What is grade inflation like at Harvard?


I’ve heard that average grades can be quite high!


First off, my answer comes with the caveat that I have no data that isn’t already public online to support my answer.

Second, my answer is based more on personal experience than anything else.

Ok, with that out of the way…Harvard does award a lot of A’s, but it’s not just because of grade inflation. To be sure, there are some classes here that give easy A’s because they want students to take the class, and our system of course feedback will allow students who’ve taken a course to tell other students who haven’t that a course is an easy A and that they should take it if they need GPA padding. Most of those courses tend to be general education, a category that encapsulates all of Harvard’s liberal arts requirements for every student.

Outside of those classes, you have to understand that Harvard has so many classes for each major that students can choose which they want to take based on difficulty or their ability to succeed in the class, for the most part. In other words, I think most A’s are actually earned for concentration classes, because students are in classes they know they’ll do well in. That’s not always the case, but I think on average it’s true. Some classes do cap the number of A’s they’ll give; graduate classes actually do that formally, as a matter of policy.

With that said, I do think that it is too easy to speed through Harvard with an A- GPA. I do believe there have been efforts since the big hubbub in 2013 to improve the system, although I don’t know exactly what they are.

Overall, I would say it’s not much easier to come out of Harvard with a high GPA than it is to come out of any other Ivy League with one, although Harvard in particular has so many course options that you may be able to shape your time there more than you would at another school.