collegeFirst, lets put a few things into perspective: Only 5.2% of the almost 40,000 who applied were accepted to the class of 2020. As you know, students accepted into Harvard are typically highly intelligent – over 54% were ranked in the top 2% of their class. The average SAT score was over 2230 based on the old SAT scale of 2400 maximum.

Then there’s the remaining 46% who were able to rely a bit more on other variables to get in. (For instance, there’s the student who attended an elite private high school and though she was suspended for drugs and alcohol and, by the way, hadn’t taken any AP courses, she was accepted. How you ask? A $10 million donation from a parent alumnus probably did the trick!)

Here’s a peek into the typical Harvard freshman profile, class of 2020, based on a class survey emailed to 1657 students. Of the 1657, 1209 replied – about 73% of the class.

This stat is not a surprise: Almost 16% of those surveyed parents have annual combined incomes more than $500,000. A surprise: Almost as much, 15%, have parents whose annual combined income totals less than $40,000.

One of the questions dealt with the relationship between ethnicity and family income. Of those who identified as white, 20% have parents whose combined income exceeds $500,000.

Approximately 13% of Asian respondents come from the same income background as do 11% of Latino and Hispanic, and 8% of African Americans. 29% of Latino or Hispanic students who took the survey come from families making less than $40,000. Those African Americans who came from families from the same financial background constitute almost 20% of the surveyed students, while only 10% of white students had combined family incomes under $40,000.

This is a somewhat startling stat: 95% of those polled whose family income was less than $40,000 did not have family members who graduated from Harvard while nearly almost 50% of students who families earn more than $500,000 said they are legacy students.

Then there’s the recruited athlete who makes up just over 10% of the class. (The survey did not include the class rank, GPA, and test scores of those recruited athletes accepted.)

Back to my former student who was accepted: I will be purposefully vague for reasons of confidentiality. I do know his scores were between 2250-2350. He is not white, and he did attend a private school. He is also a gifted artist.

Interesting read, but what’s the message?  Don’t let the numbers scare you. Regardless, of income or where your parents attended college (or not), if your academic profile – GPA, test scores, challenging course load – is exceptionally strong, and you have a stand out essay and wonderful recommendations, you can certainly be in the running if Harvard is on your list – but you knew that!

Resourced from:

High School Insider, LA Times. “Who Gets Into Harvard”, by Cece Jane, September 21, 2016.


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