Undergraduate students who are looking to transfer into Harvard may be surprised to find that they will not be attending the university, but the college, which is embedded within the university.
Harvard University contains the graduate programs and Harvard College, which is the original Harvard established back in 1636, includes all the undergraduate programs.
Regardless, the entire Harvard institution has a shared vision for all of its students – to give them a liberal arts education that helps them think about and understand the world to use their education to change it.
It is vital that students who come to Harvard have an adequate educational foundation to be successful in the demanding academic environment the university provides.
This vision for a particular type of education complicates things when it comes to transfer students.
Because students have received their foundational courses at another institution, the university can’t be sure without close examination that a student will have the necessary tools to be successful at Harvard.
Any student thinking of transferring to Harvard needs to have this vision of a Harvard education in mind as they start the long process of gathering information, writing essays, requesting letters, and sending out for transcripts.
Those who are considering transferring but who have been attending vocational, online, or performance schools, for instance, may find that they don’t have the right foundation to transfer to Harvard.
Though this process may sound daunting, it shouldn’t dissuade applicants from trying to transfer. Harvard provides plenty of support to its transfer students, including matching each one up with a mentor who entered the university as a transfer student themselves. This support reflects the university’s desire to make sure that all their students succeed.
Below, students will find information on what it takes to be a transfer student at Harvard College.
Harvard University Transfer Acceptance Rate
Out of the nearly 1,500 students that apply annually for a transfer to Harvard, only around 12 make it in. This means that Harvard’s transfer acceptance rate is less than 1%.
Obviously, that number is pretty small; that is why students need to ensure before they start the process of applying that they have the proper credentials to be considered a transfer student.
Harvard requires that students attend two full academic years within its institution, so students who want to transfer need to consider how long they have already been in their current or past program.
The exact requirements state that students need to have attended a full-time program for no more than two years, but at least full-time for one year, and it has to have been at one educational institution. Not only do time and amount of credits matter, but the type of education as well.
Harvard is passionate about the Ivy League liberal arts education it offers its students. Because the university wants to make sure any student it accepts has the tools for success in its programs, students have to come from schools with a curriculum experience similar to Harvard’s in order to transfer.
All of this will be determined on a case-by-case basis within the admissions process.
Application Requirements & GPA for Harvard University Transfers
Though there is no GPA requirement, the application materials for transferring need to prove a student’s academic ability, extracurricular involvement, and personal character.
By filling out either the transfer version of the Coalition Application or the Common Application, students can put all their basic materials in one app, which can be easily accessed and tracked.
Within the application, prospective transfers will need to include answers to the Harvard College Questions and the Supplemental essay, the *$75 application fee, and **optional SAT or ACT scores.
Students can also include any supplemental information to their online application, like special talents or publications, that they feel will make them a stronger candidates.
Once the online application is complete and sent in, the other materials that need to be sent in to the Admission’s Office are a Dean’s report, College and High School transcripts, and two recommendations from instructors.
Students will receive a confirmation email after their application is submitted to give them further instructions on this process.
*Students can potentially waive the application fee if it is a financial burden.
**An important note about the SAT and ACT: the pandemic brought the use of SAT and ACT scores under scrutiny and many universities have since frozen or gotten rid of test requirements. Harvard has postponed test requirements for incoming students until 2030. As a result, students don’t have to submit SAT scores, but they are still strongly advised to do so if they have them.
Harvard University Transfer Deadline
Harvard’s transfer application deadline is March 1st of each year.
This means that all materials – applications, transcripts, supplemental materials, letters of recommendation, etc. – need to be turned into the school before this date.
Don’t forget! The application process also includes financial aid. The FAFSA and any other relevant financial aid applications need to be completed by the March 1st deadline.
After the university receives a student’s application, they will send the student a pin to the Application Portal so they can set up an account and check for updates.
What is the Decision Date for Harvard Transfers?
Transfer students will be told if they have been accepted by mid-May.
Once accepted, the only timeframe a transfer student is allowed to start in the fall semester of that year.
A question that can potentially come up during the acceptance phase is whether a student can defer their acceptance for a set period of time.
Students often choose to defer their acceptance because of unforeseen personal issues that come up, to take a gap year, military service, or because something went wrong with financial aid.
Though first-year students are allowed to defer their acceptance, transfer students who are accepted need to keep in mind that they will not be allowed to defer, regardless of their circumstances.
Deciding Whether You Should Transfer to Harvard University
Transferring to a university like Harvard can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a person’s life.
That said, it isn’t a process to be taken lightly. Students who are successful transfer applicants of Harvard have thought ahead and put in the work to make themselves attractive applicants.
When it comes to what makes an attractive transfer student, Harvard is looking to see candidates who can offer an academic justification for transferring, a history of success at their previous school, and excellent instructor recommendations.
Students considering a transfer to Harvard should check out the university’s page of questions for what they look at when they read through applications.
Not only can this list give prospective students a glimpse into the process, but it can also help as a template for building an excellent application.
Harvard is known for its 98% graduation rate, a number that reflects their desire to choose students that have the personal, professional, and academic skills to be successful through to graduation.
This doesn’t mean that students have to come from wealthy backgrounds or have a resume full of activities that are out of the ordinary.
Even if it is mowing lawns or working a part-time job during high school, the university is looking for someone who has been involved in their community and has leadership potential.
RECAP: How to Apply As a Transfer Student to Harvard University
Applying to Harvard as a transfer student is all about thinking ahead – ideally a year or more.
Even before the fall deadline, when the new application opens, students need to be planning their submission around how much schooling they have already completed, whether their previous school’s curriculum is aligned enough with Harvard’s, and how their life circumstances and academic achievements contribute towards them being an ideal candidate.
Students will need to make sure they have no more than two full-time academic years’ worth of school, but at least one year of full-time work, at one other school.
If students meet these criteria, then they can feel confident in completing the application process by filling out the Common Application or the Coalition Application.
The application will be shared with the admissions office and will include demographic information, the Harvard College Questions and Supplemental Essay, the $75 application fee (or the waiver for it), optional SAT or ACT scores a student wants to add, and any supplemental information that would be relevant.
Once the application is completed and submitted, the required Dean’s report, College and High School transcripts, and two letters of recommendation can be sent off to the Admission’s Office.
The student will receive a confirmation email that will have the information they need in order to complete these tasks.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is March 1st; all application materials must be in by this date, or a student’s application will be rejected. This includes financial aid!
After everything is in, students will need to anxiously wait until mid-May until they hear back about a decision. If accepted, keep in mind that transfer students can only start during the upcoming fall semester and will not have the option to defer.