Virtual College Tours: Harvard University

CollegeAdvisor.com presents its virtual college tour series on Harvard University in a 60-minute webinar and Q&A with college students and alumni. Our CollegeAdvisor panelist will share their insider perspectives on what it is like to be a student at Harvard. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!

Date 05/06/2021
Duration 61:57

Webinar Transcription

2021-05-06 Virtual College Tours Harvard University

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the college advisor, virtual college tour of Harvard university. To orient everyone with the webinar’s timing, we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q and a tab.

Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Costa and I graduated Harvard class of 2020, where I studied sociology and health policy. So I mean you’re out of college and probably some of the best four years of my life. So I’m super excited to share a little bit of my process of getting there and some of the really memorable moments in videos there.

So just a brief overview of Harvard it’s in technically say it’s in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We just say Boston because the campus, so Harvard university has several schools. It has obviously the college that one’s located on the Cambridge side of the river. And then we have the business school, the medical school, the school of public health, all of those on the Boston side.

So a lot of people just fly into Boston to check the university out as a whole. The school type is private and it’s large the school size. So for the college, it’s about 36,000 people total sorry for the university is 36,000 people total in the undergrad college. It’s about 6,699 graduate students about 13,000 and other students at the Harvard extension school is about 16,000.

The setting is urban, which I really loved. The college campus, like I said, is right in the middle of Cambridge, the city. And so it’s not like you have to drive to go. Be in the being near the shops near other like residential places. It was all around you in between your own residential housing and between the building that you went to school.

So it was really cool. The campus size is about 5,457 acres. And the student to faculty ratio is about six to one. So those are just a couple of logistical things to keep in mind. When you’re thinking about characteristics of the schools that you are looking into. So now this is a little bit more personal.

So my application process the steps that I took was I first, made a list of what I call the safety, the solid and the rich schools. So safety schools and reach schools, I think are terms that like people use a lot in college advising, safety schools usually look at just how, like the rate of people that come in.

For example, like safety, you might not really have a requirement to come in. Like you don’t have to maybe write essays and we just have to hit a certain GPA. But the percentages are pretty high. Whereas the reach schools, for example, like Harvard admissions rate, can vary between three and 5% and like sometimes even lower.

And the trend has been increasingly that they get it gets harder and harder to go in. And so those are called like the reach schools for me. I also had like solid schools, which were any schools whose percentages, where admissions rates were between. 10 15. And that was just because it still meant that they were really good, like academically really great opportunities.

But maybe I had a higher chance of getting in than some of the reach schools. So I made a list of those then did research on like the actual programs that each school had the professors, because if you want to do research, for example, Harvard’s a research university the professors and the connections you can make, they’re really important.

And other key indicators. So for me it was like, the geography, is it close to a city? Other things that I cared about was like studying abroad. So all these things that I’ll be touching on later, but making sure that you, for yourself make like key indicators of what you want the next four years of your life to include.

Then I researched scholarship opportunities and came across QuestBridge. So for those of you who already have exposure to that, you might know a little bit about that, but for those of you who don’t QuestBridge is a program for low-income students to. It was like a channel of like it has connections with a lot of really top tier colleges, including like Yale and Stanford and Princeton Pomona, and lots of other colleges and it’s an expedited process to apply and hear back from these schools.

And it assures that you have four years of college funding. So I apply to through that. And again, it was a really early process. And so I had to turn in all my materials by like late September, early October. And then I found out late October, early November that I had been matched to Princeton. And so once I knew that I just applied to schools that I saw myself being a better fit for.

Again, like I really liked Boston. I really wanted to be within a city, which is not something I necessarily get up and running. Based on that and the professors and opportunities and specifically visitors, which is the the program that they have for pre frosh to go in and meet people.

And you stay with freshmen who are currently there. And after that, I just felt like Harvard was a really really the best fit for me in terms of culture. And I think that was a really important component in my decision. Yeah, so I applied and I got in regular decision and that’s when I went to the program and decided between Princeton and Harvard So moving on to factors that matter the most.

So I touched about it a little bit in the pre in the previous slide, but the programs of study. So I really cared that it was a liberal arts college because even though at the moment when I was applying, I was pre-med I knew I wanted to have not just science classes or classes that like related to my grad school program or where I wanted to go for grad school.

I also looked at the majors and minors. I knew I wanted to do something that maybe wasn’t in the stem sciences, even though a lot of the pre-med rocks would be stem classes. I wanted to meet a major in like history of science or like sociology. This is a major, that’s not at Harvard, but I looked at with like international studies and like something else that could.

Also give me a little bit more of a background in the social sciences and not just the natural sciences. And then study abroad programs. I was really interested in being able to study abroad without having to pay too much. And so I knew that Harvard had really generous study abroad packages.

Also financial aid to, for example, Harvard does it have merit scholarships? The merit scholarship is like actually getting in and then once you get in and they want you, they just want to make sure that financial matters don’t keep you from going through school. And so they ask you to turn in like your FAFSA, your CSS, what you do for all the other colleges and based on that, they pay anything that your parents can’t pay.

So for me, and for most students are harbored, really do have like very generous financial aid packages. I had like within the like 95. Coverage. And so that again was super helpful. I also looked into the location. Like I really, I wasn’t a huge fan of the cold considering I grew up in Miami.

But I did care about having the city. I did care about, experiencing the seasons. So that kind of covered the winter. Again, like all the other pros. And then the weather was not with the one con, but then I also looked at ranking and I think that realistically, a lot of people don’t want to talk about it cause you don’t want to seem oh, I’m just applying to the school because of the ranking.

But the truth is there are any things there for a reason. It doesn’t mean that you might have better opportunities. You might have better professors. You might have professors who were really at the top of the field. You read their papers or like you read papers for classes and then you realize, oh my goodness, this professor is a teacher like at this school.

So that’s something I really cared about. And post-graduate opportunities. So again, I, when I applied, I was pre-med and I was like, it’d be really cool to do research in the medical school or in the nearby hospitals. So those were all, some like things that played a part of my decision, the culture.

Again, I touched on this before, but when I went to visit Taz, I just realized like a lot of the people there were really down to earth. I think a lot of times when you think about realistically, when you think about the IVs, you think oh my goodness am I going to have imposter syndrome? If I don’t come from a certain socioeconomic background that will, I feel out of place, but I just felt.

My personal experience was people were really accepting really down to earth regardless of what their background was. And I really appreciated that. And then extracurriculars, I really love that there was opportunities to walk on a varsity team. So I got a chance to walk on the varsity sailing team, which was really fun.

There was opportunities to like, try all these random, like extracurriculars for like sports, like ice skating and like ice climbing and like all these things I’d never tried before to like working at the IOP. So the IPS, the Institute of politics at the Harvard Kennedy school. So it’s a graduate school, but it has a program for undergraduates to work with.

Congressman would Senator is where with just really prominent public servants who, you wouldn’t really have the, those extracurricular opportunities in other places. And those were all things that really made me choose Harvard, other over other schools. Yeah, so pretty much why did I choose it if it, all those characteristics in the previous slide?

And I really knew I was going to commit to Harvard after coming back from visit us and really hearing about the really great financial aid. I think something that was really interesting for me was I had applied to the university of Miami, which is a private school here in Florida.

And Harvard was so generous in their financial aid that like, it made it so easy to choose them over other schools who even if they had lower ranking still didn’t provide me with as much financial aid. So I would say definitely don’t feel intimidated to apply to these schools because a lot of them like really do help you out financially.

So now Hannah’s gonna set out a poll asking are you planning to come to heart or are planning to apply to Harvard?

Okay. Cool. So moving on. So now I’m going to show you, so I didn’t get a chance to take a lot of like very good videos while I was there of the actual campus, but I got the chance to go back recently to pick up some of the things I left in storage. And so the videos that I took here are during COVID which means like I had to be like some of these buildings I wasn’t actually able to enter because they were closed.

So this is like my best attempt to show you a little bit of the campus. That was like a second home to me too. The first one is the library. So the video is outside of Weidner library, which is to me, the prettiest library that we have, I actually spent more time in Lamont library. So as I have here on this side, The Lamar is really known as like this Vedic library.

Like you go in and you get your coffee and you’re ready to write essays and you just feel inspired because it’s so pretty. It’s like marble. And just, yeah, it really inspires you to work. It has the underground stocks, which yeah, just has a ton of information, a lot of resources. But it closes early.

So the students that go to every rule usually tell you you spend like an all night or hopefully not an all-nighter or not too many all-nighters, but where you actually go to grind and get your work done is Lamont. They have a cafe that closes really late.

And I didn’t take a video of this one cause it’s like the ugly building next to it. But our library is where you can go to really get a lot of inspiration for your classes. I’m just gonna show you the video really quickly. Great. Okay.

Yep. So this is the building and as you can hear, there’s always construction in the yard. So I spent all of freshman year waking up to construction. Yeah, it’s really pretty. You also take senior pictures in front of a wider stops and you also take, I think convocation pictures right before, like your freshman year.

So the library moving on to the dining hall, so freshmen, all E Annenberg and it’s really only open to freshmen, which is like really cool. Yeah. You get to meet only freshmen. And it fosters like a really big first-year community. And then you usually go back there for senior brunch.

It’s like a champagne brunch that you have your senior year, and it’s like a culmination of you come back to like where you started. So you’re not actually allowed there unless there’s also sometimes classes like on the second floor of Annenberg. So I wasn’t able to get a video there, but each house, once you move out from like your freshman dorm into an actual house where you’ll be for the next three years each house has its own gym, it’s a library, it’s own dining hall.

And so when I went back, I was staying with a friend in Elliot house. And so I was personally in Lowell house, but this is a video of the Elliot dining hall again during COVID. So not many people. Once again, oops, sorry. That’s the library again? Okay. And this is Elliot dining hall.

so usually you would see people studying their eating there, but this is what it looks like during COVID. And a lot of times the dining halls are also very your houses hold like formals, or just like some segment of a dance or formal. So that’s Elliot Then moving into the dorm.

So again, I was in little house, but this is a friend’s dorm in Elliot house. There’s lots of different setups depending on how many people are living with you. So for example, my senior year, I was living in a suite with three other girls and we each had our own rooms. So it was like a suite with four rooms in a common area.

This one is two rooms and a bathroom. So ours didn’t even have a bathroom inside the house, but shared a bathroom with like our entire entryway or entire floor. And that differs from like the freshmen dorms, which are all in the yard except for , which is just one that’s like right across the street.

And then another type of like residential set up is the co-op with or off campus residences. And I’ll show you the video for that now. So again, this is Elliot house dorm. So just a quick walkthrough. So these are too bad. Usually during COVID, some people chose to share a room and then have a study in the second room. So you could have a bed here or a study and then you have the bathroom and not shown there is like the sink and like the shower and like other amenities that you would need.

And okay, so the next thing is my favorite place off campus, again, depending on who you ask, this might change, but I really love the Charles Esplanade. So multiple reasons, one it’s really beautiful. Like you’re like running right next to the river. And if it’s a sunny day, like the water is all sparkling and you can go running not in front of harbored, but like further, closest to where MIT is.

There’s also a really great place where you can go sailing and paddle boarding and kayaking. And just do a lot of outdoor events. Like you can have a picnic there you could read. And so personally, like I’m a big outdoors person, so that was my favorite place off campus. Oh, so sorry. Yeah.

The Charles Esplanade is closer to MIT, not in front of Harvard. So you’d have to go down the river. Like you could start at Harvard and you can walk down the river and pass, be you and then get to MIT. And that’s where the Esplanade is. And I’ll shoot a video of that. Oh, sorry. This is actually on campus. The Esplanade and what’s nice is near Boston. So you don’t just see college students, people walking, their dogs, family. There’s tons of swans and it was, I went in the spring, so there’s like cherry blossoms there too. Yeah and this is just like one segment, there’s other places where it’s just full of cherry blossoms.

It’s very pretty. Okay. And then the most beautiful place on campus is E like that same river, but closer to Harvard and they are different because you have one, like the bridge is like where you take, like all your pictures and stuff like that. So a lot of times, like it’s just a place where you form like a lot of really good memories.

You also have the Charles regatta there, the Charles river regatta. And so that’s like a rowing race that passes right in front of the school. And all the sponsors line up on like the river, like literally right in front of the campus. And so you get like a ton of like free food and like perks of just walking through there.

And a lot of people are just like giving, like handing out like free food and free drinks. And then you also have like tens of benches where you can just, again, read it’s a beautiful place to walk to study or to hang out. I played a lot of Spikeball there, which was really fun. So I’ll show you that.

And it honestly doesn’t look too different from the video I just played. So this is right in front of Harvard campus. And as you can see, like that’s Elliot house in the background there in that bell tower and then Winthrop house right behind. So all of that is the actual campus. And the most iconic place on campus. I was really torn between the video of judge John Harvard statue, which is where everybody, goes to take a picture next to you.

It’s right outside university hall, where a lot of like the management have their offices, but also the Harvard Turks. So there’s like turkeys that live on Harvard campus. And so there’s also plenty of people who feel like the mistake, conic places, anywhere where you see like a ton of like turkeys around, just because it’s really odd to just be walking down like a very urban area and then to see turkeys walking by.

But I stayed with the video of the John Harvard statue, which I’ll show you now. So this is a statue and right behind that white building is university hall. And then this is the yard. So this is only the only freshmen live here. This is half of the yard

and I’ll see my best memory. So there is the Barker center is like one of the buildings. There’s a lot of the anthropology classes are in that building and right behind it is a really pretty garden. And so it’s a really pleased, a really pretty place to read or play spike, spike ball, or like Frisbee.

So it was probably like the first place I went to with like friends who just wanted to study outside. And so to me, hopefully someone’s like those like first friends at Harvard memories and a lot of just Yeah. Just like a lot of really sweet times of just chatting with friends. So

this is what it looks like. So this is Barker and this is like the benches where you can read and again, like a place where you can click Spikeball or walk through. And then in this building at the very end, that was one of the when a building gets renovated when, one of the actual, like residential buildings get renovated, you get put in, what’s called the Harvard in, into that building at the end is where, like, when my house was getting renovated, I lived, so I like got a really nice view of the bar Parker center garden behind.

I think that might be. Oh, yep. That’s the last one. Hannah’s gonna send out another pool just asking you where you are in the application process. So we’ll just give you a minute to fill that out.

Okay, cool. What’s my favorite thing about Harvard. And so I would definitely say the people. So I met some of the most amazing students and professors at Harvard. I see that because I just feel like I am, it really opened up my mind about just people coming from so many different cultures, so many different yeah, ethnic.

Socioeconomic just experientials like backgrounds, people who had gone through, there’s people in my first year who had started school at 24 years old. And so that was like a big difference from like an 18 year old. And so like just getting to meet people who are in lots of different walks of life and have been through lots of different experiences was really cool.

I think anyone probably most people would agree that like the best part of college is like those late night chats over like discussions that you learn in class or just over life. I feel like. The period of time in which you’re going to college. You’re just learning a lot of new things.

And so it’s really cool to do that with people and to have yeah, really good support system, whether it’s professors who really give you a lot of context and background over new material that you’re learning or friends who help you process that I would say also just the campus. I love that I could walk everywhere.

Like I could choose to get coffee, like right across the street, or if I want to go on a nice walk, I could literally just go get coffee, like a mile down. Whereas again, there’s some cities where you need to drive everywhere and it’s not really pedestrian. Yeah, it’s not really helpful for pedestrians.

And so I really enjoyed that. There was tons of people who were biking or skateboarding or even rollerblading. And I just, I really liked that the closeness of Boston, which was really great, cause there was times where I just wanted to go into the city and I wanted to try different restaurants and meet people from different universities, go to a sports game or a concert and having the city so close where I could literally just take public transportation for 20 minutes and get there, or even walk if I wanted to.

It was really great. So I touched about like the restaurants again, really great food. The architecture, I felt like again, like coming from Miami, it’s a lot of like art deco, like very different architecture and like the Northeastern architecture is just very colonial. I really, I just thought it was really cool.

There’s also another thing I really enjoyed was an emphasis on like analytical thinking regardless of your major. So I thought that I had to like major in like sociology or like a natural a social science in order to get a more comprehensive background of why is the science of something important?

But what I noticed is even in like my very stem classes, there were so much emphasis on okay, we’re not just memorizing material. We’re understanding how systems work. We’re understanding. Why is this important in society? What is the history behind something? And so all that context really helps you to like, have more of an analytical mind to answer things that are related to the science.

But for example, When I was studying like evolutionary biology, like understanding a little bit more about like the ethics behind it. Like people’s different, like religious backgrounds when they talk about like biology. And those are a lot of things I wasn’t expecting to take, to see in a very science based class.

And again, I think Harvard does a really good job of making sure you don’t come out just with technical knowledge, but really with a good cultural and like analytical understanding of the materials that you are taking in class. And then I mentioned this a little bit at the beginning, but opportunities both in academic and extracurricular.

So that’s again, referring to the types of classes you can take. There’s such a broad range. Also with professors who are really, again, top of their field, like you’re reading their books, which is like sometimes, like I took a class in like medical anthropology with Arthur climate and he like was the person who.

Made up that whole section like that whole field, like he devolved it. And so it was really cool to take a class with someone who like develop the field that people study in like universities across the world now. So I think that was really cool. Again with extracurriculars, from sports to arts, to yo-yo ma literally like stays on like Harvard campus.

All the time comes by with like his silk road ensemble and like just performs there for fun. Like you can go meet him and like things that like, even if you’re not really into a particular field or like extracurricular, if you wanted to like, learn from like really prestigious people in that field, like they’re just around, which is really crazy to think about.

So that was another, like really favorite favorite thing. Harvard for me my least favorite thing. I think it was honestly, I think everyone struggles with this in some way or another, but it’s really easy to feel imposter syndrome because you realize. The people that like her rooted London, like you feel like, wow, I’m like, so like average compared to some of the people that I met were like, like world-class like figure skaters that are just like at college, like actors, like people who just had non-profits that were like international nonprofits.

And you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m 18. I am surrounded by people who seem to like, have had so much more like success in their lifetime, but they’re the same age as me. And then you realize okay, look there, there’s some people who have been very successful and had like really great opportunities in the past.

But then you realize there are so many things that you are learning contributing to. The university and like you everyone’s on the same boat where even those people here feel imposter syndrome because they feel like, they got accepted because of an accolade or like something like that.

So I feel like to one degree or another, regardless of what your status is or your like past successes, you always feel like you don’t belong for like a period of time until you realize Hey, like Harvard accepted me because they saw potential in me. And even deeper than that, like believing in like your own potential.

And so I think that’s just a process that everyone goes through maybe your freshman year, maybe later down the line. But I think it’s like a really important character building process. I think another thing One of my least favorite things. And I know Harvard is continuously like working on this, but they need to continue working on like social and economic equity program.

So you have, again a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds of the students coming into Harvard. Like some people are painful, full tuition and are able to do and then you’re mixing them with people who are coming from a background where they like contribute to their families, like financially who need jobs in order to continue helping their families.

And so there’s a wide range of Opportunities for people to feel like they’re on the same page, but there’s also like a nuance of knowing Hey, like my roommate could be literally going to Portugal next weekend, just for fun. And I like have to stay and work at the library to contribute to like my family.

And so I think Harvard’s trying to figure out like an equal playing field of experiences for people, regardless of what their socioeconomic background is. Again, with the travel abroad, like financial aid programs, you have opportunities to not cut back on like your own finance, your own finances or your family’s finances, and still Harvard will pay for you to experience some things that maybe people who have these financial resources already available would be able to at any time.

I think one example of like how Harvard is doing that wasn’t there like my freshman year, but is now part of yeah, again, like their strategy is a yearbook can sometimes be really expensive at Harvard and there was like no financial aid for it. So I think like Harvard is trying to figure out ways that they can really support people having the same experiences.

Like some low-income students were able to afford the yearbooks, so they weren’t getting a yearbook. But now there’s like a financial aid process. So I think that’s another example of Harvard students better, but again, there is a lot of room for improvement. And I see that, I think this is true of all the Ivy leagues.

And this is just again, more of a logistical slide. This gives like a broad overview of the stats from last year of students who got admitted last year. So this is pre COVID. So just notice like some of these are skewed. So the average GPA unweighted is about 3.9. The average act scores are between 33 and 35.

And the average sat is 1470 to 1570. And the application for need-based financial aid usually goes through, I doc, and it’s the CSS profile or the. The FAFSA being for us citizens only. And I think sometimes this slide can give students in anxiety because they feel like if I don’t have this and I’m not getting in, but the key word here is average stats.

I know plenty of people, like plenty of people who went to Harvard who have lower stops than this and people who had higher stats than this in high school who were not accepted. So I think something that’s really important to contextualize this is your essays are really important. Like you can also like understanding the way the admissions officers think when they’re bringing students in, is they really care about like your stats.

Aren’t just numbers that like, if you don’t hit, then you don’t get in. Like they do think about the stats are important because Harvard is a rigorous academic environment and they don’t want you to fail or feel like you’re failing they’re they want you to thrive and soup. If you’re, if you don’t have a rigorous academic background, it’s difficult for them to really predict Hey, this person is someone who’s going to thrive here at Harvard.

A second thing is you are really, when you’re applying within a cohort, like a pool of people. And again, like you might have really great stats, but if you’re applying as say, like under pre-med or under music, and in that particular cohort, there’s just a ton of people who are applying under the pre-med narrative.

You might have a lower chance of getting in, even if you have these stats. So I think, again, this is like something to consider, but there’s so much more at play, including your essays, your background, your cohort of people who you’re applying with, who honestly like you have no control over and just the admissions officers that you get.

So again, we show this here to give one more thing to consider, but don’t like, feel like if you don’t have this, like you’re not getting in. So that is all for me. So Hannah take. Hi guys. So that’s the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful and remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab, moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them in the public chat.

So you can see and then read them out loud before our panelists gives you an answer as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not the webinar landing page. So our first question is I recently moved to America and my GPA.

Isn’t great. How can I make my application strong?

You’re muted. Thank you. Yeah, so I think that’s a really good question. If you’re like an international student and you feel like your GPA, isn’t great. I think they also depends on what year you’re in to really make a process for how you can improve your your application as a whole.

So for example, if you are like a freshmen, sophomore, you might have more summers where, and more like just semester. To increase your GPA and you might have more summers to build out extra programs that you can say Hey maybe I don’t have the best GPA, but I have a ton of experience working in like a certain field or interning in a certain field or like volunteering, which all helps to add up if you are a current junior I’m guessing seniors probably aren’t watching this because decisions already came out.

But if you’re a junior, you still have a whole summer ahead of you, which again, like you can use to really develop the narrative of I have experience in a certain field that I’m applying under. So that’s really helpful. Or like you can use that summer for community service for GPA. Like I would say just try to really focus on trying to increase it.

Like I think if you have a low GPA, when you get like good grades, it’s like marginal like increase it’s much higher than if you have good grades and then you get like a bad grade. There’s just sometimes can be really big jumps if you are like very low in, like you get a good grade. And so I would say don’t don’t feel like, you’re applying with this and it’s over you still have one the end of this semester.

And one more semester of you’re applying regular decision. I will, I would also say that you have the opportunity to potentially take dual enrollment classes over the summer, which can also help boost your GPA. Apart from that also just really preparing your essays. Like I said, I know plenty of people who did not have.

Like the GPA or the standardized test scores that we had in the previous slide, but had just really great essays that like show that this person is someone who, maybe had a tough time in high school. But again, like the whole point is to show admissions officers that you can really flourish a Harvard and that they’re not letting someone in who like might feel like really bad about like their progress at Harvard.

Like it helps both you and the admissions officer to know, like you were prepared to, find it maybe a little bit difficult, but not being feel like, you have to drop out or something. So I think those are a couple examples. The answer to that question, depending on what year you’re in, and also just an over overall perspective on how to think about this.

Our next question is if my high school doesn’t offer many APS or honors courses, will I be disadvantaged in the application process? Yeah. Not at all. I think honestly. So yes and no, the small yes. Would be like, maybe you don’t have the opportunity to learn about like certain things that you learn in like AP classes.

Like very honestly, like my high school didn’t have AP sciences, they didn’t have AP biology or AP chemistry. And I felt like my first year, when I was trying to take like Harvard, like biology and Harvard chemistry, it was a bigger learning curve for me and, or a steeper learning curve for me. But that didn’t disadvantage me from like actually getting into the school.

So the big note here is like Harvard really, that admissions officers really care about. Looking at you holistic like your application very holistically. So they’re not going to compare you with someone who like had a high school that offered dual enrollment, AP. They’re really gonna see based on the opportunities you had available, were you someone who took the initiative to challenge themselves?

And even so after I got into Harvard, I like looked at my admissions file and that was something that was listed there, based on what was available for me, did I take rigorous coursework? Did I challenge myself again, based on what was available? The like short answer to that is you won’t be compared to somebody else who had more like academically rigorous opportunities.

Our next question is what are extracurricular? Oh, sorry. What are extracurricular activities that might help your chances of getting into the university? Yeah, so I actually get that question a lot. It’s really not, I don’t think that there’s one extracurricular or like field of extracurriculars that help you get in more it’s not if you have a job, then you get in easier than if you did research or if you played a sport, I think it really depends.

One thing that I do think really helps is community service. So that is an extracurricular that I think is always helpful because they, I think Harvard and a lot of the Ivy leagues just really care about you. Like using the skills that you have to help other people. And their whole purpose is to educate future leaders and future like change makers.

And so if you’re showing that even in high school, like you’re using what you know, to help people, that’s really helpful that, so that’s the one big thing that I would say regardless of what field you’re interested in doing community services and extracurricular is super important. I think apart from that, whether it’s the arts, whether it’s like visual arts, performing arts, Written like anything in the arts, anything in sports, anything in academic extracurriculars.

So if you’re part of like different clubs, different like Quizbowl or anything like that, like they don’t prioritize one over the other. They just really care about was this person someone who was committed to something like, did they develop. Did they go up in the ranks and have some leadership positions, did they like, just like hop around from different clubs or did they really rooted themselves in something that they were passionate about?

Also in your essays, like that’s where you really see like the weight of extracurriculars, because in part of your common app, you’ll get to list them and you’ll have a short description where you can like, explain why that extra color extracurricular was important to you. But it’s really in the essays that you can talk about like the impact that extracurriculars had over your life, the passion that you had to like, even be part of those, how you helped other people through those.

So again, that’s the long-winded answer. The short answer is like, it doesn’t really matter which one, as long as you can prove that you’re passionate about it, that you’re going to use it to help other people. And that you’re someone who is like interested in community service for the sake of like again, using your skills to help them.

Okay, our next question is, does Harvard prefer a spike in extracurriculars, such as developing an app, having an internship and writing a research paper, or a well-rounded such as doing extracurriculars in a bunch of topics in different majors? Yeah. So that’s a really interesting question. I think I fall into the second one.

Like I did I dabbled in like music and sports and a nonprofit, like I did a lot of things and wasn’t really didn’t have just like one area that I felt like I was like, a quote unquote, like expert in, or like super passionate about. So I was definitely more of the Jack of all trades master of none.

Whereas I feel like some of my other friends were like really good at a sport or really amazing like music or like journalists, again, like very specific fields. And so I think that the best answer to this comes from like actually being at Harvard and like seeing the people who got in, like everyone who applied had a different story.

There were several people like me who like, had extracurriculars in lots of different fields, but had some level, again, like some level of impact. Like again, it can’t just be like, for three weeks, I like try to learn violin. And then for a year I like swam or like kind of things that don’t have a lot of, if you can’t prove that it has like depth and had meaning.

It’s really, I think that’s like the hard part. I think that as long as you can show that whether it’s one field or multiple fields, but you were again, like deeply rooted or. We’re passionate about them or made a change. Like that’s what matters. And again, I think what might give you a lot of like breathing spaces?

Once I got into Harvard, there was people who again, had either really big focus on one area or were like, dabbling, not that, but had some proficiency in like several different areas. I would say that you run the risk if you are trying to be, well-rounded, but for the purpose of just doing a lot of things to show that you’re well-rounded, you do run the risk of seeming you’re not really developing a lot of roots in one area.

So I would say, really think about what you’re passionate about. And if it turns out that like me, you’re passionate about like sports and music and like community service, and those are your three things. That shows like some will run in it and like really like dive into those. If it’s more than that, again, try to dive into each of those.

But if it goes to be like 6, 7, 8 things, and you realize you don’t have the time or effort to like really show that, like you care about those things or you can make an impact, I would suggest on cutting down and really focusing on like the main, like five or less that you’re interested in.

Okay. Our next question is my high school has told us students that it isn’t necessary to take the sat or act because colleges won’t be looking at the scores this year. Would it still be recommended to take them to apply? Yeah, absolutely. So I think that is one of the things that if I was a student, I would be so relieved to hear if I’m like, okay, like schools don’t even care about the sat act like that sounds so good.

But the truth is. What they’re doing is they’re wrecking. Like all of these colleges are recognizing some students literally can’t take them. Like the centers around them are closed. They like have a loved one. That’s died from COVID and they literally can’t take care of right now. And so that the fact that now it’s optional for some colleges is not because they are not looking at it.

It’s because they want to try to provide the space for people who really have like extreme circumstances and can’t take it. But I think all around, whether you’re talking to admissions officers or advising or advisors in college advising or any other company, what we’re trying to like really remind students is that anytime optional, it means that there’s going to be a lot of other people who do take those exams, who do.

Prep for those. And so you’d be competing against them. And so again, if you have a, in hypothetical, like the same exact application, but someone shows that like they could do really well on a standardized test, that person might have the upper hand. And so if you’re taking them and you’re just, you’re not like doing like really well and try to be realistic about am I really bombing that?

Or really just not going to be on like the bubble of like acceptable then okay, maybe don’t turn those in. But I would say at least try with the genuine pursue of trying to like Excel at these tasks because there will be people who take them and who do Excel at them and you’d be competing against them for a spot.

Okay. We’re going to take a brief break and I wanted to tell you about tell you in case you wanted to work one-on-one with an advisor from our team. There’s over 150 advisors and admissions officers. And so if you would like to work with one of us, please sign up for free consultation with us, by going to college advisor.com and clicking the green chat button in the bottom, right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and a live team member will get back to you to help you coordinate your free consultation with us.

Okay. Back to the Q and a. Our next question is how important is it to be a president slash founder slash captain of a club or team? Yeah, so that’s a really good question. I think that it’s really helpful. I know several people who weren’t, but I would like to be super truthful. And again, this is like a small N considering this is just the people I know, but the majority of the people I knew at Harvard had been.

In some leaders, leadership position, this doesn’t like, it doesn’t mean that you had to be like a founder, like you started something completely new, but it does mean like you rose up to the ranks to be like some sort of executive leaders. So that could have been like, again, like maybe not president, but like leader of a department in a club or like treasure or like something that shows that you had, you were in like a management position and in, in a leadership position again, the purpose is not just it checks off a box.

The purpose is like admissions officers are thinking, okay, this student was in a leadership position where they were responsible for other people. And that’s what they’re really looking at. It’s not the title. So sometimes people are like, okay, I wasn’t like technically a president or like officially some like leadership position.

But sometimes you realize like I was not an official leader, but I. For example, like I have a student who like literally manage like a lot of the technical things at like her church. And she was like, I don’t really have a lot of experience with I’ve never been a leader in a club or anything, but yet she was managing like the technical team of her church and she didn’t recognize that as a leadership position.

And so I think that it’s really important for you to look back at your experiences and figure out with your admissions officer, how can you really play the strengths of a leadership position, even if it’s an informal one or one that wasn’t like part of an official club. Because again, what you want to demonstrate is the character of a leader.

Not necessarily just check off a box for like leadership in a club.

All right. Our next question is what are Harvard’s core requirements? And can I test out of classes if I’ve taken them as an AP class? Yeah. Core requirements it’s changed. I changed my lot. The last year I was there because it’s a liberal arts college, which means that you have to take a certain core curriculum.

That includes even if you’re like taking the most like humanities, like very social, like classes, you still have to take at least one like empirical cloth. So like a math or like a science. And like there, Harvard does cater like some classes to be like, you’re maybe you’re not learning like physics and like chemistry and stuff.

Maybe it’s like the science of cooking or like something that includes some type of like empirical aspects in the curriculum of the class. But again, like maybe is more catered towards people who aren’t big on science and that’s vice versa. Maybe you’re really into like sciences.

And like you realize in your core curriculum, you do have to. A class on ethics and the whole purpose again, is because when you come out of Harvard, the people making the curriculum wants you to be a well-rounded person who doesn’t just know about one field. So I would say, look at the Harvard website and look at the specific core curriculum component.

I already do know that it’s like very well-rounded in that you’ll have things related to like ethics and social sciences, and then you’ll have some things that are more like empirical. So I would look into that and depending on what professors are available, cause somewhere like on sabbatical or like maybe not teaching a class in particular semester you’ll find classes that fit into those core curriculums.

And then once you have your core curriculum done, really you just have to take, depending on what major you have to take a certain number of classes that fall into that major. And there’s a ton of majors and minors are Harvard. So each one has like its own requirements. So I think that’s like as broadly as I can go But again, the website just has a lot of information into this, the specifics.

And then the second part of that question was I think you meant, I think in the first part of the question was like, what was, what are some of the core requirements? And then there’s like a second part, sorry, Hannah. Oh yeah, it was. Can I test out of classes if I’ve taken them as APS? Yeah. So usually you can it, if you, yeah, like there used to be a program called advanced standing, which is, if you had a certain number of APS covering like a variety of different like topics you could do Harvard in three years instead of four, which again, do not advise everyone who I know did that regretted it.

And that it was an extra year at Harvard. Like you want to go to Harvard, like not just to go in and get out and get your degree, like being at Harvard was awesome. And intentionally taking out a year just to finish early in my view. And from what I’ve heard, people who did it, like defeats the purpose cause you’re not going to have that same experience taking an AP class in high school as you are in like college.

By what you can do is because you’ve taken an AP, it usually means you’ve had a very rigorous background in a specific topic, which means you might be more prepared to take a higher level class. And so that was true. So all a specific example is at Harvard, there’s two main like introductory science classes.

There’s LPC and Ellis one a and Ellis when a just goes like. Much faster and covers a lot of different breadth of topics that you weren’t able to cover in the first one in LPSC. And that usually was geared for people who had taken AP bio or AP chem, because again, like they were able to move through the material quicker and it meant like they got to cover a lot of really cool things that for me, who I didn’t take AP bio or chem, like I chose to take LPC, I know one’s slower, but I feel like I had a much better foundation because I took that class and just seeing all this one a and like trying to be on the same track as people who had just taken a really rigorous science AP.

Our next question is, are my chances lower if I’m out of state? If I don’t live in Boston I don’t think so. Every school does have a certain like certain number of like spots that they do want to be like considered of people paying like Massachusetts. Taxes and like people who are like living in Massachusetts should have an opportunity to go to schools in their area.

I think that is true of any state. I think it’s more true of public universities that actually use those taxes than private universities. But I think that there is like a, an underlying sentiment of there should be spots available for people from Massachusetts. And I do think that Massachusetts does a really good job of prepping students for Ivy leagues because probably like Harvard and MIT are there.

And so even if it wasn’t the case that there was spots there, like there is a lot of competition coming from Massachusetts. But I was from a different state and like I knew like the majority of people there are definitely coming from different states just by virtue of the applicant pools, like very diverse, there’s tons of people coming from like international places.

Or like again yeah, international, so like different countries, but What I would specify there is if you’re coming from like outside of the U S there is a lot of like overlap maybe in like the way you would apply to other schools, but at Harvard specifically, like they do want to make sure that the prep that you’ve had in your home country, again, will allow you to be successful at their school.

And so they’re really looking at the curriculum of the high school that you’re coming from. So I think that’s something that’s really specific when they’re looking at international students, because like it coming from anywhere in the world just offers a bigger range of possible curriculum. So they just want to make sure that it’s something that will again, enable you to be successful once you get into Harvard.

Okay. Our next question is what are some essay do? And don’ts I would say like a big one is don’t use a ton of language that like, like all these big sat, vocabulary words that make you sound like you’re like. Really like smart. And there were a lot of words, but if it’s hard to read, like the admissions officers are like humans and imagine having to read like a paper where there’s, that the person’s just trying so hard to fit as many vocabulary words.

It’s just like distracting and can take away from may potentially a really good point in your essay. So make sure that you’re demonstrating that you’re proficient and that you can articulate on your story. But make sure you’re also not like coming off, like pretentious or like you just found it, for every word in your essay, you like went on Google and try to look for synonyms that like made the word sound like more elaborate, which definitely has happened.

Maybe like you could do that for a couple words. If you really wanted to like, bring up the vocabulary, but don’t do that for the entire essay. Another one would be like you don’t want to like, go. Like definitely it varies like a big moment in your life that was like, like potentially like very sad or just actually like a specific example of a death in the family that really could change like a perspective or like something, but like you went on a trip and like you like, or you lived abroad and you like experience something that was like really difficult, make sure that when you’re writing about that, you don’t come off as I’m just playing the card of I went through something really rough, make sure that you’re really developing a story of like, why was this really, like, why did this really impact me?

Like there’s plenty of people who will talk about something and it comes off more as Know, a bit of a sob again, to be put like bluntly, like a bit of a soft story instead of wow, this is something really difficult that happened in my life. And this is why it was difficult.

And this is how I changed because of it. And having it be more of like a story of this wasn’t easy, but like an empowering story for who you are. Then really just let me tell you something really difficult and just like leave it on the paper like that, which I’ve heard is like something that like, can sometimes be really common.

Another one is the and this can be for any ethnicity, just the way it’s labeled in like literature it’s called like white saviorism. So a lot of people who like go on a short-term missions trip and felt like they did this huge, like big, impactful change, but they really like just went to like a third world country for a week or two.

And that happens all the time and it comes off. It’s this person. Obviously didn’t have the time as a high school student to dive into what are the like power dynamics here? What is like the culture that I’m coming into? What are ways that I can empower the people that I’m trying to help and not just go in paint, paint houses, or build houses again, like really good community service, like really good intentions, but you don’t want to come off as I went somewhere.

I did good. And I came back and now I feel like I’m a new person. Like you want to really, in any scenario, this is just one specific example. But in any scenario you want to really think about like, how did something truly impact me and not just what sounds like a Hollywood kind of like narrative.

So I would say those are three suggestions. Those are all very good suggestions. Okay. So our last question is how is Harvard different from the other IVs and other schools? Yeah. So I’m really biased here, obviously. Cause like I went to Harvard, I loved Harvard. I thought that one big difference was just okay.

I think I’ll preface this with, because I didn’t go to other schools. I don’t know what the breadth of opportunities where other schools. And so maybe somebody who went to like different school would be like, no, your answers are like just the same as mine, but I really loved, again, like you had people who were like the top of their fields, as your professors, which again, I don’t know how other Ivy leagues are in there’s definitely top of their field professors and like most of the other Ivy leagues, but I felt like Harvard because it’s such an international name.

And like the ranking is so high, just tended to attract a lot more people, even if it was just for the prestige, whatever the reason was like, I felt like there was a big community of like world leaders there. So again, the Harvard name, to be honest, just opens a lot of doors. I think when I was looking at Princeton, like it had a better ranking when it came to the medical sciences and but my family’s originally from Columbia, but like my family in Columbia did not know like what Princeton was, even though it was an amazing school and brings better than Harvard and other aspects, but everybody knows Harvard.

And so again, like it just opens a lot of doors. I think another thing was just I felt like people were really down to earth. At some other IVs I’ve heard that just the way the social structure is whether it’s like Greek life or anything else, it just felt like there was a lot more like it was a lot more clique-ish.

Whereas I didn’t experience that a time at Harvard. Maybe another one would be the focus on study abroad. I think it’s really emphasized at Harvard to study abroad. And lastly, I would say the city I don’t think any of the other IVs, Columbia is like in a city, it’s like in New York city, but I felt like it was way too ingrained in the city.

Like I felt like Harvard was a really great balance of like you have your campus. You don’t feel like your building is like in between a lot of like other just like random office buildings. But so I felt like on a spectrum from Cornell, which is like very much in the middle of not much like urban areas to like Columbia, which was like right smack down in the middle of the city, like Harvard was a great balance of having a nice campus where you’re also surrounded by other urban life.

Awesome. Okay. So this is the end of the webinar. Thank you everyone so much for coming. This is the rest of our our virtual call college tours series for the rest of may and Maria. Thank you so much for presenting for sure. Thank you so much.