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Top 10 Tips on How to get into Harvard University as an Undergraduate + Several Bonus Strategies

My answer became quite popular on Quora.  As a result, I thought I would share it with our readers here on our site helping many of you potential Harvard applicants.

Top 10 Strategies for Applying to Harvard + 4 Bonus Tips

For our Quora visitors, scroll quickly to the #11th tip in blue below for the extra tips: 

1) Become the valedictorian of Stanford’s Online High School and tell Harvard’s admissions team that you’ve had a change of heart. You’ve realized you should have went to Harvard’s Online High School. And since there is no such thing, Harvard Undergrad would be a fine substitute.

2) Get your parents to donate $400 million and 1 dollars to Harvard edging out A Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Made Harvard’s Biggest Donation Ever. I’m thinking the admissions committee “might” give you a stronger look at your application. Ridiculous? Quite possibly. However, the typical 5% chance most people are faced won’t be the same for this future donor most likely.

Further support for this point comes from an edit:

Peter Malkin graduated from Harvard Law School in 1958. He became a very wealthy real estate businessman, and huge donor. In 1985, the university’s indoor athletic facility was renamed the Malkin Athletic Center in his honor. All three of Malkin’s children went to Harvard. By 2009, five of his six college-age grandchildren had followed suit. (One brave boy dared to go to Stanford instead.)

Or how about Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law? Kushner was accepted into Harvard shortly after his father donated $2.5m. An official at Kushner’s high school said there was “no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would, on the merits, get into Harvard. His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it.”


3) Start a dotcom unicorn before you hit 18 and beat out Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and every other famous Harvard drop out in their efforts to build what they did “after” they left. Your story will be much more compelling.

For our Quora visitors, scroll quickly to the #11th tip in blue below for the extra tips: 

4) Read every post on College Confidential & apply the advice. Sign up for a premium subscription to AdmitSee and leverage everything you can from their service. And literally scour every single resource on the Internet including the site you’re on or Reddit. Leverage all the wonderful advice to increase your chances.

5) Frankly, download and study the app(lication) as early as possible and do your best to fill out each part of the document to outshine every possible future candidate. The admissions page on how to apply gives you the tips in a very straightforward manner. Start your personal statement and revise it every year. The questions don’t really change much. And whatever you start when you’re younger will most likely be malleable for whatever you end up submitting.

6) As early as possible, learn what Jake Marcionette did as a 12 year old. As he mentioned about his mom, he was “forced to write” in his elementary school years. As a result of his parent’s “wicked plot,” he was able to not only publish a book by this 12th birthday, but he became a New York Times best seller. I’m thinking he’s on a path that will possibly give him a chance to get accepted by Harvard. Do something similar with writing in your early days. It might also help you crush records and give you a talent that makes you pointy enough for Harvard.

For our Quora visitors, scroll quickly to the #11th tip in blue below for the extra tips: 

7) One of my students in Shanghai used to read 3 books a day. Yes, 3 full texts! If she could do it, I’m thinking you can as well. Remember, this is a girl who’s native country is China and she’s reading 3 English novels a day or the like. She was in 7th grade when I first taught her. I’ll bet if you read 3 books a day or even 2 and apply that reading to all your other subjects, you’ll set yourself again for a path for many great colleges — and one of them could be Harvard.

8) If you haven’t heard of these yet, look into them NOW! Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF)The World Scholar’s Cup, or any of these 50 Competitions Every Student Needs To Know About Participate. Excel. And ideally, win these. Add these to your application and again, you’ll be setting yourself up for admissions for Harvard.

9) Learn a new language. After you do, learn another. After that, learn even another language.

Just over half of Europeans (54%) are able to hold a conversation in at least one additional language, a quarter (25%) are able to speak at least two additional languages and one in ten (10%) are conversant in at least three.


Personally, I feel multi-lingual individuals in our world have a deeper ability to understand, communicate and excel in more situations than people who fail to challenge themselves beyond their native tongue. This deeper linguistic capability may propel you into ways of expressing yourself in ways that will impress the admissions committee the year you apply.

10) Apply every single year until you get accepted. Don’t start another University, but instead keep at it with a better and better application every year. Harvard can’t be that cruel they deny you 50 or 60 times. By the 50th or so attempt, I’m thinking they’ll grant you admissions simply due to your tenacity.

What you’ll prove to Harvard is you have tenacity second to none. It’s similar to how Linda Nicola’s daughter proved to the school well before she could even apply that she wasn’t giving up on a goal (regardless of the outcome).

Bonus Harvard Application Strategies:

#11 Stop thinking like a future MIT or Caltech student! 

Do you even know what a humanist is? If not, learn right now!

William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard was quoted as saying:

“One thing we always want is humanists,” adding that there were “fewer and fewer” of them.

An applicant might also be given credit for babysitting siblings, he added, “which I did myself.”

If you want specific advice, start babysitting siblings and incorporating an element of the experience in your application. 😉

Right before this, he said:

“… there had been huge increases in would-be engineers and computer scientists, but Harvard had to be wary of admitting too many, because “a whole bunch” of them “will end up happily ever after at M.I.T. or Caltech.”

Become a humanist; rather, become the best humanist that you know.

#12 Demonstrate effectively you can lead the world

The key here is “the world.” Leading a few peers is one thing, but being able to make impact on a larger scale is another. In a piece I like to have my reading comprehension students study until they master it, Professor Steven Pinker at Harvard wrote:

At the admissions end, it’s common knowledge that Harvard selects at most 10 percent (some say 5 percent) of its students on the basis of academic merit. At an orientation session for new faculty, we were told that Harvard “wants to train the future leaders of the world, not the future academics of the world,” and that “We want to read about our student in Newsweek 20 years hence” (prompting the woman next to me to mutter, “Like the Unabomer”).

#13 Move to the country!

Not, move OUT of the country or to a specific country (even though I personally would say some parts of the world do have intrinsic benefits for admissions), but living in a rural area might be an advantage for you. In a legal case being fought over Asians being discriminated against by Harvard’s admissions:

longtime dean of admissions William Fitzsimmons (‘67), on the stand, grilled on whether rural students receive a leg up over urban students. They do.

Here are some notes of a candidate for the University where in the “appealing” factors is being from a “rural area of a Mountain State.”


#14 Attend one of these 7 schools (or one of the 3 others below to as many as ~12+ others I’ll do my best to list here later):

  • Bostin Latin
  • Phillips Academy
  • Stuyvesant
  • Noble and Greenough School
  • Phillips Exeter
  • Trinity School
  • Lexington High School

In a piece that’s a little dated (2013), the Crimson reported on the schools that “feed” into Harvard more than most. They noted these schools in particular.

In another writing in the Politico about affirmative action, the following was pointed out:

Harvard documents made public after the investigation showed that applications were distributed to readers for various “dockets,” which are almost entirely geographical. However, a couple of the dockets were limited to certain private schools. One included 17 New England prep schools, like Choate, Deerfield Academy and Hotchkiss. The other docket served just two schools: Philips Academy in Andover and Philips Exeter.

Although Harvard denies any numerical targets based on race, ethnicity or alumni status, the released documents make clear there were indeed “targets” for the various dockets. For the Class of 1992, Harvard sought to admit 2,040 applicants, 135 from the 17-prep-school list and 61 from the Andover and Exeter docket.


Schools to add to the above list from this more recent source are:

  • Choate
  • Deerfield
  • Hotchkiss

The underlying theme of all the previous points if you haven’t figured out is to be “pointy” and stand out from all the other applicants. You need to be uniquely “superior” than other candidates. You also need to score well on standard elements like the SAT or ACT, your GPA, take multiple AP or Subject exams and write a phenomenal personal statement (or other supplementary essays).

These days given that it’s more competitive than ever (yes, Darwin was right!), you may need to be EXTREMELY pointy and do things like win the http://www.firefighterchampionsh… as a teenager. You might reply, “but I’m not a firefighter.” Well, overcoming this may be why you can get into Harvard.

And again, as mentioned earlier, several websites give you ideas including Harvard UniversityCollege Admissions Counseling from Real Students, College Application Help Including Essays | AdmitSee & College Data. You can also hire a college consultant.

Best of luck! (because unfortunately, you might need it)