On December 12th, 2017, I became the first student from my high school to ever get into Harvard. In this video, I'll tell you about how I got into Harvard College, and how you can improve your chances of getting into your dream school too.
I have been talking about my dream of going to Harvard since I was in elementary school. To me, Harvard has always been something to aim for, something to motivate me to keep going even when it was difficult. Yeah it was a long shot, but I knew that if I didn't apply, I would always regret it. On December 12, 2017, I became the first student from my school to get accepted into Harvard College, or at least the first that anyone can remember. A lot of people have asked me in the time since: how’d you do it? I don’t have legacy at Harvard, I’m not a recruited athlete, and I went to a public high school. So how did I get into arguably the best college in the world? And what can you learn from my story to apply to your own application?
Today I'm going to share seven important things that I took into consideration when applying to Harvard. Reflecting back on my own application, I’ve realized that these seven areas are the most important things to think about when you’re applying to Harvard, or any college. I did a lot of research on how to get into Harvard, and so should you.
If you are looking for a video that's going to tell you exactly how to get into Harvard, this isn't it. That's because a video like that would be impossible to make, since there's no definite path to get into Harvard (unless your family makes a sizable donation to the school...). But there are a lot of things that everyone can do to improve their chances of admission, regardless of background, and this video covers some of those areas. Just because these approaches to the application process worked for me doesn’t mean they will also work for you. But since what I did clearly worked, try to learn what you can from my experience, and apply it to your own life.
Here's a brief summary of the points I cover.
1: Application Strategy
Take the time to plan out your application package. All the components of your application should build off each other and support the underlying themes of your application. Also, I highly recommend that you look at early action versus regular decision, as you will find that a lot of top schools have significantly higher admission rates for early action.
2: Time Management
A very important part of this whole process is managing your time wisely. Breaking it down into sections to make progress is a necessity. Keep track of what you’ve done already and what you still need to do.
3: Classes, Grades, and Test Scores
You need a challenging schedule, as well as high grades and test scores, if you want to be considered for admission to a top school. I did very well in my classes, as well as on standardized tests (1590 on the SAT and multiple 5s on AP tests). Doing practice tests is really the best way to make sure you are prepared for the actual test day.
There are only so many hours in a day, so you can’t do everything. Try to think about what your focus areas are, and how your extracurriculars and community service activities tie into them. Try to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other applicants by doing something original.
Your essays allow you to have some creative freedom with how your present yourself. Write about what you want colleges to know about you, not what you think they want to hear. One question that you really need to consider when you’re writing is “what makes you, you?”
6: Letters of Recommendation
Pick teachers, coaches, or mentors that know you really well as a student, athlete, performer, etc, but who also know you really well as a person. You should also pick people whose letters will tie into your focus areas.
Once you have all this compiled into an application, you may also have to interview for college. Be sure to do some preparation for the interview, such as practicing potential questions with a partner, but don’t worry about it too much. Colleges really value authenticity, so even though it’s cliche, just be yourself.
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