Note:I'm going strictly by the Official Reading Procedures of Harvard Class of 2023 (not sure if I can post a link here but google if needed). The direct source. In essence, an overall rating, scaling from 1-5, along with committee discussion determine if you're in or not. Rating of "1" being the best and rating of "5" being the worst.
Let's say someone hypothetically gets ratings in these areas:
Academic Rating of "4"
Annually, 12.4% of applicants, around 5,456 on average get this rating. This score alone has an acceptance rate of 1.0%.
According to Harvard, these students have "Adequate preparation. Respectable grades and low-to-mid-600 scores on SAT and subject tests or 26 to 29 ACT."
Extracurricular Rating of "1"
Annually, 0.3% of applicants, around 132 on average get this rating. This score alone has an acceptance rate of 48%.
According to Harvard, these students have "Unusual strength in one or more areas. Possible national-level achievement or professional experience. A potential major contributor at Harvard. Truly unusual achievement."
Athletic Rating of "4"
No data is available but I will say that the majority of applicants get this rating, apart from athletes. I hear that this rating is NOT applied in the overall score unless you are an athlete.
According to Harvard, these students have "Little or no participation (this is not a negative)."
Personal Rating of "1"
Annually, 0.072% of applicants, around 11 on average get this rating. This score alone has an acceptance rate of 66%.
According to Harvard, these students have "Truly outstanding qualities of character; student may display enormous courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life. Student may demonstrate a singular ability to lead or inspire those around them. Student may exhibit extraordinary concern or compassion for others. Student receives unqualified and unwavering support from their recommenders."
According to Professor Card that wrote a report to the Supreme Court on behalf of Harvard University, "Harvard’s ultimate goal is to admit a student body that exhibits excellence in a variety of forms and includes students with diverse experiences, backgrounds, skills, and interests. Harvard’s admissions data are consistent with these facts. They show, for example, that candidates who are strong on dimensions other than academics are rarer than academically strong candidates."
According to Card, the admissions team are constantly on the hunt for distinguishing excellence. Some successful candidates present a number of these qualities in their applications and are, in other words, well rounded. Other applicants are successful because they are well lopsided-they demonstrate exceptional distinction in one of these areas. Yet the Admissions Committee denies and offers admission to students who might fit either description.
According to Card, "...the overall rating (a) takes into account the profile ratings but is not a formulaic summation or average of those ratings, and (b) can reflect other aspects of an application that the reviewer considered but that are not captured in the profile ratings (including race)."
By numerous sources and past applicants, the overall rating is seemingly the top 2/3 of your ratings. For an example, a past admit got the individual ratings of 3+/2/3+ for academics/extracurricular/personal. That admit got an overall rating of "-2."
To recap, if someone hypothetically gets:
Personal rating of "1" with an acceptance rate of 66%,
Extracurricular rating of "1" with an acceptance rate of 48%
Academic rating of "4" with an acceptance rate of 1.0%.
Let's add onto the account that this person has been through extremely traumatic experiences (No not a death in the family, divorce, or depression. Think more of parent's incarceration, ward of the court, below the poverty line, or anything along those lines), which affected the academics, yet has extreme potential. This person has demonstrated in the senior year of handling rigor courses for college work.
What would the overall rating be given?