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Harvard Cover Letter Example

Use this Harvard cover letter example to finish your application and get hired fast – no frustration, no guesswork. This cover letter example is specifically designed for Harvard positions in 2022. Take advantage of our sample sentences + expert guides to download the perfect cover letter in just minutes.
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Harvard Cover Letter Example
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Getting into Harvard is a dream for the nearly 60,000 applicants who apply to the prestigious Boston-area university each year. Whether Harvard is your top choice or a longshot you can’t help but go after, a well-written cover letter, sometimes called a college essay, is one of the most important application materials you can create.

There’s no doubt that you’ve worked hard to ace the SATs or ACTs and spent many hours after school preparing for exams to give you the best grades possible. 

Your Harvard cover letter, however, is one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t depend on your booksmarts. This is a chance to tell your own personal story and wow the admissions committee with details of your dreams and resilience.

This guide, along with the corresponding Harvard cover letter, is designed to show you create the most effective college essay possible by:

  • Choosing the best cover letter format and including each of the required sections.
  • Writing with powerful action verbs and examples of your achievements.
  • Sharing your own journey to convince an admissions officer of your desire to succeed.
  • Avoiding mistakes often made on college cover letter samples.

Resume.io is a resource for job seekers at every stage of their careers. You can find even more insight and valuable writing tips for your desired field of study in our 125+ free cover letter examples.

Statistical insight

Harvard is getting harder. It likely comes as no surprise that the elite Harvard College is tightening up even further as the number of applications rises. For the class of 2025, the university accepted just 1,968 students out of 57,435 – an acceptance rate of 3.43 percent and the college’s lowest ever.

Best format for a Harvard cover letter

As with any cover letter, your Harvard college essay should contain sections that make it easy for the admissions officer to find the information they are looking for. Here are the essential components of your Harvard cover letter sample:

  • The cover letter header
  • The greeting / salutation
  • The cover letter intro
  • The middle paragraphs (body of the letter)
  • The ending paragraph of your cover letter (conclusion and call-to-action)

By this point in your high school career, you’ve no doubt written a number of English essays. You’ll likely find that the parts of a cover letter are much the same – the intro is your hook, for example, and the body is the place to present the strongest evidence of your achievements. 

This structure helps your letter flow from one section to another and keeps an admissions officer interested in what you have to say. Unlike a normal cover letter which discusses much of the experience on your resume, a Harvard cover letter should tell a personal story without needing much detail about your high school clubs or leadership roles (unless that’s part of the story you want to tell, of course!)

You can find more guidance on writing each of these sections in our comprehensive cover letter guide. That’s also a great place to look for specific formatting tips that will help ensure you keep a sense of professionalism throughout your cover letter sample.

Below is a Harvard cover letter example to help you get started in writing your own.

Adaptable cover letter example

Dear Professor Lockwood,

MY Ph.D advisor, Professor Caroline Buchanan has suggested I write to enquire about the possibly of conducting my postdoctoral research at your Harvard faculty. I am currently completing my Ph.D in mathematical sciences and as you have the same academic background as Professor Buchanan, I am interested to explore the possibilities.

My focus on applied mathematics and data science has driven the direction of my academic research and having published 30+ papers and corporate case studies, I am seeking a position with an eminent mathematical mind to help shape my future work. As a keen programmer, I am particularly interested in the intersection of coding and mathematics and how A.I. led programming is able to simplify the manipulation of data.

I can demonstrate that my projects are accessible to undergraduate researchers, and I have considerable experience of working in diverse teams – encompassing both academic and corporate research.

During my Ph.D studies, I have taught various undergraduate courses, including calculus and advanced algebra. I would welcome the opportunity to continue this at Harvard and have a track record of improving learner outcomes. My tutoring students enjoyed a 100% pass rate and I have 28 letters of recommendation to share. Modules that I would particularly enjoy teaching include: Precalculus, Calculus, Fundamental Maths, Linear Algebra, Probability and Algebraic Structures. 

Enclosed please find my CV, research and teaching documents and a selection of recommendation letters. I will be visiting Harvard for the machine learning symposium in February and would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss my application.

Yours sincerely,
Taylor Laughton

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Cover letter header

The header of your cover letter serves two important roles: the first is to label the document with your name and contact information so the admissions officer knows exactly whose letter they are reading. The second is to create a bit of visual formatting that catches the admissions officers attention and helps them remember your cover letter a bit better than all the others. 

You may be submitting your college essay in an online application or another format that doesn’t allow for a header. If that’s the case, make sure your name, phone number, email and other relevant details are included in the appropriate boxes so that there’s never a question of how to contact you.

You can see an attractive and functional header on our Harvard cover letter example.

The aim of the cover letter header: Include the most relevant contact details and create an attractive page layout to make your cover letter sample stand out from the rest.

Cover letter greeting

The cover letter greeting is how you address the person (or people) who will be reading your cover letter. In many other situations, you’d be instructed to address your letter to the name of the recipient in order to make a personal connection and show interest. In the case of Harvard, however, you’ll likely need a more general greeting. “Dear Harvard Admissions Officer,” or “Dear Harvard Admissions Team” can get the job done.

In certain circumstances, your Harvard cover letter sample won’t need a greeting at all. If you’re asked to paste your letter into a box with limited word count, forgo the greeting to maximize writing space. 

The aim of the cover letter greeting: Use a general greeting that’s appropriate for a Harvard cover letter in order to set a friendly and respectful tone.

Here’s the greeting from our Harvard cover letter example.

Adaptable greeting cover letter example

Dear Professor Lockwood,

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Cover letter introduction

The introduction is the hook of your Harvard cover letter. This is the place to draw a reader into the story you have to tell and to give them a reason to read until the very end. The introduction is generally the first paragraph of your cover letter sample. Set the scene, give the details of the characters and offer a sense of what the admissions officer will discover in the rest of your cover letter.

The aim of the cover letter introduction: Begin your cover letter with an interesting set-up that hints at the rest of the letter and encourages the reader to continue.

Check out the introduction from our Harvard cover letter example below.

Adaptable introduction cover letter example

MY Ph.D advisor, Professor Caroline Buchanan has suggested I write to enquire about the possibly of conducting my postdoctoral research at your Harvard faculty. I am currently completing my Ph.D in mathematical sciences and as you have the same academic background as Professor Buchanan, I am interested to explore the possibilities.

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Cover letter middle part (body)

The body of your cover letter gives you all the space you need to expand on your story and convince the admissions officer that you’re the best choice for one of Harvard’s limited spots. Unlike cover letters for job applications, college essays generally tell a personal story that explains the mindset and qualities of the applicant. In the body section, you’ll need to explain how the experiences you’re writing about changed you and made you the person you are today.

The aim of the cover letter body: Share more details about your story that explain your outlook and attitude today.

Use the body from our Harvard cover letter example as a model for your own.

Adaptable middle part cover letter example

My focus on applied mathematics and data science has driven the direction of my academic research and having published 30+ papers and corporate case studies, I am seeking a position with an eminent mathematical mind to help shape my future work. As a keen programmer, I am particularly interested in the intersection of coding and mathematics and how A.I. led programming is able to simplify the manipulation of data.

I can demonstrate that my projects are accessible to undergraduate researchers, and I have considerable experience of working in diverse teams – encompassing both academic and corporate research.

During my Ph.D studies, I have taught various undergraduate courses, including calculus and advanced algebra. I would welcome the opportunity to continue this at Harvard and have a track record of improving learner outcomes. My tutoring students enjoyed a 100% pass rate and I have 28 letters of recommendation to share. Modules that I would particularly enjoy teaching include: Precalculus, Calculus, Fundamental Maths, Linear Algebra, Probability and Algebraic Structures. 

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How to close a Harvard cover letter (conclusion and sign-off)

Your Harvard cover letter should make a point and wrap up into an easily-digestible conclusion. Generally-speaking, your conclusion should reflect your outlook on the world or describe the ways in which you’d be an asset to Harvard (without directly pleading for a spot.) 

Unless you’ve included a greeting, there’s generally no need to sign-off. Your cover letter should be complete at the final line of the conclusion.

The aim of the cover letter conclusion: Share the moral of the story and end with your final thoughts that show what type of student you’d be at Harvard.

Here’s the conclusion from our Harvard cover letter example.

Adaoptable conclusion & sign-off cover letter example

Enclosed please find my CV, research and teaching documents and a selection of recommendation letters. I will be visiting Harvard for the machine learning symposium in February and would welcome the opportunity to meet and discuss my application.

Yours sincerely,
Taylor Laughton

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Writing psychology: how to tell your story

A college essay or application letter is different from a traditional cover letter in several ways. It usually offers you more space (up to 650 words for the Common App) to tell your story and doesn’t require you to focus as much on achievements as it does lessons learned and experiences that shaped you. 

In order to succeed in writing a Harvard cover letter sample, you’ll first need to reflect on your own life and look for interesting stories to share. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What experiences have I had that were particularly memorable?
  • Have I lived through any situations that are unusual for people my age?
  • Who or what has influenced me the most in life?
  • Where do I get my drive and inspiration?
  • What are my strongest personality traits and where do they come from?
  • What are some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned at this stage in my life?

There are no right or wrong topics for a Harvard cover letter, but make sure to choose one that you are truly passionate about. By weaving a narrative throughout your cover letter and focusing on your authentic experiences and tone of voice, you can be sure the admissions officer will feel your passion and desire to be part of their university.

Expert tip

You are so much more than your grades. While you might have worked years to perfect them, a great GPA doesn’t guarantee admission into Harvard. Many of the applicants you’re up against have also done their best. The cover letter sample can go a long way in making you stand out from other students who are also at the top of their class.

Basic mistakes in a Harvard application letter (and how to avoid them)

  • Cliches and generic information: Harvard admissions officers have read it all, so it’s important to give them something that stands out. Cover letters about hard work, athletic achievements or tragedies will need to be revised carefully so that they don’t come across as too generic.
  • Poor tone: Your tone should be authentic without ever sacrificing professionalism. You don’t need to beg for admission, but you should also be careful to avoid coming across as entitled or demanding.
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes: When the competition is this fierce, any little typo or grammar mistake can be a big deal. Avoid these issues by using spell check and asking a trusted mentor to proofread.
  • Formatting issues: If you need to upload a cover letter sample as its own file, you’ll want to make sure that your layout and design is as attractive as possible. A free cover letter template can help you do this quickly.

Key takeaways

  1. A Harvard cover letter, sometimes called a college essay, is one of the most important documents to help you get accepted into this prestigious institution.
  2. As seen in our cover letter example, having clear and organized sections makes it easier for the admissions officer to understand your letter.
  3. Most Harvard cover letters will share a personal story about the applicant and explain what they’ve learned or how it affected them.
  4. Avoid cliche topics like sports victories, tragedies or difficult coursework and look for unique moments in your life to expand upon.

If you’re looking for more cover letter help as a student, check out these related education cover letter examples:

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