For Parents and Families - Supporting Students in their College Search


Your help matters

Thank you for your interest in learning more about Harvard College. Where to attend college is one of life’s biggest decisions, and we know families are instrumental in helping students make their choices. To help you guide your student in the process, we are sharing tips for high school students in every grade level. These tips are primarily geared toward United States-based students - though many tips can also be relevant for international students as well. (Read more about international admissions here.) 

If you’re jumping in when your student is in their later years in high school, it’s not too late to get started. Our team is here to support your student and your family as you navigate the college search and admissions and financial aid processes.

Student on the drill press machine

Tips for 8th and 9th graders


  • Develop strong study habits and consider taking advanced courses.
  • Explore and pursue academic areas that interest you most.
  • Work with your parents/guardians and high school counselor (or school official) to develop a four-year plan for classes to consider. Challenge yourself where possible, but also set yourself up for sustained success.

Extracurricular Activities

  • Join clubs that interest you. Maybe try something new!
  • Look for part-time jobs, summer camps, programs, or volunteer work that will help you gain valuable life experience.
  • Look for ways to help your family and community.

College Planning

  • Talk to your mentors—parents, teachers, and peers.
  • Consider various college types and what they have to offer such as location, academics, size, and setting. As an example, Harvard is located in the city of Cambridge - just outside of Boston - and is medium-sized with ~6,600 students. There are 50 different fields of study in a liberal arts & sciences curriculum. 
  • Learn about available resources that will help with planning for the years ahead. You can start with your high school counselor and high-school sponsored programming, or you can seek out community-based organizations (CBOs).
  • Now is the time to develop an organized system to collect college information. This will come in handy as you continue to plan.
Two Students Sitting in Harvard Yard in the Fall

Tips for Sophomores


  • If considering a selective college, now is a good year to take a challenging college preparatory course. This may be an AP class or IB class. Advanced courses are designed to introduce students to academic expectations and experiences that are similar to those in college.
  • Urge your student to continue working with a high school counselor or school official to chart a path that is both rigorous and sustainable for the remainder of high school. Take more challenging courses in the fields that most interest them. 
  • Your student may want to consider joining academic clubs that are offered such as Speech & Debate, Science Olympiad, or language-learning clubs. These groups can provide opportunities to explore academic interests outside the classroom. 

Extracurricular Activities

  • Sophomore year is still early enough for your student to start new activities to find their “thing.” A new club or part-time job can give some direction to your student in their interests.
  • If your student is continuing in an activity, sophomore year is a good time to think about taking on more of a leadership role.
  • Have your student continue to find jobs, summer camps, enrichment programs, or volunteer work to gain valuable life experiences. 
  • Encourage your student to seek ways to help with the family and in their local community.

Considering College

  • Encourage your student to check out college websites to learn about academic programs, communities, specific majors or faculty, student clubs, campus events, research positions, and other elements that might be of interest.
  • Have conversations with your student about the cost of college, any financial support you're providing them, and the types of financial aid - merit scholarships, loans, need-based grant aid – that may be necessary to afford college.
  • Have your sophomore continue researching helpful college application programming - either through their high school or through Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). There are many free programs that offer helpful information. 
Three students smiling and eating in Annenberg Dining Hall

Tips for Juniors


  • Encourage your student to continue challenging themselves in the classroom, and balance that with the need to maintain consistently strong grades. 
  • Urge your student to get to know their teachers - the ones who will be writing those important application recommendation letters. Harvard requires 1 letter from a high school counselor (or other school official), and 2 from teachers in academic subjects.
  • Emphasize that this may be your student’s toughest year. It’s more important than ever to establish strong study habits, join study groups, use tutoring services, and ask for help when needed.


  • Let your student know that as a junior, they should be looking to take on leadership positions or more responsibilities in their commitments, like part-time jobs or school clubs. 
  • Have your student research summer opportunities - academic programs, jobs, camps - to further explore their interests. 
  • Encourage your student to make an impact in the community - whether that is family, school, or sports. Community can be defined however they want! 

Considering College

  • Urge your student to take college standardized testing this year such as the SAT or ACT. Some colleges do not require standardized test scores when applying, but many still do so it's smart to test early. Continue checking the testing policies of schools they may apply to, as those policies may change.
  • Accompany your student to visit college campuses and attend college fairs. If that isn’t feasible, have your student explore the vast collection of online resources like virtual tours, websites, and student blogs. 
  • Research scholarships to help pay for college and use colleges’ net price calculators to estimate cost of attendance. Try Harvard's here! 
student posing with cap and gown on in front of a building

Tips for Seniors


  • Grades still matter in senior year. Make sure your student is working hard to maintain strong grades in the fall quarter since most colleges will require mid-year grades during the application process. 
  • This is no time for “senioritis”. Most colleges also require your student’s final high school grades and admission may be conditional based on performance consistent with their previous high school record!  

Extracurricular Activities

  • Senior year is perfect for your student to assume a leadership role - shift manager at work, captain on a sports team, student government position.

College Applications

  • Be sure your student carves out sufficient time to fill out those college applications. 
  • Have a serious discussion with your student to determine where they want to apply and why they feel those colleges are the right fit.
  • Set up calendar reminders to make sure your student meets the application deadlines for their chosen schools. Harvard has an Early Action deadline in November and a Regular Action deadline in January.
  • Encourage your student to ask for recommendation letters a few weeks before they are due to give teachers and their counselor or other high school official adequate time to write them.
Professor consults with two students standing at the blackboard.

Affording a Harvard Education

No doubt you have thought about the cost of putting your student through college for years – probably even more now that your child has entered high school. At Harvard, we understand any possible financial apprehension and are deeply committed to affordability for all admitted students, regardless of citizenship or nationality. Our supportive team of financial aid officers put you at ease and help you every step of the way. 

Fast Facts About Harvard Financial Aid:

  • For 9 out of 10 U.S. families, attending Harvard is more affordable than an in-state flagship university. 
  • Close to 25% of Harvard families pay ZERO
  • 55% of students receive need-based Harvard scholarships
  • 100% of demonstrated financial need for all students is met

How did our current students and parents approach the financial aid process?

“We knew we wouldn't be able to afford a school whose tuition was too expensive. Harvard ended up offering the most financial aid of all the colleges I applied to—more than my state school!” – Raymond ‘25

“My parents initially felt just as unsupported and confused as I did when figuring out financial aid. This was until we had the support of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative and financial aid officers through the college who clarified many of our concerns and confusions.” – Maha ‘25


screenshot of the Net Price Calculator

Get a quick financial aid estimate!

Click here to try out our Net Price Calculator!

The calculator is a tool to estimate how much your family will need to contribute for one year at Harvard. You will be asked to provide personal information about your family and finances. We do not save this information; it is only used within the calculator.

También se puede usar la calculadora en español.