Harvard has the status of the oldest university in the United States. It was founded in 1636. The educational institution was named after the pastor and philanthropist John Harvard, who bequeathed his library and part of the property to the university. Interestingly, back in 1643, a fund was created at Harvard to support research and development — one of the first in the world. Whereas in the 17th century theological sciences were mainly taught here, but by the middle of the 18th century the teaching vector shifted towards secular sciences. In the 19th century, the school adapted its signature crimson color, when Harvard representatives put on dark red shawls on the regatta so that they could be better seen. Since then, the crimson color has been a symbol of Harvard. At the beginning of the XX century, the college changed its status to university.
Harvard University is one of the oldest and most famous universities in the United States, whose graduates become the political and scientific elite of the world. The university is located in a science camp called Cambridge, which is located in Massachusetts. Harvard is part of the association of 8 private universities in the United States called "Ivy League", which is famous for its elitism and high standards of education.
LocationCambridge, United States
Place in ratings
Rating in the USA2021#1
Place in QS 2023
Arts & Humanities
Life Sciences & Medicine
Social Sciences & Management
Accounting & Finance
Engineering & Technology
Advantages of Harvard University
Student Campus. The main campus of Harvard University occupies 85 hectares of land. There are educational buildings, libraries, sports facilities, as well as hostels for the freshman. The rest of the student residences are nearby, on the picturesque coast of the Charles River. The Harvard Business School and the Harvard Stadium are located in the Boston Allston area occupying 145 hectares.
High funding. Harvard has the largest endowment (non-profit organization target capital) in the world. Its size in 2019 was 40.9 billion USD. In addition, compared to other prestigious universities, it is Harvard graduates who often become billionaires.
Museums’ treasures. Harvard University has several of its own museums with valuable collections. The Museum of Art includes the Fogg Museum, the Bush Reisinger Museum, the Sackler Museum with collections of works by the Impressionists, Pre-Raphaelites, Expressionists, as well as collections of Oriental art. The Harvard Museum of Natural History includes the Mineralogical Museum, the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and the Botanical Museum. The Center of Fine Arts, designed by architect Le Corbusier, the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, the Museum of Semitic Culture, also works here.
Unique study paths. Students at Harvard College have the opportunity not only to choose the typical for American universities major and minor specializations, but also to create their own curriculum in order to study any interdisciplinary field. Together with a strong general educational base, this allows Harvard graduates to simultaneously be specialists of a wide and narrow profile.
Financial assistance. Harvard University, contrary to many stereotypes, is even more affordable financially than many lesser-known American and European universities. Admission here is carried out according to two principles: need-blind admissions (the financial position of the applicant does not affect the selection process in any way) and 100% need-based aid (material support is provided to absolutely everyone in need). If the annual family income is less than 65,000 USD, then the student is given a scholarship that covers tuition, accommodation and other expenses.
Disadvantages of Harvard University
High competition. As with any Ivy League university, Harvard is highly selective. Annually, the selection committee receives over 40 thousand applications. Roughly 4% reach the stage of enrollment. In the selection process, the admission committee takes into account everything: the average score of the applicant, the results of standardized tests, letters of recommendation and especially a statement of purpose.
Difficulty of enrolling in a medical school. For most master's and doctoral programs, the basic requirement is a bachelor's degree in the relevant field. In case of the medical school, the undergraduate degree should be in the natural sciences (biological and physical sciences), and also include a large set of compulsory courses. Moreover, foreign applicants must have at least a year of study at an accredited university in Canada or the United States.
Tuition at Harvard University
Type of studies
Studying at Harvard bachelor’s programs has a fixed cost of 49,653 USD per year. As for graduate schools, the amount can be from 29728 to 73,440 USD per year, while some schools set a lower cost starting from 2nd-3rd year of study.
Despite the extremely high prices, it should be noted that Harvard offers a large number of scholarships and grants, and 70% of students receive financial assistance. The reason for this is the policy of the university, which does everything in its power to give talented students the opportunity to get the desired education.
Harvard University is the strongest educational and research center, which has equally excelled in teaching the humanities, natural and technical sciences.
In total, there are 11 academic departments at Harvard — 10 faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
The largest division is Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). This is the only faculty that offers training at two levels of training — undergraduate and graduate. Within the framework of the FAS, the following departments are present:
Harvard College for Bachelor’s;
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) for master’s and doctoral students;
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (awarding degrees on behalf of the college and GSAS);
Continuing Education Department (includes Harvard Summer School and Continuing Education School).
The remaining faculties and the corresponding schools that teach design, education, medicine, dentistry, theology, law have only master's and doctoral programs. Harvard Business School, in which students can earn an MBA or a Ph.D. in business, is also highly renowned. A place of honor is occupied by the School of Management named after John F. Kennedy and Harvard School of Public Health of T. H. Chan.
The most popular areas of Harvard University include medicine, economics, business, law and political science.
Harvard Schools and Colleges by the year of foundation
The main campus of Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard Yard. There are administrative offices, some libraries and academic buildings and the majority of freshman dormitories. Students of the second and subsequent years of study live in the residential houses nearby, each of which represents more than a place of residence. Separate master classes and seminars, various cultural and recreational events are held there, students have the opportunity to communicate with teachers in an informal setting, for example, at lunch in the common dining room.
You can find unique educational resources at Harvard. The Harvard Library, the largest academic library in the world, has over 20 million volumes, 180,000 periodicals, 400 million manuscripts, 10 million photographs, and more than 5 terabytes of digital archives. All this is within the framework of almost 80 library branches, which are available to every university student.
In 2008, Harvard also launched the Common Spaces Program, which aims to strengthen the academic community. As part of this initiative, new spaces are being created and existing spaces for the interaction of students and teachers are being improved.
Cost and living conditions for students at Harvard University
The Harvard accommodation system was created with the aim of creating the most comfortable conditions for interaction and socialization throughout all four years of undergraduate studies. Freshmen settle in one of four dormitories called Yards and dine in the historic dining room of Annenberg Hall. As a rule, students live in suites, each of which consists of 2-4 rooms, a recreation area and one or more bathrooms, for a total of 3-6 people. There are few single rooms available. Interestingly, within each dormitory, students unite into entryways of 20-40 people, depending on the floor or section of residence. Each such group has its own mentor (first-year proctor), which provides all the necessary support to newly arrived students. At the end of the first year freshmen independently form small groups, which are then distributed in 12 Houses, that host about 350-500 students each. Houses have a unique atmosphere and infrastructure, including libraries, studios, creative spaces, bars and much more. Starting from the 2nd year, students have the right to move to their own or rented house, but more than 97% prefer to stay on campus for the duration of their undergraduate studies. For graduate and doctoral students Residence Halls are provided, which are separate for each school. If necessary, students can take advantage of off-campus housing services from university-owned real estate. To do this, contact the special department — Harvard University Housing. The cost of living for undergraduate students is approximately 11,000 USD/year, for graduate and post-graduate students, the amount largely depends on the chosen accommodation type and can vary from 7,000 USD to 20,000 USD per year (9 months of study). More information regarding the accommodation costs can be found on the official pages of the individual schools.
Room and boardon campus18,389USD/year
Other expenseson campus2,600USD/year
The process of admission to Harvard University
Harvard Universityonly accepts applicants that are 17 years or older. The admission committee puts extra attention on the average mark of the graduate (as a matter of fact, the minimum requirement has not been established, but most applicants have a GPA of more than 3.8/4.0). Additional advantages can be leadership qualities, social activity and participation in volunteer projects.
Stages of admission to Harvard — Bachelor’s
At the bachelor’s level, Harvard University organizes a single admission to Harvard College, without distinguishing between academic programs and setting quotas for certain academic areas. The choice of a specialty takes place later during the studies at the university.
The admission process includes the following steps:
Passing the SAT/ACT exams (required) and TOEFL (optional);
Tracking the application and uploading the missing documents on the Applicant Portal before one of the two deadlines (Early Action, or Regular Decision);
Passing an interview (the presence of this stage depends on the location of the candidate: often a representative of Harvard may not be in the country/region, but this should not affect the final decision);
Obtaining an admissions decision along with information on financial assistance;
Confirmation of intention to study at Harvard;
Sending a final report with a transcript of ratings;
Applying for student visa.
Harvard undergraduate admission calendar
Applications are submitted in 2 calls, but only once a year. Deadlines do not change over time.
The results of two SAT Subject Tests (recommended, except the cases in which passing exams proves to be financially difficult);
Intermediate report from school with a transcript of grades after the first half of the year (only for Regular Decision);
The final report from the school with a transcript of grades (for those who have already graduated from school at the time of submission of documents — until November 1/January 1; for all those accepted at Harvard — until July 1);
Two recommendations from school teachers (teacher reports);
The results of other exams — AP, IB, etc. (optional);
All documents must be translated into English. However, you do not need to contact a professional translator. It is perfectly acceptable to provide translations made by an English teacher. Translations have to contain the name of the translator and his relationship with the student. Additional copies of the originals are provided.
Submit an online application (the form is individual for each school and posted on the corresponding website);
Pay a registration fee (80-105 USD depending on the school);
Pass an interview, sometimes it is required to send a written reflection report on its results within the 24 hours;
Obtain an admissions decision along with information on financial assistance;
Confirm your intention to study at Harvard;
Apply for a student visa.
Harvard Master’s/Doctoral calendar
Each school independently determines application deadlines for its programs. As a rule, applications are accepted from September to December. Most deadlines are in early December — mid-January. However, some schools additionally set earlier or later deadlines. For example, Harvard Business School also accepts applications until September (one year before the start of training) and until April (several months before the start of training). Exact dates can be found on school websites.
Application documents for Master’s/Doctoral study programs
The list of documents may vary from school to school, but in most cases it includes:
Transcripts from all previously attended higher education institutions;
Results of the standardized test GRE / GMAT / MCAT / LSAT (depending on the program);
TOEFL iBT certificate (sometimes other language exams are allowed — see table below).
Additionally, the school may also require:
The answer to the question in the form of an essay;
Sample of a written essay;
Proof of work experience/license;
Portfolio and other documents upon request.
Unlike bachelor’s, documents that are not in English should mainly be submitted together with a notarized translation. The full list of documents and requirements for them must be clarified on the websites of individual schools.
Minimum English proficiency for admission to Harvard graduate programs
John Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
School of Divinity
Graduate School of Education
TWE 5.0, TOEFL PBT 613
Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study
TOEFL PBT 600
T.H. Chan School of Public Health
TOEFL PBT 600
Specifics of admission to Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School (HMS) has a number of admission requirements that leave little chance for foreign applicants. First of all, it is necessary to master a number of compulsory prerequisite courses and already have a bachelor's degree in science, as well as spend a minimum a year studying in English in Canada or the USA. Then a prerequisite is passing the international medical exam — MCAT. However, even this does not guarantee a successful admission, since Harvard does not recognize all foreign qualifications. Students with a degree in accredited higher education institutions of the USA and Canada have the priority right to enrollment, because high-quality medical education is impossible without a high level of English proficiency.
The study process at Harvard
Harvard university academic calendar
Undergraduate studies: types and structure of courses, and exams
The main feature of Harvard bachelor’s studies is that students choose their future specialization only in the second year of study. For the first two and a half semesters, the college gives young people the opportunity to adapt to the new environment by attending any of the 3,700 possible courses. Then students are invited to choose one of 50 concentrations or to build their own unique special concentration.
Within the specialization, Harvard students also define a learning path: non-honors or honours. The latter involves taking more courses and compulsory writing of the thesis to obtain a degree (AB — Bachelor of Arts or SB — Bachelor of Science).
Thus, in addition to specialized disciplines, the Harvard training program includes several general compulsory elements known as Harvard College requirements:
General Education (one course from four subject groups: Aesthetics & Culture; Ethics & Civics; Histories, Societies, Individuals and Science & Technology in Society);
Distribution (one course for each of the three areas of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS): Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences and Engineering, and Applied Sciences);
Quantitative Reasoning and Data (familiarization course with mathematical, statistical and computer methods of data processing);
Expository Writing (semester course in academic writing in the first year of study);
Language (one year foreign language course).
In addition, students can choose electives as a part of their secondary field (in American Universities more commonly known as minor), study additional foreign languages, conduct research or projects on their own, and take courses at Harvard schools and other Boston universities.
During the academic year, students traditionally attend lectures, seminars and workshops, undergo Hour and Midterm Examinations and have a Final Examination Period at the end of each semester.
Starting from the 1st year and throughout the entire period of study, students are accompanied by mentors and advisors that can be teachers, doctoral students, senior students and activists who can help with the choice of specialization, curriculum adjustment and immersion in the social life of the university.
In some areas, students have the opportunity to get a master's degree already in the fourth year of bachelor’s studies. The program is implemented as part of the Higher School of Arts and Sciences and is called the Fourth Year Master's Degree.
Graduate schools: features and structure of courses, and exams
Graduate programs at Harvard have a different structure, depending on the school and the specialization of training. The master's programs last 1-2 (less often 3) years and involve the acquisition of theoretical and practical knowledge in a particular profession. Doctoral studies are mainly based on research (5-6 years), but there are also practice-oriented doctoral programs (3-4 years), including internships in partner organizations (for example, EdLD). Before entering, students can familiarize themselves with the curricula of all programs that are publicly available on the school websites — sections Academics, Program Overview, Curriculum.
MBA programs at Harvard
Harvard Business School is consistently ranked among the top 10 best business schools in the world. A distinctive feature of the institution is the orientation towards practice and interaction between students. Enrolling at Harvard Business School is not easy, as excellent grades are not critical to enrollment. The admission committee draws extra attention to the achievements of the applicant, experience in the business sector, participation in charity events and other activities.
Harvard Business School offers a two-year MBA program (50% of students receive financial assistance), several doctoral programs (100% funding over 5 years), and also provides the opportunity to receive two degrees at the same time as a part of cooperation with other schools (Joint Degree Programs), for example, an MBA and Master of Public Policy (MPP) from the Harvard Kennedy School. Joint programs are also being implemented with law, medical and dental schools.
Harvard Business School also conducts courses in marketing, leadership, finance and entrepreneurship.
International exchange programs at Harvard University
Harvard University has close international connections with prestigious educational institutions around the world. Exchange and internship programs work with leading European universities, including Cambridge and Oxford Universities. In total, 200+ programs in more than 50 countries of the world are available to Harvard students. More information on semester and one-year exchange programs can be found on the Harvard Office of International Education website. Read more about summer programs on Harvard Summer School website.
Harvard University's Summer School also organizes over 300 courses and internships for international students each year. People who come here are:
Exchange students. In order to obtain credits as part of your program or preparation for admission to graduate school;
Graduates and professionals. To take advanced training courses.
Double degree programs at Harvard University
Harvard University offers its students double-degree programs that allow you to get two specialties both at Harvard and at partner universities with which Harvard has signed agreements. One such institution is the Berklee College of Music. At the end of the five-year program, graduates are awarded a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard University and a master's degree from Berklee. The list of partners of Harvard University also includes The University of Cambridge. A joint law program allows you to earn a JD degree at Harvard and an LLM degree at Cambridge in just 3.5 years.
Online courses at Harvard University
Harvard University has an extensive database of online courses (400+) in 11 subject areas which last from 2 to 17 weeks. Many are provided free of charge. At the same time, the cost of paid courses varies from 30 USD to 6,680 USD.
It is believed that only a select few can afford studying at Harvard University, but this is not entirely true: 20% of families pay absolutely nothing, and 55% of students receive material support. The university takes into account the financial capabilities of each student, regardless of citizenship, and, if necessary, is ready to partially or fully cover the costs of studying and living. The scheme is simple: if a student successfully passed the competition for admission, but cannot afford to cover all the costs of studying, then the university gives a 100% guarantee of material assistance.
The amount of assistance at the bachelor’s level is determined as follows: the student’s parents (or himself) must contribute a certain amount of tuition (depending on the total income of the family), the student’s personal investments (for example, from part-time work), as well as help from third-party funds (if any). After calculating the total amount, the university decides on the appointment of financial assistance to the student. To receive full funding, it is enough to provide documents confirming that the annual income of parents is less than 65,000 USD per year.
Scholarship size for master's and doctoral programs, in turn, is also calculated based on student income over the past three years. An additional factor is the school itself and the sources of its financing. The proposed scholarship does not always fully cover all expenses. Details should be specified on the websites of schools in the section Financial Aid.
Prospects after graduating from Harvard University
Like any other top university, Harvard University helps its students in finding suitable employment. On the campus of the university, there is the Office of Career Services, which organizes various events for students and announces them on its website. University employees are engaged in the selection of paid internships, the search for interesting vacancies, the organization of courses and workshops, as well as events where students from the first year can get acquainted with potential employers. As a rule, Harvard graduates do not have problems finding a job. According to statistics, more than 60% of students find work during the training period (mainly on internships). In the international QS 2020 ranking, Harvard takes 5th place, while having 100% reputation indicators among employers and graduate performance.
Scientific achievements of Harvard University
Today Harvard University is one of the most elite and renowned universities in the world. The university is famous for its business school and developments in various fields of science, most of which are funded by the government.
In 2017, a group of Harvard scientists was able to turn hydrogen into metal for the first time in history — its use in rocket science will open new frontiers in space exploration.
In 2017, Harvard bioengineers invented a plastic robot that can prevent heart attacks and automatically support heart function.
In 2014, Harvard researchers found confirmation of the cosmic inflation theory that describes the Big Bang.
The university is working on the creation of the "elixir of youth", the first test results were successful.
In 2014, Harvard scientists created an inexpensive detector for monitoring diabetes and other diseases. The detector costs about 25 USD and weighs 2oz, it will be used in the poorest regions of the planet.
Harvard scientists, in collaboration with researchers of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, invented a method for storing solar energy in molecules, which would later allow the use of clean energy for domestic purposes (cooking, heating water, heating private houses and apartments).
A team of researchers from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working together to reprogram the cells of living organisms to create effective cell therapy that will allow tissues to regenerate faster after serious damage, which could be the solution to the problem of thyroid disease or diabetes.
Famous graduates of Harvard University
8 US presidents graduated from Harvard University, including Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.
Among graduates, teachers and employees of Harvard University, there are 150 Nobel laureates.
Bill Gates is an American businessman, philanthropist and public figure, one of the founders of Microsoft, the founder and chairman of the Bill and Miranda Gates charity.
David Rockefeller is American statesman, entrepreneur, banker, the grandson of the first dollar billionaire John Rockefeller.
Darren Aranofsky is a well-known director in Hollywood, the creator of such films as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.
Matt Damon — a famous American actor, producer and screenwriter, was born and raised in Cambridge. In 1998, he became a laureate of two prestigious awards at once — the Oscars and Golden Globes for the script for the film Good Will Hunting.
Natalie Portman is an American film and theatre actress, producer, screenwriter and film director. In 2011, she won a number of prestigious film awards: BAFTA, Oscar and Golden Globe for her main role in the movie Black Swan.
Annually, a prize is awarded at Harvard University for the most dubious or witty scientific achievements of the last year — Ig Nobel Prize. The word “dubious” refers to studies such as “why do drunkards consider themselves attractive” or “how mice with a heart transplant listen to opera”, etc.
The territory of Harvard University was a set for films and TV shows dozens of times. The movies like The Social Network, Spartan, Angels & Demons, Good Will Hunting were shot here.
The university is also the main scene of many literary works. For example it is described in William Faulkner’s novel, The Sound and the Fury.
At the entrance to Harvard Yard, there is a monument that reads “John Harvard. Founder. 1638." Students call it a “statue of three deceptions.” John Harvard was a philanthropist and the sponsor of the university, but not its founder. It is generally accepted that the history of an educational institution dates back to 1636, and not 1638. In addition, the statue does not depict John Harvard, but an ordinary student. History has not preserved portraits or references of how the famous philanthropist looked like.
Studying abroad with UniPage
Want to study at a foreign university but don't know where to start? We can help!
Our specialists will find a university, arrange your documents, fill out the applications, and stay in touch until you receive an offer.