did bill gates get a scholarship to harvard?

did bill gates get a scholarship to harvard

Bill Gates is a household name, known for co-founding one of the most successful and influential companies in the world – Microsoft. He is also known for his philanthropy and being one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet. But one question that often comes up when discussing Gates’ success is whether he received a scholarship to Harvard University, one of the most prestigious and selective universities in the world. In this article, we will delve into the details and uncover the truth about Bill Gates’ scholarship to Harvard.

The Early Years of Bill Gates

William Henry Gates III, popularly known as Bill Gates, was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. From a young age, Gates showed a keen interest in computers and programming. He attended Lakeside School, a private preparatory school, where he was first introduced to computers. At the age of 13, Gates and his friend Paul Allen, who also shared a passion for computers, developed their first computer program – a tic-tac-toe game.

After graduating from Lakeside School, Gates enrolled at Harvard University in 1973. He pursued a degree in computer science and mathematics, but his passion for computers and programming led him to drop out of Harvard after two years to start his own company – Microsoft.

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The Scholarship Rumors

There have been many rumors and speculations surrounding Bill Gates’ scholarship to Harvard. Some claim that he received a full scholarship, while others say that he did not receive any scholarship at all. So, what is the truth?

The fact is, Bill Gates did not receive a scholarship to Harvard University. In an interview with Forbes, Gates himself confirmed this, stating, “I didn’t have a scholarship. I paid everything myself.” This statement has been backed up by Harvard’s financial aid office, which has stated that Gates did not receive any financial aid or scholarship from the university.

However, this does not mean that Gates did not receive any financial assistance during his time at Harvard. In fact, he did receive some financial aid, but it was not in the form of a scholarship from the university.

The National Merit Scholarship

While Gates did not receive a scholarship from Harvard, he did receive a National Merit Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to students who score exceptionally well on the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) exam. Gates scored a perfect 1600 on his PSAT, making him eligible for the scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship is not specific to Harvard University and can be used at any accredited college or university in the United States. Therefore, Gates used this scholarship to fund his education at Harvard.

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It is worth noting that the National Merit Scholarship only covers a portion of the tuition fees, and the rest of the expenses must be covered by the student. This is why Gates had to pay for his education at Harvard himself, despite receiving the scholarship.

Gates’ Financial Situation at Harvard

Despite not receiving a scholarship from Harvard, Gates’ financial situation at the university was not dire. His father, William H. Gates Sr., was a successful lawyer and a prominent figure in the Seattle community. He was able to afford the tuition fees and other expenses for his son’s education at Harvard.

In addition to this, Gates also had a part-time job at Harvard. He worked as a programmer for the university’s computer center, where he earned $6 per hour. This job not only helped him cover his expenses but also gave him valuable experience and exposure to the world of computers and programming.

Moreover, Gates’ business ventures with Microsoft also helped him financially during his time at Harvard. He and Paul Allen had started working on Microsoft while still in high school, and by the time Gates dropped out of Harvard, the company was already generating a significant amount of revenue.

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The Importance of the National Merit Scholarship

While Gates’ scholarship to Harvard may have been a topic of debate, there is no denying the importance of the National Merit Scholarship in his journey to success. The scholarship not only helped him fund his education but also gave him recognition and opened doors for future opportunities.

Moreover, the National Merit Scholarship is highly competitive, with only 1% of students who take the PSAT receiving the scholarship. This speaks volumes about Gates’ academic abilities and sets him apart from his peers.

Furthermore, the National Merit Scholarship is not just a one-time award. It can be renewed for up to four years, as long as the student maintains a high level of academic performance. This means that Gates’ scholarship was not just a one-time financial aid, but a continuous source of support throughout his time at Harvard.


In conclusion, Bill Gates did not receive a scholarship to Harvard University. However, he did receive a National Merit Scholarship, which he used to fund his education at the university. Despite not receiving a scholarship from Harvard, Gates’ financial situation was stable, thanks to his father’s support, his part-time job, and his business ventures with Microsoft.

The National Merit Scholarship played a crucial role in Gates’ journey to success, not just by providing financial aid but also by recognizing his academic abilities and opening doors for future opportunities. It is a testament to Gates’ intelligence and hard work, and it continues to be a prestigious scholarship for high-achieving students today.

While Gates may not have received a scholarship to Harvard, his success and impact on the world are undeniable. He is a prime example of how determination, hard work, and a passion for what you do can lead to great achievements, regardless of financial aid or scholarships.

So, did Bill Gates get a scholarship to Harvard? The answer is no, but that did not stop him from becoming one of the most influential and successful individuals in the world.

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