Is Harvard Only for Straight-A Students? Harvard vs. Grades

Is Harvard only for straight-A students? No, absolutely not. Discover how to get into Harvard as an average-ish student or low GPA.

Do you need straight As to get into Harvard How Can I Get into Harvard as an Average-ish Student
That’s me (Shilpa Ahuja) (looking so not straight-A!) during a winter-break class for architectural cinematography at Harvard University Graduate School of Design with my talented classmates and encouraging professor!

Do you need straight A’s to get into Harvard? Is Harvard Only for Straight-A Students?

“Is Harvard only for straight-A students,” this is one of the most commonly asked questions by Harvard applicants. In fact, one of the most common myths about the university is that you need to be a straight A student to get into Harvard.

No, the truth is you don’t necessarily require straight A’s to get into Harvard.

Harvard prefers all rounded students, who exhibit passion, hard-work, extraordinary achievements or potential for success. They take applicants with a genuine interest in learning and self-improving, instead of those just cram for exams’ grades. So a combination of holistic IQ and unique, talented personality is preferred over just your grade-getting abilities.

is harvard only for straight a students - low gpa

Additionally, just like most ivy league universities, Harvard is looking for diversity in their student body. So they won’t take all A students. Since doing so would make all the students in every class too similar, and Harvard’s goal is to put students together who can learn from each other.

But don’t let this fool you into thinking that Harvard is not the place for straight A students. Many of the people I met during my time there were academically very strong, top of their class and even had won academic awards. However, they were also exceptional in their abilities other than just pertaining to good grades.

Does Harvard Accept B Students?

Yes, just like I mentioned above, it’s completely possible to get admitted into Harvard University with B grades. Admissions are not reserved only for straight-A students. Personally, I wasn’t a straight A student in my college, before I applied to Harvard for my masters degree. In school, in fact, I was just an above average student. In college, I used to get a mix of A and B grades. Although sometimes I got top scores in my class.

How to Make Your Application Look Good if You're Not a Straight A Student

My class at Harvard mostly had A/B students. Many of them were straight A’s with honorary degrees, some of them were straight A’s with other strong extracurricular achievements, and some had also had bad grades at some point in their school or college.

Will Harvard Ever Accept an Average Student?

Well, it depends. What’s your definition of average? Are you average in everything or only academically? How do you stand out amongst the plethora of applicants who apply to Harvard from all over the world, many of whom are straight A students with extra-curricular achievements?

My point here is to not discourage you from applying, but in fact to make sure that you apply with the best application that you can. Analyze your application carefully. Everyone has some special skills or talents. Make sure that yours clearly stand out in your application. Make sure that your letters of recommendation specify your other talents or accomplishments. You need an overall interesting application that makes the admissions officers remember you as an exceptional applicant.

If you feel that you don’t have any outstanding achievements in any field so far, your chances of admission are low. So work hard towards whatever you’re good at before you apply, and accomplish something that demonstrates your passion and chances of success in life. And then send your application. You’ll never know if Harvard will accept you unless you apply!

Does Harvard Accept B Students university gpa applications

Here’s one quote from Harvard College website, “Yes, Harvard accepts some really accomplished students but they also take kids who are just nice, hardworking kids. The old adage is that your chances of getting in are much higher if you apply.”

How Can I Get into Harvard as an Average-ish Student

Once you know that Harvard ain’t only for straight-A students, the next thing you’d wanna know is how you can get admission if you’re not. One of the best things to focus on your application if you’re an average student academically is extra-curricular activities. Make sure you’ve had a focused approach, such sports, creative arts, tech, etc. You don’t want any and everything on your resume.

Make your application stand out with awards or student clubs. Show examples of your leadership with class presidency or hobby club presidency. Show publications, exhibitions, debates or other merits.

Average GRE Scores for Harvard Graduate Schools

If you’re not into extra-curriculars at a big level, show internships or work experience and professional achievements. Whatever it is, it needs to be at an impressive level that showcases your extraordinary talent. This will show how you’re a hard-working, all rounded applicant who has a unique story or phenomenal persona.

For example, sports show team-work and leadership. Dance shows dedication and hard work. Theater shows spontaneity and charm. Debates and public speaking shows confidence and wit. Being published shows intellect. Exhibitions or freelance projects show entrepreneurship and resourcefulness. So think of what qualities your application is showcasing.

Also read: Extracurricular Activities for Harvard Applications: Make It Count!

How to Make Your Application Look Good if You’re Not a Straight A Student?

Grades are not the only important thing about your application. There are many other things that your transcripts or grades that the admissions office is considering. It’s your complete package that counts. For example, your letters of recommendation, your personal statement, your GRE/SAT score and even in some cases, your portfolio or interview. It also matters what professors say about you.

Will Harvard Ever Accept an Average Student applications admissions prepare

So make sure you explain, directly or indirectly, in your letter of intent, why you were not a straight A student. What else did you fill your time with? Make sure your application shows you didn’t lazily waste your time, but used it productively in other important activities, creating, leading and what not. Show your talent in your application. Highlight what other achievements make you an exceptional applicant, worthy of admission.

Avoid professors who may be discouraging, or want to recommend only for straight-A students. If you have a low GPA, try to get great recommendation letters from professors who recognize your talent beyond the classroom. Request them to write about your extra-curricular achievements like sports or arts. Also make sure your transcripts or letter of intent shows hard work, improvement in grades.

Also talk in your college essay what your long-term goal is and how Harvard will help you accomplish it. Make sure you seem focused and deserving. It takes time to think these things over. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have top grades. Work on your other talents, and nourish them so that they outshine your grades, even if it takes extra time and hard work. Just focus on all your qualities and give it your best shot!

Hope I was able to answer your question on whether Harvard is only for straight-A students. If you have low GPA, I hope now you know how to make the most of your prep time to improve your application.

All the best!

5 thoughts on “Is Harvard Only for Straight-A Students? Harvard vs. Grades”

  1. Does Harvard offer scholarships for international students who got a D in maths and don’t have any extracurricular activities?
    Do I have a chance?

  2. will a student who got failed in the first semester and then in the other semesters he excelled in the grades… will he be accepted?


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