The portfolio requires you to visually represent your scholarly, academic and/or professional work.

Additional/Supporting Materials –

At the discretion of the Admissions Committee, supplementary materials—such as music recordings, artwork, or selected samples of academic work—may be evaluated by faculty. These materials are entirely optional.


  • Not all Harvard schools recommend interviews as a part of the admission process. So this is something that you want to check on the school’s admission page. Sometimes, the school you applied to may also inform applicants via telephone/Skype/Zoom that an interview is necessary to finally judge their application.
  • About 10,000 alumni help Harvard University scroll through thousands of applications. You should prepare for the interview as it plays a significant role in the college admissions committee’s final decision.

How to Get into Harvard Medical School after 12th

You wouldn’t go to Harvard Medical School for undergrad. You could complete a bachelor’s degree at Harvard College in a discipline of your choosing, assuming you met the admission qualifications. Roughly, only 5-6% of those who apply are admitted.

Read how to study Medicine/MBBS in the USA after 12th from India.

Undergraduate Admissions at Harvard: FAQs

Harvard Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action Deadline: November 1 (for following year admissions)
  • Early Decision Deadline: Mid-December
  • Regular Application Deadline: Jan 1

Harvard Acceptance Rate:

  • Early Decision Acceptance Rate: ~13 – 14%
  • Regular Decision Acceptance Rate: ~3 – 4%
  • Overall Acceptance Rate: ~5%

Required GPA and Test Scores to Get into Harvard:

  • GPA: 4.18 / 90 – 100%
  • SAT score to get into Harvard: 1460 (25th Percentile); 1580 (75th Percentile)
  • ACT Composite score to get into Harvard: 33 (25th Percentile); 35 (75th Percentile)
  • SAT ERW: 720 (25th Percentile); 780 (75th Percentile)
  • SAT Math: 740 (25th Percentile); 800 (75th Percentile)
  • ACT English: 34 (25th Percentile); 36 (75th Percentile)
  • ACT Math: 31 (25th Percentile); 35 (75th Percentile)

Harvard University Fees for Indian Students

  • Tuition Fees: USD $40,000 – $52,000 per year / Rs. 30 Lacs – 39 Lacs per year
  • Boarding & Other Expenses: Appx. USD $24,000 per year (~ Rs. 18 Lacs per year)
  • Annual Average Cost of Attendance after Financial Aid: USD $15,000 – $30,000 (Rs. 11 – 22 Lacs) – please be advised that this happens in the case of extremely talented students; typically, Indian families might need to spend INR 1.2 – 1.5 Crore over 4 years. Full scholarships are extremely hard for Indian students (maybe 2 – 4 students from all over India might receive that every year).

Here is the story of Seema Kumari (from Dahu Village, Jharkhand), who got accepted at Harvard University with a full scholarship in 2021 (Class of 2025).

What does Harvard look for in Indian Students?

Harvard welcomes applications from all over the world. Their admissions and financial aid processes are the same for all applicants – regardless of nationality or citizenship.

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Harvard does not have quotas or limits based on either citizenship or the location of high school. Additionally, Harvard follows a need-blind admission policy. It means admissions decisions are made without regard to whether an applicant has applied for financial aid, even if the applicant is a foreign citizen.

So, what does Harvard look for in applications?

  • When applying for a prestigious institute like Harvard, getting to know what the institute wants from students is a really good way to evaluate your current application. Here are some things that Harvard looks for in its applicants.
  • The very obvious aspect that a college has its eyes on is if the applicants operate at their optimum potential. Have you been stretching yourself? What motivates you? and what direction are you moving in or planning to move in, answers to these is what the selection committee primarily looking for. 
  • Your interests and activities such as how deeply are you passionate about something, what have you learned in the process, and qualities such as leadership and commitment are given special attention to. In case you did not have enough time in your high school due to some obligations, what you hope and do with that extra time in Harvard is something they wish to know. 
  • Personal Character is an important factor that is taken into consideration in any selection process be it job interviews, sports selection, or admissions & Harvard expects no different. The university is interested to know the choices you’ve made for yourself, your thoughts on new ideas, and being with new or diverse people & personal traits such as maturity, self-confidence, concern for others, and performance under pressure.
  • What you contribute to the community has the power to motivate their decision. Harvard looks for students that can handle different aspects of College life, who are both benefited themselves and can benefit the community and your likely hood of providing value to others.
how to get into harvard after 12th
Source: Harvard University

How to Get into Harvard from India (for Undergrad)

Maintain a High GPA (Grades)

US universities follow the approach of holistic profile evaluation. Though near-perfect grades won’t guarantee you a Harvard admit, having excellent grades will keep you in the running for admissions to the college.

Most Harvard applicants fall within the top 10-15% of their class, so you should aim to be within this range to be seriously considered. If your GPA is well below this range, the other parts of your application will have to be incredibly impressive to make up for it.

  • Try to take honors/AP courses; if they are being provided by your school
  • Opt for the most challenging course load you can handle as the rigor of course matters a lot
  • You should demonstrate excellence in all of your academic subjects. Though you can be stronger in some subjects and weaker than others, you should be an exceptional student in almost every class.
  • Don’t be discouraged if your GPA isn’t quite as high as you wanted it to be. If your grades have improved from your freshman year until the time you apply, officers will be impressed, and if there was a dip in your grades because of a personal situation, you can explain it in your essay.

Get High Scores in SAT/ACT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP Exams

Doing extremely well on your SAT or ACT and AP exams will show admissions officers that you are a hard worker with stellar academic achievements. Just like having a perfect GPA won’t make you a shoo-in, a high SAT score and strong AP test results won’t guarantee you a spot in Harvard, but it will keep admissions officers interested in your application.

  • Don’t be worried if your school doesn’t offer a ton of AP tests. Not every school offers 20 different AP tests, and the admissions officers will know if your high school does not. Just try to do well on the tests that your school does offer. Another option could be to take AP courses online.
  • Make sure to take your tests at the right time. If you want to impress Harvard with your SAT score, you’ll have to take it well before the application is due. Take the test during your junior year to give yourself enough time to retake it if it’s necessary.
  • Check Harvard’s requirements for the last possible test date for the ACT or SAT. It’s always just a week or a few weeks after the application due date, but you should already have an excellent score when you apply.
  • Harvard also requires you to take two SAT II tests.
  • Don’t forget to have your score reports sent directly to the Harvard admissions office.

Read AP Exams vs SAT Subject Tests: Overview, Differences and Preparation Strategy.

Demonstrate a Positive Attitude towards Learning through Coursework

Depending on your intended area of major, try out the following:

  • If you are interested in STEM, participate in relevant research projects, clubs, and summer school programs.
  • India is a STEM-crazy nation. So, I am sure, a lot of folks would be interested to know how to get admission to Harvard University from India after 12th for engineering. If you want to be an engineer, better to have rigorous coursework in Math, Physics, etc., and you better be holding good grades in high school or improving them over time.
  • Get an internship at a place that relates to your interests.
  • If you like biological science, try to get work in a lab.
  • Get a job and work hard. Admissions are often impressed at students who take the initiative to pay their own way into college rather than relying on their parents to cover the exorbitant costs.

Pursue Impressive Extracurricular Activities

Demonstrate excellence through your participation in a club, activity or sports that you are interested in. 

  • Though your grades and scores will prove that you are capable of academic excellence, your extracurricular activities will make you stand out as a unique individual who is invested in pursuing his interests.
  • You don’t need to participate in 10-15 different activities and sports. Finding two or three clubs you’re interested in and making an effort to excel in those areas and even reaching a leadership role will show that you are a dedicated, well-rounded individual.
  • Harvard will not care how many things you participate in. Rather they want to see excellence and deep dedication in one or two fields you are passionate about. It’s all about quality over quantity.
  • Some people who excel at a certain subject, also compete in various competitions. Interested in science? Try out for competitions like Science Olympiad, Quiz Bowl, or others available in your school. Harvard wants students that stand out, so having a few competitions under your belt, even with participation, is a good boost for anyone.

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Focus on Leadership

Become a leader. Harvard is always looking for future leaders and brand ambassadors for their college. Here are a few tips to demonstrate your leadership skills:

  • It’s okay if you are not the President or Secretary. In most clubs, you’ll have to work your way up from a smaller leadership role to the head role.
  • The admission committee doesn’t expect you to solve the Middle-East crisis or global pandemic issue. Even you can demonstrate a passion for solving key problems in your local neighborhood or community, that’s good enough.
  • If you like politics or debating, join the Model United Nations team or debate team. If you love languages, join the French or Spanish club.
  • Start your commitment as early as Grade 8 or 9. You should join clubs and other activities early on so you can show a record of dedication and commitment.

Demonstrate Spike in Sports or Band

Similarly, try to be be good (or great) at one or two sports or stand out by joining a band.

  • You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete, national/state-level player, or a world-class musician to get into Harvard. Participating in a sport or joining the school band will make you stand out.
  • Though clubs can be time-consuming, taking a sport or playing an instrument requires you to practice or compete almost every day after school so it shows a deep level of dedication.
  • If you join a sport, try to work up to a leadership position. Remember that you don’t often have to be the best athlete to be the team captain. You have to be the most dedicated or most well-liked.
  • Remember that while many sports require ten or more hours of commitment a week, you can also do a sport for just one or two of the three sports seasons. For example, you can run cross country in the fall, but take the winter off to focus on your studies and clubs, and then run spring track the next season.
  • If you play an instrument, you should also strive to gain a leadership position in your team’s band. Quite a few colleges look at musical excellence.

Involve in Community Work and Make Social Impact

Volunteering in your community is a great way to show your generosity, empathy, and your kindness. It is also a great way to impress admissions officers. There are countless ways to volunteer in your community, whether you’re doing it through your school’s Key Club, or finding opportunities through your local youth center or nearby charities. Here are some great things to do:

  • Volunteer to help children learn to read in your local library.
  • Work with an NGO to solve social issues.
  • Teach underprivileged children in your local community
  • Spend time in old age or veteran’s home in your area.
  • Volunteer in a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen.
  • Take the initiative to clean up your local park.

Read Why is Community Service so Important for College Admissions?

Provide Personalized Recommendations

After your coursework, letters of recommendation (LORs) play a very important component in your application. But note that generic LORs do not help as every application with a LOR has it. Get the LOR from teachers or others who know you well and can speak more closely about your values, performance, and who you are as a person.

Harvard requires you to submit two teacher evaluations to give more insight into your performance in the classroom. Pick two teachers who know you well and have a unique perspective on your strengths in your classroom and your character.

  • A teacher can describe your excellence in his or her classroom, as well as your contributions to the class discussion.
  • Choose a teacher who has really seen you at your academic best. If your teacher is also your athletic coach or club leader, s/he can add even more dimension to the recommendation.
  • Pick two teachers from two different subjects. Otherwise, it may look like you only excel in one subject.
  • Approach someone who you know will write a knockout recommendation. Ask older students if they recommend a certain teacher, or if there’s a teacher who has a reputation of being late with the recommendations or not writing anything too specific.
  • You should not only pick a teacher or person who has a close connection to you but someone who you know will write something detailed and positive.

Tell a Compelling Story through the Essays

Most of the colleges want to know more about the student before admitting them. They use LORs to get to know you from others, but college essays are a great way for them to know more about “You”, your aspirations, your dreams, your values, and what has shaped you to become what or who you are today.

Your essay should do two main things: it should show the admissions officers what an original, interesting, and driven person you are, and that you have top-notch writing skills.

You should take the time to write an essay that is meaningful to you and leave enough time for yourself to proofread it when you’re finished. You can find the guidelines for the essay on the last page of the application. It should be 250-500 words long. Here are a few tips:

Harvard Essay Tips

  • Be original. Write something that only you could write. Show what makes you special.
  • Show your strong character. Tell a story that demonstrates your persistence, work ethic, creativity, or even your ability to learn from your mistakes.
  • Be compelling. Hook the admissions officers from your opening line, and keep their interests with your lively language, varied sentences, and engaging topic.
  • Be concise. Don’t go over the word limit. Admissions officers will be reading thousands of essays, and they won’t appreciate it if you can’t follow directions.
  • Some popular admissions essay topics include writing about your achievements in a club or a sport, describing your family and background, or writing about a life-changing experience.
  • Get feedback. Run your essay by a trusted friend or family member and your English teacher, if you can. They can help you catch grammar mistakes, and they can also tell whether your essay had its intended effect.
  • Always proofread your work. When you’re done, check your essay for grammar and punctuation mistakes. Remember that admissions officers aren’t just interested in the content of your essay, but also in how well you can write.

Related Articles on Undergraduate Admissions:

How to Get into Ivy League Colleges for Undergraduate

India vs Abroad – What’s Better after 12th?

How to Get into Stanford for Undergraduate (after 12th)

How to Make a Balanced College List

How to Write the Common App Essay Prompts 2021 – 2022

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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