harvard common app questions

Last Updated on July 31, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Did you get your response back yet? If so, did you like the questions or was one of them a little awkward to answer? That’s exactly what the Common Application organization is asking — are these really good questions for us to answer about ourselves.

This article is made for all of you who want to get into the harvard college, and it will tell you all the question and answers that you need to know about harvard college. So, what are you waiting for? Continue reading, and after that go get your application, and be sure that you will get into that school.

Getting into Harvard is very challenging and it is important to get the information and knowledge before you start your application. There you will find an extensive section on the required documents, directions for writing essays and personal profile, and stand-out activities.

You can find all the information you need about the harvard common app questions by reading the following article. Have you been searching on the Internet in vain for relevant information on this topic? If so, then you need not keep looking, as this article will provide you with all the information you need.

Read on to get the best information on harvard supplemental essays 2021,harvard essays 2021,harvard essay prompts 2020-2021,harvard essays pdf,harvard supplemental essays 2020-2021,harvard supplemental essays examples on Colleglearners.


Harvard Common App Questions

Prompt 1

Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words)

Hidden in the Academics section under Harvard’s Common Application tab, this prompt asks you to share your intellectual curiosity. Since the school can already see your courses and grades, it wants to know whether you’ve expanded beyond just your regular required schoolwork. Harvard appreciates students who have taken the initiative to strive for academic growth, so don’t miss out on the chance to talk about your intellectual pursuits. 

Even though the prompt says to “list,” if you have space, mention one or two facts about the courses or projects, such as your motivations behind pursuing them, whether they have impacted your goals, and your biggest takeaways from the experiences. Since admissions officers want to see whether you’re an individual who isn’t shy about pursuing new opportunities, take advantage of this prompt to provide new information about yourself that they might not have guessed from the rest of your application. 

Prompt 2

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words)

When admissions officers read your answers to the Harvard supplemental essays 2020-2021, they want to know whether you’ve fully taken advantage of your extracurricular opportunities. They’ll also use this mini essay – tucked in under the Activities section – to gauge how you might contribute to the Harvard community, so it would also be wise to choose an activity that you’re genuinely passionate about and can see yourself continuing after high school.

In order to make the most out of this essay, write about an activity that you haven’t described in your personal statement, preferably one where you’ve demonstrated leadership and can highlight tangible achievements. Talk about why the activity appeals to you, what it has taught you or if it has inspired growth in some way. Since you don’t have a lot of space, make sure to use your words carefully and elaborate on your commitment as much as you possibly can.

Prompt 2

Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities

This prompt among the Harvard supplemental essays 2020-2021 might be a good place to explore how you’ve chosen to interact with different communities around you. Carefully think about the “travel,” “living” or “working” aspects. You could have done all three during a study abroad experience that fits right into the theme. 

Be very careful however if you want to write about a short-term community service experience or brief service trip abroad. Many students participate in extracurriculars like that, and they will not help you stand out in any way. In fact, it could actually end up seeming more as a display of your privilege if your essay solely talks about travel experiences. Your essay should focus on your biggest takeaways from the experience. Make sure you connect it back to yourself. Just citing what you did and where you were isn’t enough. How did the travel or work shape you? How has the event influenced your perspective? Are there lessons or values it taught that you’ll carry with you throughout college?

Prompt 3

What you would want your future college roommate to know about you

Think about the impression you want to make on the reader. You might want to come across as someone who would be an accommodating roommate. Or you might want them to learn more about your goals, or how you spend your free time. Use your essay accordingly to talk about your hobbies, living habits, and plans for both your freshman year of college and life in general. Since there is no direct “Why Harvard” essay, you could also include what excites you when you think about the opportunity to attend the university. You could talk about a course you can’t wait to take or a club you’re planning to join to show that you’re aware of the unique opportunities Harvard offers. 

This prompt is a chance for you to show admissions officers how you function in your everyday life, so it could be one of the safer options to pick if you’re afraid that writing about bigger issues could put you in more of a controversial spot.

Prompt 4

An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you

The key phrase here is “the most.” You might have many different books that you’ve enjoyed, courses that you’d take again, or discussions that you’ve participated in that you always play over in your head. But which of these have been the most meaningful and, of course, why? Since you have space, guide the reader through your journey of discovery of the experience, any anecdotes associated with the impact it has had on you, or how it might have influenced what you’re passionate about. Name the experience, but mainly dedicate your essay to the “why.”

On another note, the topic doesn’t have to relate directly to your primary academic interest and can instead show that you are multifaceted. If there’s a deeper connection between your interests, that would also be interesting to write about here. Avoid common answers – dedicating your Harvard supplemental essays 2020-2021 to common books like A Brief History of Time or the topic of Einstein’s theory will not help you stand out. When editing this essay, think about whether admissions officers will sense your enthusiasm and be convinced that the paper or book means more to you than any other. 

Prompt 5

How you hope to use your college education

This is another prompt where you can casually insert your knowledge of Harvard University. Although it doesn’t specifically ask about what you hope to gain from a Harvard education, you could still connect your answer to a specific major or course that can prepare you to take on greater challenges. Think about your academic passions, where you see yourself in ten years, and how Harvard concentrations such as “Folklore and Mythology” or “Developmental and Regenerative Biology” can help you reach those levels. 

Cliché answers to avoid for this question would be issues that are noble but overly-broad, such as finding the cure to cancer or ridding the world of poverty. While these are definitely worth the concern, you must think about more specific issues on an attainable scale that you hope to address in the near future. How will you use your Harvard education to make a significant impact? Your answer can be used to demonstrate your dedication to your community, how you operate as a leader, and how you can take advantage of the resources and facilities of the prestigious Cambridge institution.

Harvard University 2021-22 Application Essay Question Explanations

The Requirements: One long essay with no word limit, two 150 word essays

Supplemental Essay Type(s): Additional Info, Activity

Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)

We adore Activity essays like this one because they give you the opportunity to say all the things you couldn’t fit on your Common App activity list. First and foremost, you should make sure to pick an activity that has meaning, and one which you haven’t already written about. It’s usually a good strategy to pick something that you’ve been doing for a long time, where you can showcase key qualities like commitment, perseverance, and leadership. If you’re dying to write about an activity or job you just started, however, you can still write a compelling essay about why you decided to start, what drew you in, and what you’ve learned so far. You want to contribute additional context to what the Harvard admissions officers know about you, and you only have a small space to do it in, so use it wisely.

Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words)

This is a pretty straightforward prompt. Harvard wants you to list any of your intellectual activities that you have not mentioned elsewhere in your application. Did you try to build an app this summer? Maybe you shadowed someone with a position you’d like to hold one day to get a better idea of what the day-to-day looks like. Perhaps you took an online French course to familiarize yourself with the language before taking a trip to Paris with your family. Harvard wants to know – so get to typing!

You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics:

– Unusual circumstances in your life
– Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities
– What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
– An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you
– How you hope to use your college education
– A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
– The Harvard College Honor code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
– The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
– Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
– Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.

First thing’s first. While Harvard lists this essay as “optional,” know that, at least in our minds, no admissions essay is optional. If you have the opportunity to reveal something new about yourself to admissions and speak to them in your own voice, take it!

A “topic of your choice” can be difficult to brainstorm for, especially after you’ve spent so much of your creative energy on your personal statement. But there are other ideas in that head of yours — we know it! Unless Harvard is your first choice and you are tackling this application with an early submission deadline in front of you, you may want to leave this essay until the end of your supplement run. Are you applying to other schools with more specific prompts? Maybe those prompts will pull something unexpected out of your noggin that feels interesting enough to include or expand upon for Harvard? Also feel free to use their sample prompts as inspiration. Overall, remember the purpose of any admissions essay is to showcase something about yourself that admissions would not otherwise know about you.

For International Students: What specific plan do you have, if any, for using the education you hope to receive? (0-50 words)

This is a suuuper short answer for international students. Harvard University wants to know why you chose to apply to Harvard and why you want to attend Harvard above all other schools in the US, your home country, and abroad! Since you only have 50 words, you have no choice but to keep your answer short and sweet. That said, you can still focus on specific, personal details that show how much you know about the school.

harvard college

Harvard is at the frontier of academic and intellectual discovery. Those who venture here—to learn, research, teach, work, and grow—join nearly four centuries of students and scholars in the pursuit of truth, knowledge, and a better world.

When you attend Harvard College, you become a part of the rich history of the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning. Founded in 1636, Harvard has changed dramatically over the centuries, but has always served as a haven for the world’s most ambitious scholars and leaders.

From library and museum collections to arts, athletics, and service, Harvard’s campus resources are unparalleled. Teaching and research are integral to Harvard College—students learn from faculty of the highest caliber, conduct their own investigations, and contribute to research in labs and libraries

At the heart of Harvard College are the Houses, where students live and learn alongside their peers, faculty members, and graduate students. As a smaller home within the College and University, each House offers an enriching and supportive environment where students grow as individuals and as members of their community.


The mission of Harvard College is to educate the citizens and citizen-leaders for our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and sciences education.

Beginning in the classroom with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing, students embark on a journey of intellectual transformation. Through a diverse living environment, where students live with people who are studying different topics, who come from different walks of life and have evolving identities, intellectual transformation is deepened and conditions for social transformation are created. From this we hope that students will begin to fashion their lives by gaining a sense of what they want to do with their gifts and talents, assessing their values and interests, and learning how they can best serve the world.


Harvard College sets the standard for residential liberal arts and sciences education. We have committed to creating and sustaining the conditions that enable all Harvard College students to experience an unparalleled educational journey that is intellectually, socially, and personally transformative.

harvard application requirements

Harvard Requirements for Admission

What are Harvard’s admission requirements? While there are a lot of pieces that go into a college application, you should focus on only a few critical things:

  • GPA requirements
  • Testing requirements, including SAT and ACT requirements
  • Application requirements

In this guide we’ll cover what you need to get into Harvard and build a strong application.

School location: Cambridge, MA

This school is also known as: Harvard College, Harvard University

Admissions Rate: 4.7%

If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.

The acceptance rate at Harvard is 4.7%. For every 100 applicants, only 5 are admitted.

This means the school is extremely selective. Meeting their GPA requirements and SAT/ACT requirements is very important to getting past their first round of filters and proving your academic preparation. If you don’t meet their expectations, your chance of getting in is nearly zero.

After crossing this hurdle, you’ll need to impress Harvard application readers through their other application requirements, including extracurriculars, essays, and letters of recommendation. We’ll cover more below.

Harvard GPA Requirements

Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.

The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school’s average GPA for its current students.

Average GPA: 4.18

The average GPA at Harvard is 4.18.

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.

With a GPA of 4.18, Harvard requires you to be at the top of your class. You’ll need nearly straight A’s in all your classes to compete with other applicants. Furthermore, you should be taking hard classes – AP or IB courses – to show that college-level academics is a breeze.

If you’re currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 4.18, you’ll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.

SAT and ACT Requirements

Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.

You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to Harvard. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.

Harvard SAT Requirements

Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school’s average score.

Average SAT: 1520

The average SAT score composite at Harvard is a 1520 on the 1600 SAT scale.

This score makes Harvard Extremely Competitive for SAT test scores.

Harvard SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)

The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1460, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1580. In other words, a 1460 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1580 will move you up to above average.

Those who live near Harvard may want to look into tutors in Acton and elsewhere in the Boston area to strengthen their test performance.

Here’s the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:

SectionAverage25th Percentile75th Percentile
Reading + Writing750720780

SAT Score Choice Policy

The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.

Harvard has the Score Choice policy of “Highest Section.”

This is also known as “superscoring.” This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider your highest section scores across all SAT test dates you submit.

For example, say you submit the following 3 test scores:

Test 17003001000
Test 23007001000
Test 3300300600

Even though the highest total you scored on any one test date was 1000, Harvard will take your highest section score from all your test dates, then combine them to form your Superscore. You can raise your composite score from 1000 to 1400 in this example.

This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and Harvard forms your Superscore, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit only the tests that give you the highest Superscore. Your application readers will only see that one score.

Therefore, if your SAT superscore is currently below a 1580, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You have a very good chance of raising your score, which will significantly boost your chances of getting in.

Even better, because of the Superscore, you can focus all your energy on a single section at a time. If your Reading score is lower than your other sections, prep only for the Reading section, then take the SAT. Then focus on Math for the next test, and so on. This will give you the highest Superscore possible.

Harvard ACT Requirements

Just like for the SAT, Harvard likely doesn’t have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.

Average ACT: 34

The average ACT score at Harvard is 34. This score makes Harvard Extremely Competitive for ACT scores.

The 25th percentile ACT score is 33, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 35.

Even though Harvard likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 33 or below, you’ll have a very hard time getting in, unless you have something else very impressive in your application. There are so many applicants scoring 34 and above that a 33 will look academically weak.

ACT Score Sending Policy

If you’re taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.

Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.

This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school’s ACT requirement of 35 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you’re happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.

ACT Superscore Policy

By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.

We weren’t able to find the school’s exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to Harvard, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 35.

SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirement

Both the SAT and ACT have an optional essay section.

Harvard requires you to take the SAT Essay/ACT Writing section. They’ll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.

SAT Subject Test Requirements

Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.

Harvard has indicated that SAT subject tests are required for admission. Read further to see how many and which ones they require.

Typically, your SAT/ACT and GPA are far more heavily weighed than your SAT Subject Tests. If you have the choice between improving your SAT/ACT score or your SAT Subject Test scores, definitely choose to improve your SAT/ACT score.

Our Expert’s Notes

We did more detailed research into this school and found the following information.

Two SAT Subject Tests (in addition to the ACT/SAT) are strongly recommended, though not required. If taking Subject Tests causes a financial burden or if you feel other parts of your application (like AP or IB scores) convey the same information, you don’t have to submit scores.

Final Admissions Verdict

Because this school is extremely selective, getting a high SAT/ACT score and GPA is vital to having a chance at getting in. If you don’t pass their SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, they’ll likely reject you without much consideration.

To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1580 SAT or a 35 ACT. You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.

For a school as selective as Harvard, you’ll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We’ll cover those details next.

But if you apply with a score below a 1580 SAT or a 35 ACT, you unfortunately start out with the odds against you and have a tiny chance of getting in. There are just too many students with high SAT/ACT scores and strong applications, and you need to compete against them.

harvard application deadline

The deadline to apply to Harvard’s Restrictive Early Action program is November 1, and the Regular Decision deadline is January 1.


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