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How Awarding Works

Need Based Program

Procedure: Students must first complete an aid application according to the following our guidelines. You will be asked to provide information about your family income and assets, outside awards, and unusual or changed financial circumstances. Once we have reviewed your information and determined your demonstrated need, you will be notified of your award for the coming year.

Forms: In order to apply for aid, all families have to submit a complete financial aid application. US Citizens/Permanent Residents must complete the CSS Profile form as well as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a free form that determines eligibility for federal aid and the CSS Profile helps us to determine eligibility for Harvard financial aid. Click here to see the complete financial aid application instructions.

Eligibility: Our generous financial aid program—bolstered by the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which seeks to increase low- and middle-income students’ awareness of Harvard’s affordability—aims to make Harvard accessible to any student who is admitted.

  • Our program requires no contribution from Harvard families with annual incomes below $65,000. About 20% of our families have no parent contribution.
  • Families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 will contribute from 0-10% of their income, and those with incomes above $150,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10%, based on their individual circumstances.
  • Families at all income levels who have significant assets are asked to pay more than those in less fortunate circumstances.
  • Home equity and retirement assets are not considered in our assesment of financial need.

Families can use our Net Price Calculator to quickly estimate their aid package and expected family contribution.


In determining your need-based Financial Aid award, your package will consist of a work component and a Grant component that could be made up of the following funds:


  • Pell Grant - This grant is awarded to students based on their Federal Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by filing the FAFSA.
  • SEOG Grant - This grant fund, allocated to colleges by the federal government, is awarded to our students with exceptional need who are also receiving a Pell Grant.
  • Work Study - The Work-Study Program provides funds for part-time employment to help students with need to finance the costs of postsecondary education.


  • Gilbert Grant - This grant fund, allocated to colleges by the state of Massachusetts, is awarded to permanent residents of Massachusetts based on need.


  • Harvard Grant - Institutional Grant funding that may come from a specific donor
  • Term Time Job - Students who are not eligible for Federal Work-Study are encouraged to find employment through our Jobs Database in our Student Employment Office.

Requesting Loans

Students are not expected to take out loans as part of their financial aid package. Our aid packages are designed to cover financial need without additional borrowing. However, students may choose to pursue loans to help cover the student and/or family contribution. Once a student has requested a loan, our office will award one of the following loans:

  • Institutional (Harvard) Loan or Federal Perkins Loan:  These need based loans are awarded dependent on your federal and institutional eligibility. It is important to understand the terms of any loan you borrow as well as how to manage your debt and repayment

Other Aid Options

Federal Direct Loans

  • Student Loans: Students who are US citizens/permanent residents have the option of borrowing from the Federal Direct Loan Program. Descriptions and terms of the need based subsidized Direct Loan and non-need based unsubsidized Direct Loan can be found on our website.
  • Parent Loans: Parents who are US Citizens/permanent residents have the option of borrowing from the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program. A description of the procedures for applying as well as the terms of the loan can be found here.

Private (Student and Parent) Loans:

  • Students applying for private educational loans must apply directly via their lender’s website. If you are considering a private loan, you should compare the loan terms offered by several programs in order to choose the best fit for your situation. Private loans typically have the student as the primary borrower and the parent as a co-borrower. Parents and students are encouraged to look into the federal and institutional loan options available to them before deciding to borrow a private loan. Click here for tips on how to choose a private lender. Once your loan has been approved, the Financial Aid Office will certify your loan verifying your enrollment and eligibility. Your maximum loan eligibility is your total cost of attendance minus any aid received.

Outside Grants and Scholarships

A student may receive grants or scholarships from sources outside Harvard. For information regarding our policies, reporting and sources for additional funding, consult our outside awards page.

Continued Eligibility Guidelines

Financial Aid is re-determined each year based on a number of criteria. Eligibility for one school year does not guarantee future eligibility. To determine eligibility for: