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How to Write the Harvard University Essays 2023-2024
Harvard University, perhaps the most prestigious and well-known institution in the world, is the nation’s oldest higher learning establishment with a founding date of 1636. Boasting an impressive alumni network from Sheryl Sandberg to Al Gore, it’s no surprise that Harvard recruits some of the top talents in the world.
It’s no wonder that students are often intimidated by Harvard’s extremely open-ended supplemental essays. However, CollegeVine is here to help and offer our guide on how to tackle Harvard’s supplemental essays.
Read this Harvard essay example to inspire your own writing.
How to Write the Harvard University Supplemental Essays
Prompt 1: Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard? (200 words)
Prompt 2: Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you. (200 words)
Prompt 3: Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are. (200 words)
Prompt 4: How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future? (200 words)
Prompt 5: Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you. (200 words)
Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard? (200 words)
Brainstorming Your Topic
This prompt is a great example of the classic diversity supplemental essay . That means that, as you prepare to write your response, the first thing you need to do is focus in on some aspect of your identity, upbringing, or personality that makes you different from other people.
As you start brainstorming, do remember that the way colleges factor race into their admissions processes will be different this year, after the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in June. Colleges can still consider race on an individual level, however, so if you would like to write your response about how your racial identity has impacted you, you are welcome to do so.
If race doesn’t seem like the right topic for you, however, keep in mind that there are many other things that can make us different, not just race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and the other aspects of our identities that people normally think of when they hear the word “diversity.” That’s not to say that you can’t write about those things, of course. But don’t worry if you don’t feel like those things have played a significant role in shaping your worldview. Here are some examples of other topics that could support a strong essay:
- Moving to several different cities because of your parents’ jobs
- An usual hobby, like playing the accordion or making your own jewelry
- Knowing a lot about a niche topic, like Scottish castles
The only questions you really need to ask yourself when picking a topic are “Does this thing set me apart from other people?” and “Will knowing this thing about me give someone a better sense of who I am overall?” As long as you can answer “yes” to both of those questions, you’ve found your topic!
Tips for Writing Your Essay
Once you’ve selected a topic, the question becomes how you’re going to write about that topic in a way that helps Harvard admissions officers better understand how you’re going to contribute to their campus community. To do that, you want to connect your topic to some broader feature of your personality, or to a meaningful lesson you learned, that speaks to your potential as a Harvard student.
For example, perhaps your interest in Scottish castles has given you an appreciation for the strength of the human spirit, as the Scots were able to persevere and build these structures even in incredibly remote, cold parts of the country. Alternatively, maybe being half Puerto Rican, but not speaking Spanish, has taught you about the power of family, as you have strong relationships even with relatives you can’t communicate with verbally.
Remember that, like with any college essay, you want to rely on specific anecdotes and experiences to illustrate the points you’re making. To understand why, compare the following two excerpts from hypothetical essays.
Example 1: “Even though I can’t speak Spanish, and some of my relatives can’t speak English, whenever I visit my family in Puerto Rico I know it’s a place where I belong. The island is beautiful, and I especially love going to the annual party at my uncle’s house.”
Example 2: “The smell of the ‘lechón,’ or suckling pig greets me as soon as I enter my uncle’s home, even before everyone rushes in from the porch to welcome me in rapid-fire Spanish. At best, I understand one in every ten words, but my aunt’s hot pink glasses, the Caribbean Sea visible through the living room window, and of course, the smell of roasting pork, tell me, wordlessly yet undeniably, that I’m home.”
Think about how much better we understand this student after Example 2. If a few words were swapped out, Example 1 could’ve been written by anyone, whereas Example 2 paints us a clear picture of how this student’s Puerto Rican heritage has tangibly impacted their life.
Mistakes to Avoid
The biggest challenge with this particular “Diversity” essay is the word count. Because you only have 200 words to work with, you don’t have space to include more than one broader takeaway you’ve learned from this aspect of your identity.
Of course, people are complicated, and you’ve likely learned many things from being Puerto Rican, or from being interested in Scottish castles. But for the sake of cohesion, focus on just one lesson. Otherwise your essay may end up feeling like a bullet-point list of Hallmark card messages, rather than a thoughtful, personal, reflective piece of writing.
The other thing you want to avoid is writing an essay that’s just about your topic. Particularly since you’re going to be writing about an aspect of your identity that’s important to you, you’ll likely have a lot to say just about that. If you aren’t careful, you may burn through all 200 words without getting to the broader significance of what this piece of your personality says about who you are as a whole.
That component, however, is really the key to a strong response. Harvard receives over 40,000 applications a year, which means that, whether you write about being Puerto Rican or Scottish castles, it’s likely someone else is writing about something similar.
That doesn’t mean you need to agonize over picking something absolutely nobody else is writing about, as that’s practically impossible. All it means is that you need to be clear about how this aspect of your identity has shaped you as a whole, as that is how your essay will stand out from others with similar topics.
Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you. (200 words)
Harvard admissions officers are being considerate here, as they’re telling you explicitly what they would like you to write about. Of course, there are still nuances to the prompt, but in terms of brainstorming, just ask yourself: What is an intellectual experience that’s been important to me?
Keep in mind that “intellectual” doesn’t necessarily mean “academic.” You absolutely can write a great response about a paper, project, or some other experience you had through school. But you could also write about attending a performance by the Berlin Philharmonic, or about a book you read for fun that made a big impact on you. So long as the experience was intellectually stimulating, you can write a strong essay about it.
Once you’ve picked an experience, the key is to describe it in a way that shows Harvard admissions officers how this experience has prepared you to contribute to their classrooms, and campus community as a whole. In other words, don’t just tell them what you did, but also what you learned and why that matters for understanding what kind of college student you’ll be.
For example, say you choose to write about a debate project you did in your American history class, where you had to prepare for both sides and only learned which one you would actually be defending on the day of the debate. You could describe how, although you came into the project with pre-existing opinions about the topic, the preparation process taught you that, if you’re thoughtful and open-minded, you can usually find merit and logic even in the polar opposite position from your own.
Alternatively, you could write about a book you read that had been translated from Danish, and how reading it got you interested in learning more about how to translate a text as faithfully as possible. After watching many interviews with translators and reading a book about translation, you have learned that sometimes, the most literal translation doesn’t capture the spirit from the original language, which to you is proof that, in any piece of writing, the human element is at least as important as the words on the page.
Notice that both of these examples include broader reflections that zoom out from the particular experiences, to show what you took away from them: increased open-mindedness to different perspectives, for the first, and a more nuanced understanding of what makes art, art, in the case of the second.
A strong response must include this kind of big-picture takeaway, as it shows readers two things. First, that you can reflect thoughtfully on your experiences and learn from them. And second, it shows them a skill or perspective you’d be bringing with you to Harvard, which gives them a better sense of how you’d fit into their campus community.
The only real thing you need to watch out for is accidentally selecting an experience that, for whatever reason, doesn’t allow you to incorporate the kind of bigger-picture takeaway described above. Maybe the experience just happened, so you’re still in the process of learning from it. Or maybe the lessons you learned are too nuanced to describe in 200 words.
Whatever this reason, if you find yourself unable to articulate the broader significance of this experience, head back to the drawing board, to select one that works better for this prompt. What you don’t want to do is try to force in a takeaway that doesn’t really fit, as that will make your essay feel generic or disjointed, since the “moral of the story” won’t clearly connect to the story itself.
Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are. (200 words)
This is a textbook example of the “Extracurricular” essay . As such, what you need to do is well-defined, although it’s easier said than done: select an extracurricular activity that has, as Harvard says, “shaped who you are,” and make sure you’re able to articulate how it’s been formative for you.
As you brainstorm which extracurricular you want to write about, note that the language of the prompt is pretty open-ended. You write about “any” activity, not just one you have a lot of accolades in, and you don’t even have to write about an activity—you can also write about a travel experience, or family responsibility.
If the thing that immediately jumps to mind is a club, sport, volunteer experience, or other “traditional” extracurricular, that’s great! Run with that. But if you’re thinking and nothing in that vein seems quite right, or, alternatively, you’re feeling bold and want to take a creative approach, don’t be afraid to get outside the box. Here are some examples of other topics you could write a strong essay about:
- A more hobby-like extracurricular, like crocheting potholders and selling them on Etsy
- Driving the Pacific Coast Highway on your own
- Caring for your family’s two large, colorful macaws
These more creative topics can do a lot to showcase a different side of you, as college applications have, by their nature, a pretty restricted scope, and telling admissions officers about something that would never appear on your resume or transcript can teach them a lot about who you are. That being said, the most important thing is that the topic you pick has genuinely been formative for you. Whether it’s a conventional topic or not, as long as that personal connection is there, you’ll be able to write a strong essay about it.
The key to writing a strong response is focusing less on the activity itself, and more on what you’ve learned from your involvement in it. If you’re writing about a more conventional topic, remember that admissions officers already have your activities list. You don’t need to say “For the last five years, I’ve been involved in x,” because they already know that, and when you only have 200 words, wasting even 10 of them means you’ve wasted 5% of your space.
If you’re writing about something that doesn’t already show up elsewhere in your application, you want to provide enough details for your reader to understand what you did, but not more than that. For example, if you’re writing about your road trip, you don’t need to list every city you stopped in. Instead, just mention one or two that were particularly memorable.
Rather than focusing on the facts and figures of what you did, focus on what you learned from your experience. Admissions officers want to know why your involvement in this thing matters to who you’ll be in college. So, think about one or two bigger picture things you learned from it, and center your response around those things.
For example, maybe your Etsy shop taught you how easy it is to bring some positivity into someone else’s life, as crocheting is something you would do anyways, and the shop just allows you to share your creations with other people. Showcasing this uplifting, altruistic side of yourself will help admissions officers better envision what kind of Harvard student you’d be.
As always, you want to use specific examples to support your points, at least as much as you can in 200 words. Because you’re dealing with a low word count, you probably won’t have space to flex your creative writing muscles with vivid, immersive descriptions.
You can still incorporate anecdotes in a more economical way, however. For example, you could say “Every morning, our scarlet macaw ruffles her feathers and greets me with a prehistoric chirp.” You’re not going into detail about what her feathers look like, or where this scene is happening, but it’s still much more engaging than something like “My bird always says hello to me in her own way.”
The most common pitfall with an “Extracurricular” essay is describing your topic the way you would on your resume. Don’t worry about showing off some “marketable skill” you think admissions officers want to see, and instead highlight whatever it is you actually took away from this experience, whether it’s a skill, a realization, or a personality trait. The best college essays are genuine, as admissions officers feel that honesty, and know they’re truly getting to know the applicant as they are, rather than some polished-up version.
Additionally, keep in mind that, like with anything in your application, you want admissions officers to learn something new about you when reading this essay. So, if you’ve already written your common app essay about volunteering at your local animal shelter, you shouldn’t also write this essay about that experience. Your space in your application is already extremely limited, so don’t voluntarily limit yourself even further by repeating yourself when you’re given an opportunity to say something new.
How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future? (200 words)
Although the packaging is a little different, this prompt has similarities to the classic “Why This College?” prompt . That means there are two main things you want to do while brainstorming.
First, identify one or two goals you have for the future—with just 200 words, you won’t have space to elaborate on any more than that. Ideally, these should be relatively concrete. You don’t have to have your whole life mapped out, but you do need to be a lot more specific than “Make a difference in the world.” A more zoomed-in version of that goal would be something like “Contribute to conservation efforts to help save endangered species,” which would work.
Second, hop onto Harvard’s website and do some research on opportunities the school offers that would help you reach your goals. Again, make sure these are specific enough. Rather than a particular major, which is likely offered at plenty of other schools around the country, identify specific courses within that major you would like to take, or a professor in the department you would like to do research with. For example, the student interested in conservation might mention the course “Conservation Biology” at Harvard.
You could also write about a club, or a study abroad program, or really anything that’s unique to Harvard, so long as you’re able to draw a clear connection between the opportunity and your goal. Just make sure that, like with your goals, you don’t get overeager. Since your space is quite limited, you should choose two, or maximum three, opportunities to focus on. Any more than that and your essay will start to feel rushed and bullet point-y.
If you do your brainstorming well, the actual writing process should be pretty straightforward: explain your goals, and how the Harvard-specific opportunities you’ve selected will help you reach them.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that your goals should feel personal to you, and the best way to accomplish that is by providing some background context on why you have them. This doesn’t have to be extensive, as, again, your space is limited. But compare the following two examples, written about the hypothetical goal of helping conservation efforts from above, to get an idea of what we’re talking about:
Example 1: “As long as I can remember, I’ve loved all kinds of animals, and have been heartbroken by the fact that human destruction of natural resources could lead to certain species’ extinction.”
Example 2: “As a kid, I would sit in front of the aquarium’s walrus exhibit, admiring the animal’s girth and tusks, and dream about seeing one in the wild. Until my parents regretfully explained to me that, because of climate change, that was unlikely to ever happen.”
The second example is obviously longer, but not egregiously so: 45 words versus 31. And the image we get of this student sitting and fawning over a walrus is worth that extra space, as we feel a stronger personal connection to them, which in turn makes us more vicariously invested in their own goal of environmental advocacy.
As we’ve already described in the brainstorming section, the key to this essay is specificity. Admissions officers want you to paint them a picture of how Harvard fits into your broader life goals. As we noted earlier, that doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out, but if you’re too vague about your goals, or how you see Harvard helping you reach them, admissions officers won’t see you as someone who’s prepared to contribute to their campus community.
Along similar lines, avoid flattery. Gushy lines like “At Harvard, every day I’ll feel inspired by walking the same halls that countless Nobel laureates, politicians, and CEOs once traversed” won’t get you anywhere, because Harvard admissions officers already know their school is one of the most prestigious and famous universities in the world. What they don’t know is what you are going to bring to Harvard that nobody else has. So, that’s what you want to focus on, not vague, surface-level attributes of Harvard related to its standing in the world of higher education.
Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you. (200 words)
Like Prompt 2, this prompt tells you exactly what you need to brainstorm: three things a roommate would like to know about you. However, also like Prompt 2, while this prompt is direct, it’s also incredibly open-ended. What really are the top three things you’d like a complete stranger to know about you before you live together for nine months?
Questions this broad can be hard to answer, as you might not know where to start. Sometimes, you can help yourself out by asking yourself adjacent, but slightly more specific questions, like the following:
- Do you have any interests that influence your regular routine? For example, do you always watch the Seahawks on Sunday, or are you going to be playing Taylor Swift’s discography on repeat while you study?
- Look around your room—what items are most important to you? Do you keep your movie ticket stubs? Are you planning on taking your photos of your family cat with you to college?
- Are there any activities you love and already know you’d want to do with your roommate, like weekly face masks or making Christmas cookies?
Hopefully, these narrower questions, and the example responses we’ve included, help get your gears turning. Keep in mind that this prompt is a great opportunity to showcase sides of your personality that don’t come across in your grades, activities list, or even your personal statement. Don’t worry about seeming impressive—admissions officers don’t expect you to read Shakespeare every night for two hours. What they want is an honest, informative picture of what you’re like “behind the scenes,” because college is much more than just academics.
Once you’ve selected three things to write about, the key to the actual essay is presenting them in a logical, cohesive, efficient way. That’s easier said than done, particularly if the three things you’ve picked are quite different from each other.
To ensure your essay feels like one, complete unit, rather than three smaller ones stuck together, strong transitions will be crucial. Note that “strong” doesn’t mean “lengthy.” Just a few words can go a long way towards helping your essay flow naturally. To see what we mean here, take the following two examples:
Example 1: “Just so you know, every Sunday I will be watching the Seahawks, draped in my dad’s Steve Largent jersey. They can be a frustrating team, but I’ll do my best to keep it down in case you’re studying. I also like to do facemasks, though. You’re always welcome to any of the ones I have in my (pretty extensive) collection.”
Example 2: “Just so you know, every Sunday I will be watching the Seahawks, draped in my dad’s Steve Largent jersey. But if football’s not your thing, don’t worry—once the game’s over, I’ll need to unwind anyways, because win or lose the Hawks always find a way to make things stressful. So always feel free to join me in picking out a face mask from my (pretty extensive) collection, and we can gear up for the week together.”
The content in both examples is the same, but in the first one, the transition from football to facemasks is very abrupt. On the other hand, in the second example the simple line “But if football’s not your thing, don’t worry” keeps things flowing smoothly.
There’s no one right way to write a good transition, but as you’re polishing your essay a good way to see if you’re on the right track is by asking someone who hasn’t seen your essay before to read it over and tell you if there are any points that made them pause. If the answer is yes, your transitions probably still need more work.
Finally, you probably noticed that the above examples are both written in a “Dear roomie” style, as if you’re actually speaking directly to your roommate. You don’t have to take this exact approach, but your tone should ideally be light and fun. Living alone for the first time, with other people your age, is one of the best parts of college! Plus, college applications are, by their nature, pretty dry affairs for the most part. Lightening things up in this essay will give your reader a breath of fresh air, which will help them feel more engaged in your application as a whole.
Harvard is doing you a favor here by keeping the scope of the essay narrow—they ask for three things, not more. As we’ve noted many times with the other supplements, 200 words will be gone in a flash, so don’t try to cram in extra things. It’s not necessary to do that, because admissions officers have only asked for three, and trying to stuff more in will turn your essay into a list of bullet points, rather than an informative piece of writing about your personality.
Finally, as we’ve hinted at a few times above, the other thing you want to avoid is using this essay as another opportunity to impress admissions officers with your intellect and accomplishments. Remember, they have your grades, and your activities list, and all your other essays. Plus, they can ask you whatever questions they want—if they wanted to know about the most difficult book you’ve ever read, they would. So, loosen up, let your hair down, and show them you know how to have fun too!
Where to Get Your Harvard Essays Edited
Do you want feedback on your Harvard essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.
If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!
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College Info , College Essays
Aiming for the world-renowned Harvard University? As part of the application to this prestigious Ivy League school , you'll have the option to submit a supplemental essay. But what should you write about for your Harvard essay? What are the different Harvard essay prompts to choose from, and how should you answer one so you can give yourself your best shot at getting in?
In this guide, we give you advice for each Harvard essay prompt as well as tips on whether you should choose a particular prompt. But before we look at the prompts, let's go over what Harvard actually requires in terms of essays.
Feature Image: Gregor Smith /Flickr
What Essays Do You Need to Submit to Harvard?
Those applying for admission to Harvard must submit an application through either the Common Application , the Coalition Application , or the Universal College Application (UCA) . For your Harvard application, you'll need to write a personal essay in response to one of the prompts provided by the Common App, Coalition App, or UCA (depending on the system you're applying through).
This essay is required for all applicants and should typically be about 500-550 words long (and must be less than 650 words). To learn more about this essay, check out the current prompts for the Common App , Coalition App , and UCA on their official websites.
In addition to this required essay, you have the option of submitting another essay as part of the Harvard supplement. The Harvard supplement essay, as it's known, is completely optional—you may, but do not need to, write this essay and submit it with your application.
Also, this essay also has no word limit, though if you do write it, it's best to stick to a typical college essay length (i.e., somewhere around 500 words).
Harvard advises applicants to submit this supplemental essay "if [they] feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about [themselves] or [their] accomplishments."
Options for essay topics are very open ended, and you have a total of 10 topics from which you can choose (11 if you include the fact that you may also "write on a topic of your choice").
Here are the 2022-2023 Harvard supplement essay prompts :
You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics:
Unusual circumstances in your life
Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities
What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
- An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you
How you hope to use your college education
A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
The Harvard College Honor code declares that we "hold honesty as the foundation of our community." As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.
As you can see, some of these topics are more specific and focused, while others are more broad and open ended. When it comes down to it, though, should you write the Harvard supplement essay, or should you skip it altogether?
Should You Do the Harvard Supplement Essay?
You're already required to submit a personal essay for your Harvard application—so do you really need to submit an extra essay? In reality, opinions are mixed on whether you should write the Harvard supplement essay or not.
While some people are under the impression that this essay is basically mandatory and that your chances of getting into Harvard without it are slim. Others believe that submitting it (especially if you don't have anything particularly impressive or interesting to write about) is simply a waste of time.
So which is it? In general, if you have the opportunity to submit something that you think will only strengthen your college application, definitely do it. By doing this essay, you'll add more flavor to your application and showcase a different side of your personality.
Indeed, in his review of his successful Harvard application , PrepScholar co-founder and Harvard alum Allen Cheng strongly recommends writing this extra essay. He also notes that it's likely that most Harvard applicants do , in fact, submit the supplemental essay (as he himself did).
But it's worth stating again: this essay is not required for admission to Harvard. Whether you submit a Harvard supplement essay is entirely up to you—though I highly recommend doing it!
If you're really struggling to decide whether to do the extra Harvard essay or not, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you consider yourself a strong writer? Are there people you trust who could edit and proofread your essay for you?
- Are you worried about other parts of your Harvard application that could negatively affect your chance of admission , such as below-average SAT/ACT scores, a low GPA, etc.?
- Do you feel that you didn't get to write about something you really wanted to for the required essay?
- Is there something you believe the admissions committee should know about you that you haven't gotten a chance to write about yet?
- Do you have enough time to dedicate to writing and polishing another essay?
- Do you think your overall Harvard application is too one-sided or too focused on one aspect of your personality and/or interests? Could your application benefit from more diversity and balance?
Hopefully, by answering these questions, you'll start to have a clearer idea as to whether you will write the Harvard supplement essay or not.
How to Write the Harvard Essay: Every Prompt Analyzed
In this section, we go through the 10 possible Harvard supplement essay prompts and offer you tips on how to write an effective, powerful essay, regardless of which prompt you choose.
Prompt 1: Unusual Circumstances
This essay prompt is all about highlighting an unusual situation or event in your life and what kind of impact it ultimately had on you. Harvard asks for this in case applicants want to discuss anything significant that has happened to them and has had a major influence on their academic accomplishments, future goals, perspectives, etc.
This is also an opportunity for applicants to discuss any major struggles they have had (that most students their age haven't had) and the way these experiences have personally affected their lives.
Should You Choose This Prompt?
If you grew up with an uncommon lifestyle or had an uncommon experience that you believe had a strong effect on you, this is a good prompt to choose for your essay. For example, perhaps you grew up speaking four languages fluently, or you were the youngest of fourteen children.
This is also an ideal prompt to choose if you want to provide more background information for a weak point in your application. For instance, say you contracted a serious illness during your sophomore year, and your many absences caused your GPA to drop. You could then write about how you approached this problem head-on, and how working with a tutor every day after school to raise your GPA ultimately revealed to you an inner strength you never knew you had.
Tips for Answering This Prompt
- Choose an experience or situation that is actually uncommon. This doesn't mean that no one else in the world could have it, but try to focus on something that's unique and has had a big impact on your personal growth. As an example, although many teenagers were raised by a single parent, only you grew up with your parent, so concentrate on how this person as well as the overall situation helped to shape your personality and goals.
- If you're writing about something that was challenging for you, don't just conclude that the experience was difficult. What specifically have you learned or taken away from it? Why is it important for the Harvard admissions committee to know this? For instance, say you had to move six times in just two years. You could write that although it was difficult adjusting to a new school each time you moved, you eventually started to enjoy meeting people and getting to explore new places. As a result of these experiences, you now have a lot more confidence when it comes to adapting to unfamiliar situations.
Prompt 2: Travel, Living, or Work Experiences
This prompt is asking you to discuss experiences you've had that involved traveling, living, and/or working in a specific community (either your own or another) and what kind of effect that experience has had on you.
Here are examples of experiences you could talk about for this essay:
- Living or traveling abroad
- Moving to a new place or living in multiple places
- Working a part-time job
- Working a temporary job or internship somewhere outside your own community
If you've had an experience that fits or mostly fits one of the examples above and it's had a big impact on how you see and define yourself as a person, this is a solid prompt for you.
On the other hand, do not choose this prompt if you've never had a significant experience while traveling or working/living somewhere.
- Choose a truly significant experience to talk about. Although your experience doesn't need to be life-changing, it should have had a noteworthy impact on you and who you've become. If, for example, you traveled to Mexico with your family but didn't really enjoy or learn much from the trip, it's better to avoid writing about this experience (and might be better to choose a different prompt altogether!).
- Make sure to talk about how this travel/living/work experience has affected you. For example, say you spent a couple of summers in high school visiting relatives in South Africa. You could write about how these trips helped you develop a stronger sense of independence and self-sufficiency—traits which have made you more assertive, especially when it comes to leading group projects and giving speeches.
- Don't be afraid to get creative with this essay. For instance, if you lived in a country where you at first didn't understand the local language, you could open your Harvard essay with an anecdote, such as a conversation you overheard or a funny miscommunication.
Prompt 3: Your Future College Roommate
Unlike some of the other more traditional Harvard essay prompts on this list, this prompt is a little more casual and really lends itself to a creative approach.
For this prompt, you're writing an essay that's more of a letter to your future college roommate (remember, however, that it's actually being read by the Harvard admissions committee!). You'll introduce who you are by going over the key traits and characteristics that make you you —in other words, personality traits, eccentricities, flaws, or strengths that you believe are critical for someone (i.e., Harvard) to know about you.
This Harvard essay prompt is all about creativity and describing yourself—not a specific event or circumstance—so it's well suited for those who are skilled at clearly and creatively expressing themselves through writing.
- Focus on your unique attributes. Since you're describing yourself in this essay, you'll need to concentrate on introducing the most unique and interesting aspects about yourself (that you also think a roommate would want or need to know). What's your daily routine? Do you have any funny or strange habits or quirks? How did you develop these characteristics?
- Be true to your voice and don't pretend to be someone you're not. Don't say that you're always telling jokes if you're normally a very serious person. Describe yourself honestly, but don't feel as though you must tell every little detail about yourself, either.
- Strike a balance: don't focus only on the positives or negatives. You want to come across as a strong applicant, but you also want to be realistic and authentic (you're human, after all!). Therefore, try to find balance by writing about not only your strengths and positive attributes but also your quirks and flaws. For instance, you could mention how you always used to run late when meeting up with friends, but how you've recently started working on getting better at this by setting an alarm on your iPhone.
Prompt 4: An Intellectual Experience
An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you.
With this prompt, Harvard wants you to focus on an intellectual or learning experience that's had a big impact on you in terms of your personal growth, your academic/intellectual interests and passions, the field of study you want to pursue, etc.
This intellectual experience could be anything that's intellectually stimulating, such as an essay or book you read, a poem you analyzed, or a research project you conducted.
Note that this experience does not need to be limited to something you did for school —if you've done anything in your spare time or for an extracurricular activity that you think fits this prompt, feel free to write about that.
Should You Choose This Topic?
This is a good prompt to choose if a certain intellectual experience motivated you or triggered an interest in something you really want to study at Harvard.
For example, you could write about how you found an old copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species at a garage sale, and how reading this prompted you to develop an interest in biology, which you now intend to major in and eventually make a career out of.
This is also an ideal prompt to pick if you want to highlight a particular interest or passion you have that differs from the academic field you want to study in college.
For instance, perhaps you're applying for admission as a computer science major, but you're also a huge fan of poetry and often take part in local poetry readings. Writing about a poem you recently read and analyzed could illuminate to the admissions committees a different, less prominent side of your personality and intellectual interests, ultimately showing that you're open minded and invested in gaining both new skills and experiences.
- Choose an experience that had a significant impact on you. Don't talk about how reading Romeo and Juliet in eighth grade made you realize how much you enjoyed writing plays if you were already writing plays way before then! If you can't think of any memorable intellectual experience to write about, then it's best to opt for a different prompt.
- Be specific about the intellectual experience you had and clearly relate it back to your strengths and interests. In other words, what kind of impact did this experience have on you? Your academic goals? Your future plans? For example, instead of writing about how a scientific paper on climate change made you think more deeply about the environment, you could talk about how this paper prompted you to form a recycling program at your school, take a class on marine biology, and so forth.
Prompt 5: Your Future Goals
This Harvard essay prompt is pretty self-explanatory: it wants you to discuss how you intend to use your education at Harvard after you graduate —so in a future job or career, in grad school, in a particular research field, etc.
Basically, how will your college education help you achieve your future goals (whatever those may be)?
If you have a pretty clear vision for your future goals during and after college, this is a perfect prompt to choose for your Harvard essay.
If, on the other hand, you're still undecided about the field(s) you want to study or how you intend to use your major, you might want to choose a different prompt that's less focused on your future and more concentrated on how past events and experiences have shaped you as a person.
- Be careful when talking about your future goals. You don't want to come off too idealistic, but you also don't want to sound too broad or you'll come across unfocused and ambivalent. Try to strike a balance in how you discuss your future dreams so that they're both attainable and specific.
- Clearly connect your goals back to your current self and what you've accomplished up until this point. You want to make it clear that your goals are actually attainable, specifically with a Harvard education. If you say you hope to start your own interior design business after graduation but are planning to major in biology, you're only going to confuse the admissions committee!
- Emphasize any ways Harvard specifically will help you attain your academic goals. For example, is there a club you hope to join that could connect you with other students? Or is there a particular professor you want to work with? Don't just throw in names of clubs and people but specifically explain how these resources will help you reach your goals. In short, show Harvard that what they can offer you is exactly what you need to succeed.
Prompt 6: List of Books
Of all Harvard essay prompts, this one is by far the most unique.
Here, you're asked to simply list the books you've read in the past year. This essay is more than just a list, though—it's a brief overview of where your intellectual interests lie. These books may include works of fiction or nonfiction, essays, collections of poetry, etc.
Have you read a lot of diverse and interesting books in the past year? Are you an avid reader who loves dissecting books and essays? Do you enjoy a creative approach to college essays? If you answered yes to these questions, then this prompt is a perfect fit for you.
Even if you haven't read a ton of books this past year, if you were especially intrigued by some or all of what you did read, you could certainly use this prompt for your essay.
- Instead of just listing the titles of books you've read, you might want to include a short sentence or two commenting on your reaction to the book, your analysis of it, why you enjoyed or didn't enjoy it, etc., after each title. Be sure to vary up your comments so that you're highlighting different aspects of your personality. Also, don't just regurgitate analyses you've read online or that your teacher has said—try to come up with your own thoughts and interpretations.
- Don't feel the need to stick to only the most "impressive" books you read. The Harvard admissions committee wants to see your personality, not that of a pretentious applicant who claims to have only read Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway. Be honest: if you read Twilight in a day, why not make a short joke about how addictive it was?
- Go beyond a chronological list of books. It'll be far more interesting if you list the books you read in a more unique way. For example, you could organize titles by theme or in the order of how much you enjoyed them.
Prompt 7: Honesty
As you can see with this quotation, Harvard strongly values honesty and integrity. Therefore, if you go with this prompt, you're essentially telling Harvard that you, too, embody a powerful sense of morality and honesty.
- Was there a specific time in your life when you had to make a difficult choice to be honest about something with someone?
- Could this incident be considered morally ambiguous? In other words, was the "right thing to do" somewhat of a gray area?
- If you didn't make the "right" choice at the time, how did you come to terms with or learn from this decision? What were the consequences, and what did this experience teach you about your own morals and how you value honesty?
- Be wary of the topic you choose to write about. Don't discuss a situation in which you did something obviously unethical or, worse, illegal. These types of situations are very black and white and therefore don't pose much of a moral dilemma. Additionally, talking about such an experience might make you seem dishonest and immoral, which you absolutely do not want Harvard to think about you!
- Try to find a topic that isn't black and white. Choosing "gray" incidents will help emphasize why the choice was so difficult for you and also why it's affected you in this way. For example, say your friend calls you crying right before you have to leave to take the SAT. Do you skip the test to comfort your friend, or do you hang up and leave? This kind of situation does not have an evident "right" answer, making it an ideal one to use for this essay.
- You could also discuss a time when you did not make the "right" choice—and what you learned from that mistake. As long as you look closely at why you made the "wrong" choice and what this incident taught you about integrity, your essay will be interesting and relevant.
Prompt 8: Citizens and Citizen-Leaders
This prompt might sound a little vague, but all it wants to know is how you'll have a positive impact on both your classmates and on other people after graduation. Put simply, what kind of leader/citizen will you be at Harvard? After you graduate from college and enter the real world?
This prompt is similar to Prompt 5 in that it wants to know what kind of person you'll become after you leave college and how you'll positively influence society.
If you're a natural-born leader and have had at least a few significant experiences with leading or facilitating things such as club activities, field trips, volunteer efforts, and so on, then this Harvard essay prompt would be a great fit for you.
- Focus on a time when you led others and it resulted in a positive outcome. For instance, you could write about your position as team captain on your school's soccer team and how you would gather your teammates before each game to offer words of encouragement and advice on how to improve. You could then describe how your team began to perform better in games due to clearer communication and a stronger sense of sportsmanship. Make sure to answer the critical question: how did you lead and what ultimately made your leadership style successful?
- Discuss what kind of role your leadership skills will have at both Harvard and after you graduate. The prompt is asking about your classmates, so you must specifically address how your leadership skills will contribute to the lives of your peers. How will your past experiences with leading help you approach group projects, for example? Or clubs you join?
- Make sure to mention how you'll be a good citizen, too. By "citizen," Harvard essentially means a productive member of both the school and society in general. Basically, how have you contributed to the betterment of society? This is a good place to talk about experiences in which you played a crucial supporting role; for instance, maybe you helped out with a local volunteer initiative to feed the homeless, or maybe you joined a community project to build a new park in your town.
Prompt 9: Taking Time Off
Here, you're being asked what you plan to do with your time if you decide to defer your admission to Harvard or take time off during college. For example, will you travel the world? Work a full-time job? Do an internship? Take care of a sick relative?
Obviously, Harvard doesn't want to read that all you're going to do is relax and play video games all day, so make sure to think carefully about what your actual plans are and, more importantly, how these plans will benefit you as a person and as a student.
Only choose this Harvard essay prompt if you're pretty certain you'll be taking time off from college at some point (either before or during) and you have a relatively concrete idea of what you want to do during that time.
- Be specific and honest about your plans. While many students like to take time off to travel the world, you don't just want to write, "I plan to backpack Europe and learn about cultures." Think critically about your desires: why do you want to do this and how will this experience help you grow as a person? Don't just reiterate what you think Harvard wants to hear—be transparent about why you feel you need this time off from school to accomplish this goal.
- Be clear about why you must do this at this particular time. In other words, why do you think this (i.e., before or during college) is the right time to do whatever it is you plan to do? Is it something you can (or must) do at this exact time, such as a one-time internship that won't be offered again?
Prompt 10: Diversity
This final Harvard essay prompt is all about what you can bring to campus that will positively contribute to student diversity. Though we tend to think of race/ethnicity when using the word "diversity," you can actually interpret this word in a number of ways.
As a large and prestigious institution, Harvard strongly values students who have different and unique backgrounds and experiences, so it's important for them to admit students who embody these values as well.
This prompt is essentially a version of the diversity essay , which we talk about in more detail in our guide.
The main question to ask yourself before choosing this prompt is this: do you have a unique background or interest you can write about?
Here are some key types of diversity you can discuss (note that this is not an exhaustive list!):
- Your ethnicity or race
- A unique interest, passion, hobby, or skill you have
- Your family or socioeconomic background
- Your religion
- Your cultural group
- Your sex or gender/gender identity
- Your opinions or values
- Your sexual orientation
If any of these topics stand out to you and you can easily come up with a specific characteristic or experience to discuss for your essay, then this is a solid prompt to consider answering.
- Choose a personal characteristic that's had a large impact on your identity. Don't talk about your family's religion if it's had little or no impact on how you see and define yourself. Instead, concentrate on the most significant experiences or skills in your life. If you play the theremin every day and have a passion for music because of it, this would be a great skill to write about in your essay.
- Be clear about how your unique characteristic has affected your life and growth. You don't just want to introduce the experience/skill and leave it at that. How has it molded you into the person you are today? How has it influenced your ambitions and goals?
- Be sure to tie this characteristic back to the diversity at Harvard. Basically, how will your experience/skill/trait positively influence the Harvard student body? For example, if you come from a specific cultural group, how do you believe this will positively impact other students?
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A Real Harvard Essay Example
Our resident full SAT / ACT scorer and co-founder of PrepScholar, Allen Cheng , applied to, got into, and attended Harvard—and he's posted his own Harvard supplement essay for you to look at. You can read all about Allen's essay in his analysis of his successful Harvard application .
Allen describes his essay as "probably neutral to [his Harvard] application, not a strong net positive or net negative," so it's important to note that this Harvard essay example is not representative of exactly what you should do in your own Harvard supplement essay. Rather, we're showing it to you to give you a taste of how you could approach the Harvard essay and to demonstrate the kinds of simple mistakes you should avoid.
Writing a Memorable Harvard Essay: 3 Tips
To wrap up, here are three tips to keep in mind as you write your Harvard supplement essay.
#1: Use an Authentic Voice
Having a clear, unique, and authentic voice is the key to making yourself stand apart from other applicants in your Harvard application—and to ensuring you're leaving a long-lasting impression on the admissions committee.
Therefore, write your essay in the way that comes most naturally to you, and talk about the things that actually matter to you. For example, if you love puns, throwing one or two puns into your essay will emphasize your goofier, non-academic side.
Using your voice here is important because it humanizes your application. The essay is the only chance you get to show the admissions committee who you are and what you actually sound like, so don't pretend to be someone you're not!
The only thing to look out for is using too much slang or sounding too casual. In the end, this is still a college essay, so you don't want to come off sounding rude, disrespectful, or immature.
In addition, don't exaggerate any experiences or emotions. The Harvard admissions committee is pretty good at their job—they read thousands of applications each year!—so they'll definitely be able to tell if you're making a bigger deal out of something than you should be. Skip the hyperbole and stick to what you know.
Ultimately, your goal should be to strike a balance so that you're being true to yourself while also showcasing your intelligence and talents.
#2: Get Creative
Harvard is one of the most difficult schools to get into (it only has about a 4% acceptance rate! ), so you'll need to make sure your essay is really, really attention-grabbing. In short, get creative with it!
As you write your personal essay, recall the classic saying: show, don't tell. This means that you should rely more on description and imagery than on explanation.
For example, instead of writing, "I became more confident after participating in the debate club," you might write, "The next time I went onstage for a debate, my shoulders didn't shake as much; my lips didn't quiver; and my heart only beat 100 times instead of 120 times per minute."
Remember that your essay is a story about yourself, so make sure it's interesting to read and will ultimately be memorable to your readers.
#3: Edit and Proofread a Lot
My final tip is to polish your essay by editing and proofreading it a lot. This means you should look it over not once, not twice, but several times.
Here's the trick to editing it: once you've got a rough draft of your essay finished, put it away for a few days or a week or two. Don't look at it all during this time —you want to give yourself some distance so that you can look at your essay later with a fresh perspective.
After you've waited, read over your essay again, noting any mistakes in spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation. Take care to also note any awkward wording, unclear areas, or irrelevant ideas. Ask yourself: is there anything you should add? Delete? Expand?
Once you've done this step several times and have a (nearly) final draft ready to turn in, give your essay to someone you can trust, such as a teacher, parent, or mentor. Have them look it over and offer feedback on tone, voice, theme, style, etc. In addition, make sure that they check for any glaring grammatical or technical errors.
Once all of this is done, you'll have a well-written, polished Harvard essay ready to go— one that'll hopefully get you accepted!
If you've got questions about other parts of the Harvard application, check out our top guide to learn what you'll need to submit to get into the prestigious Ivy League school .
How tough is it to get into Harvard? To other selective universities ? For answers, read our expert guide on how to get into Harvard and the Ivy League , written by an actual Harvard alum!
What's the average SAT score of admitted Harvard applicants? The average ACT score? The average GPA? Learn all this and more by visiting our Harvard admissions requirements page .
Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.
Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.
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Harvard University’s 2023-24 Essay Prompts
Diversity short response.
Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?
Intellectual Experience Short Response
Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.
Extracurricular Short Response
Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.
Future Goals Short Response
How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?
Roommate Short Response
Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you.
Common App Personal Essay
The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don‘t feel obligated to do so.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you‘ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
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Transfer Essay Writing Guide: Craft a Winning Paper Fast
EssayEdge > Blog > Transfer Essay Writing Guide: Craft a Winning Paper Fast
Whether it is to transfer from a 2-year to a 4-year school or to pursue a program that is better aligned with their academic and career goals, transferring schools is becoming increasingly common. Although the negative stigmas of the past regarding transferring schools has largely faded, transfer students still tend to be given low priority in the admissions process. Because of this, you’ll need to make the most of your transfer essay in order to make a big impression on the admissions officers. Also, transfer essays usually have short word counts. In creating this limitation, the school is looking for you to provide them with your unique reasons for applying to their program.
The most successful essays always have the same basic qualities: maximizing the space available, staying specific, and showing enthusiasm.
Table of Contents:
Formulating your essay
Planning ahead is essential for creating a great transfer essay. Without it, you’ll likely run out of room very quickly and either shortchange the conclusion or wind up with an essay that doesn’t have enough depth to be meaningful to the admissions officers. Therefore, use the first part of the essay to provide the admissions officers with sufficient background information from your school, work, and volunteer experience to show that you have the qualifications necessary to succeed at their school. Show the admissions officers why you now have the skills and experience to make the right choice and join a school where you will thrive while making a meaningful contribution.
In the second half of the essay, go into detail about why you want to be part of the program. Name classes that will fill knowledge gaps that you have. Provide the names of professors whose work interests you and how their interests are similar to your own. Finally, remember to write about life outside of the classroom. Are there clubs or organizations that you look forward to joining? What about the campus setting? If you’re applying to schools in metropolitan areas, you might want to write about the cultural offerings. If you’re applying to a school in a college town, write about the benefits of being part of a tight-knit community. Most of all, let the admissions officers know that you will be proud to have a degree from their school.
Tips on How to Write a Transfer Essay
While we covered what’s most important in crafting a transfer essay, there’s still a list of other things you need to consider if you want to succeed. Like we mentioned earlier, this essay is your chance to make an impression on admission officers and may land you a class seat in the school that you want. As you don’t have a lot of space, everything counts.
Do a thorough research and show that you are interested . Learn more about the school you want to transfer to by reading about it online. In-depth analysis may provide you with unexpected insights that will bring additional weight to your writing, strengthening your essay. The more you know about the subject, the better.
Start and close memorably . Transfer essays are usually short, but quickly grabbing admission officers’ attention makes all the difference: they may put essays to the “Rejected” pile after several sentences and a glance at the content. Start with something unexpected but connected to why you transfer, weave it into the main body and close with a curious question or a joke (but pick one carefully).
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Write, edit, proofread . Writing is always hard, more so if you need to be concise and specific at once. Do your research, think through about what you’re going to write, and get to drafting. An excellent essay won’t come out of the first draft, or maybe even the third, but it’s normal. If you did your research, know what to say, and read the tips, you’d make it to the final dot with a solid result. After, make sure to proofread your essay carefully a few times. Asking someone to take a look at your essay — a friend or professional editor – will help you improve it.
Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Transfer Essays
Writing about the school’s reputation.
Admissions officers are aware of their school’s reputation, so writing about reputation is probably a little too general to be meaningful in your transfer essay. Instead, focus on aspects of the school that are more personal to you. What does the school have that other schools don’t? Only you know why you have chosen a particular school, and different applicants can have widely different ‘most important reasons’ for applying. By writing about specific details, the admissions officers will be able to see that you have fully researched their school and made an informed choice in submitting your transfer application package.
Criticizing your previous school
Regardless of how bad things were or are, never criticize your current/previous school. While it is okay to write about how certain aspects of the school or program weren’t the right match for your goals, values or personality, always maintain a positive tone. Taking a negative tone will reflect badly on you as a person and not the school or program. There are good aspects to your current school. Be sure to briefly praise the school or highlight positive experiences you have had there but then quickly move on to why the school to which you are applying is the right place for you to take the next steps in your academic progress.
Good & Bad Transfer Essay Examples
As you can see from the tips, crafting a winning transfer essay isn’t an easy feat. If you need inspiration or don’t like how your draft is shaping up, it’s always a sound idea to compare it to someone else’s writing. Here are two transfer essays examples , good and bad. The schools and people mentioned in them are purely fictional.
Luckily for me, I had to learn that your dreams can quickly turn 360 degrees early on in my life. After a year in a coding school, I am now eager to acquire comprehensive knowledge of modern marketing in the California School of Digital Age Advertising & Marketing. I find that the school’s unique, adaptable approach to the curriculum will allow me to become a digital marketing expert who is ready to help brands and organizations market and promote themselves effectively in our changing times and the future. At CSDAAM, I want to learn Experiential Marketing and design customer journeys based on Augmented and Virtual Reality. I have been following the work of Professor Kate Chan for a long while and wish to learn from her exciting work at CSDAAM classes. I am also looking forward to adjacent classes, including Basics of Video Editing and Modern Visual Arts. They will help me learn the necessary tools, be more creative, and always get new perspectives on incoming challenges. Although my experience in learning how to code put my skills and mind to the test in an exciting way, I do not regret leaving the school to go down a completely different path. As I was learning programming languages and writing my first lines of code, I realized that I wanted to devote myself to a creative career fit for our times. After Visiting CSDAAM’s campus, learning more about its culture, and getting familiar with its professors’ work, I am confident that studying in this school is the best way to build a foundation for my new career. My mother was an English professor, my father was an insurance broker, and no one, even me, would have thought my life leads me to experiential marketing and eagerly submitting my application to CSDAAM.
Now that I think of it, I always wanted to be a part of a place like the California School of Digital Age Advertising & Marketing. While Tuscan Public Communications School has a reputation, it certainly did not turn out to be the dream school I had been hearing so much about. Most professors seemed to be preoccupied with themselves, not the students or, sometimes, even the subject itself. They were not the guiding beacons in the sea of knowledge, and sometimes it heavily influenced my grades and drained inspiration from me. CSDAAM, on the other hand, looks like a vibrant place that infuses its students with a go-getter attitude. I also realized that I was always highly enthusiastic about digital marketing, social media advertising and fake news, modern visuals arts, and other sophisticated subjects. I am eager to study with fervor every day and dive into what CSDAAM has to offer its workshops and challenges. Sometimes, you need to take a wrong turn to find the right road into the sunshine. I am sure CSDAAM is my real dream school.
As you can see, the first essay is focused, clear, and shows that the applicant knows what they want and puts their determination in choosing the school on display. It also exhibits a high level of detail, indicating that the person learned a fair share of the school. In the “bad” one, the applicant flounders too much in what he disliked about their educational establishment, over relies on metaphors, and does not explain why he wants to join this school.
No matter what made you decide to transfer from one institution to another, our task is to warn you that it’ll be tough. This process always requires a transfer student to submit an outstanding essay. If your writing skills aren’t good enough to present yourself well, order essays edit here.
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2022-23 Harvard Transfer Acceptance Rate, Requirements, and Application Deadline
November 21, 2022
Harvard University has a 3.2% acceptance rate for freshmen applicants, the lowest figure in the country. Factoring in legacy applicants and recruited athletes, that number drops even lower if you do not happen to fall into either specialty category. If you weren’t one of the odds-defying individuals who joined the Crimson out of high school, there is another route you can try. Harvard does in fact welcome aboard an extremely limited number of transfer students each year. The following blog will reveal the Harvard transfer acceptance rate as well other essential facts like the Harvard transfer deadline, the Harvard transfer requirements, and much more.
Harvard Transfer Acceptance Rate
Below we present the most current available Harvard transfer acceptance rate as well as historical data.
In the fall of 2021, there were 1,957 transfer applicants and 16 individuals were accepted. This means that the Harvard transfer acceptance rate is 0.8%. If we break this down by gender the acceptance rates are as follows:
- Male transfer applicants: 1.0%
- Female transfer applicants: 0.6%
When trying to get the complete picture on how difficult it is to transfer into Harvard, it is important to also look at historical data. While many schools have wild fluctuations in transfer acceptance rate from year to year, you can see that Harvard’s have been extremely fairly stable in recent years. Without fail, each year, the school takes somewhere between 12-17 total students via transfer.
Historical Harvard University transfer rates are as follows:
Harvard Transfer Deadline
For all academic programs, the transfer deadline is March 1 .
- Students can apply to enter Harvard as sophomores or juniors.
- Admitted students are not permitted to defer their admission.
Harvard Transfer Requirements
All students must submit to the following items as part of their Harvard application:
- A Common App for Transfer
- Official college transcript
- Official high school transcript
- ACT or SAT scores (they are test-optional from 2022-2026)
- College/Dean’s report
- Two letters of recommendation from college instructors
Students who have the best chance to gain admissions to Harvard have done the following:
- A clearly defined academic need to transfer.
- A proven record of achievement at your current institution.
- Strong faculty recommendations.
- Published/Co-Published academic research independently or with a faculty member at your current institution.
- Exceled outside of the classroom in some manner. In addition to the aforementioned research, this could mean winning an intercollegiate academic competition, achieving noteworthy accomplishments through some type of leadership role, etc.
Harvard Average Transfer GPA
The university does not publish their average GPA for successful transfer students. However, in our experience working with Harvard applicants, you will need a 3.9 or better. This is not to say that your chances are nonexistent with a GPA below that mark, but a 3.9-4.0 GPA will give you the most favorable odds.
Harvard Transfer Application Essays
Please provide a statement (250-650 words) that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve.
Additional Harvard Transfer Application Essays
- Did any time elapse between high school and college or have you left any school or college voluntarily for an extended period of time?
- Briefly, please indicate the most influential factors in your decision to attend your present college (for example, location, cost, size of student body, only option, special program offered, Early Decision plan, etc.)
- What alternatives to transferring to Harvard are you considering?
- Please indicate your field of specialization and briefly outline your academic plans at Harvard College.
- What are your current postgraduate/career plans?
- Briefly discuss one book that has strongly influenced you.
When Do Harvard Transfer Decisions Come Out?
Decisions come out in June. There are cases where the school notifies applicants earlier than that, but June is the latest they will notify individuals.
Final Thoughts – Harvard Transfer Acceptance Rate
In an average year, only 1 in 100 Harvard transfer applicants will earn acceptance into this Ivy League powerhouse. It’s important to face these odds with a realistic mindset, as that will drive your other decision-making. For example, if you are someone intent on leaving your current school, you will want to apply to a number of “safety” and “target” schools in addition to Harvard. In reality, Harvard is a “reach” for every student—even those with perfect grades and test scores. However, we don’t want you to interpret having a “realistic” mindset as being synonymous with a negative mindset. After all, a dozen or so applicants each year are ultimately successful.
For more on what it’s like to be a transfer student at Harvard, check out this recent article from their student newspaper.
If you are looking for information on how to apply to Harvard as a first-year student, you may find the following blogs to be of interest:
- How to Get Into Harvard
- Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts and Tips
Those searching for application info on other institutions may wish to visit our Dataverse pages:
- Transfer Admissions Deadlines
- Transfer Acceptance Rates
- Application Strategies
- Navigating the Admissions Process
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent educational consultant. He is a co-author of the books The Enlightened College Applicant (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Colleges Worth Your Money (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).
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How to Write the Harvard Supplemental Essays 2023-2024
August 24, 2023
Harvard University is undeniably recognized as one of the most prestigious academic institutions. With a mere 3.2% acceptance rate, securing an acceptance letter requires facing fierce competition. Therefore, it is essential to utilize the Harvard supplemental essays 2023-2024 effectively because these essays can be your ticket to impressing the admissions officers and securing a spot at this elite institution.
To guide you through the prompts for this year, I have outlined each question and elaborated on the approaches you should take, along with my recommended strategies and tips. This guide will help maximize the potential of your Harvard supplemental essays 2023-2024 and increase your chances of a successful application.
Harvard Supplemental Essays 2023-2024: Required Short Answers
1. harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. how will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to harvard (min: 10 / max: 200).
This is one of the most open-ended prompts among the Harvard supplemental essays. There can be many different parts of your identity to choose from—your cultural background, your gender identity or sexual orientation, your socioeconomic class, or even an activity that you participate in that is unusual. Whether it’s learning languages or playing a little-known instrument, your essay should focus on one or two things that make you different so that you can dedicate more words to each of these qualities.
Remember, don’t repeat anything you’ve already mentioned in your personal statement. Each component of your application is meant to add an extra layer to your profile. Tell admissions officers about an aspect(s) of your identity that you find valuable and can add to the diversity of the Harvard campus. Do you feel like you’re a part of a bigger community? How has your perspective been shaped by these components of yourself? Have you faced any challenges because of them?
2. Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you. (Min: 10 / Max: 200)
Think about the many different books that you’ve enjoyed, courses that you’d take again, or discussions that you’ve participated in that you always play over in your head. Which of these have been the most meaningful and of course, why? Guide the reader through your journey of discovery of the material, any anecdotes associated with the impact it has had on you, or how it might have influenced what you’re passionate about. Name the experience, but mainly dedicate your essay to the “why.”
On another note, the topic doesn’t have to relate directly to your primary academic interest and can instead show that you are multifaceted. If there’s a deeper connection between your interests, that would also be interesting to write about here. Avoid common answers—dedicating your Harvard supplemental essays to common books like A Brief History of Time or the topic of Einstein’s theory will not help you stand out. When writing this essay, think about whether admissions officers will be convinced why the paper or book means more to you than any other.
3. Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are. (Min: 10 / Max: 200)
This prompt is the perfect opportunity for you to explore how you’ve chosen to interact with different communities around you. Carefully think about whether you want to write about the “travel,” “living” or “working” aspect. Or, you could have done all three during a study abroad experience that fits right into the theme as well.
However, be very careful if you want to write about a community service experience or service trip abroad. This is an activity many students participate in, and will not reflect very uniquely on your part. In fact, it could actually end up seeming more like a display of your privilege if your essay solely talks about how you might have helped people in a third-world country. Instead, focus either on your own community, or a work experience that might have been more humbling. If you had an experience that helped solidify your interest in a culture or selecting your college major, that could also be a good angle.
Regardless of your topic, make sure you connect the experience back to yourself. How did the activity shape you? How has the event influenced your perspective? Are there lessons or values it taught you that you’ll carry with you throughout college?
Additionally, Harvard admissions want to know whether you’ve fully taken advantage of your extracurricular opportunities. They want to gauge how you might contribute to the Harvard community, so it would also be wise to choose an activity that you’re genuinely passionate about and can see yourself continuing after high school. Write about an activity that you haven’t mentioned in your personal statement, preferably one where you’ve demonstrated leadership and can highlight tangible achievements and quantitative progress. Talk about why the activity appeals to you, what it has taught you or if it has inspired growth in you in some way. Since you don’t have a lot of space, make sure to use your words carefully and elaborate on how your commitments have shaped who you are today.
4. How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future? (Min: 10 / Max: 200)
This is another prompt where you can insert your knowledge of Harvard University. Connect your answer to a certain major or course that can prepare you to take on greater challenges. Think about your academic passions, where you ideally see yourself in ten years, and how specific Harvard concentrations such as “Folklore and Mythology” or “Developmental and Regenerative Biology” can help you reach those levels.
Clichéd answers to avoid would be issues that are widely talked about such as finding the cure to cancer or ridding the world of poverty. While these are definitely worth the concern, you must think about issues on a more attainable scale that you hope to address in the near future. How can you use your Harvard education to make a significant impact? Your answer can be used to depict your dedication to your community, how you operate as a leader, and how you can take advantage of the resources and facilities of the prestigious Cambridge institution.
Remember, this question strictly asks about how you plan on using your Harvard education, so keep your focus narrowed. In order to impress the admissions officers, your strategy should lie in outlining a strong connection between your intended academic and extracurricular endeavors in college with the role they can play in your goals in the future.
5. Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you. (Min: 10 / Max: 200)
Even though you could take a more straightforward “I would like my roommate to know XYZ” approach with this essay, it might be better if you frame your response in the form of a letter to your future roommate. Even though they actually won’t be reading it, this could be a more creative way of letting Harvard admissions officers know facts about yourself that don’t come up anywhere else in your application.
Think about the impression you want to make on the reader. You might want to come across as someone who would be an accommodating roommate. Or you might want them to learn more about your goals, or how you spend your free time. Use your essay accordingly to talk about your hobbies, living habits, and plans for both your freshman year of college and life in general. Since there is no direct “Why Harvard” essay, you could also include what you’re most excited about the opportunity to attend the university. You could talk about a course you can’t wait to take or a club you’re planning to join to show that you’re aware of the unique opportunities Harvard offers.
This prompt is a chance for you to show admissions officers how you function in your everyday life, so it could be one of the safer options to pick if you’re afraid that writing about bigger issues could put you in more of a controversial spot.
Further Tips for Writing the Harvard Supplemental Essays 2023-2024
- Be as specific as possible - Not only are the Harvard supplemental essays 2023-2024 quite open-ended, there’s no strict word limit enforced either. It can be very easy for you to want to fit in as much information as you can in order to maximize your chances of admission. However, admissions officers don’t want to know every single thing about you. They’ve only got a limited amount of time to look through your essays so make sure your responses cover only what is necessary and keep the focus on yourself and how you would benefit from a Harvard education. This is not a place where you want to go off on tangents. Avoid general statements and stick to characteristics and experiences that make you unique.
- Demonstrate the characteristics that Harvard is looking for - Harvard looks for students who demonstrate “maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure.” When choosing a topic, think about how you can bring these qualities forward in your essays. During your brainstorming process, ask yourself whether your topic depicts you as a mature individual, whether you’ve shown that you work well under pressure, and if there are any places you can sprinkle your sense of humor in without it sounding forced. Since a lot of students who apply to Harvard have strong numbers and extracurriculars, you need to further establish yourself as the perfect fit for the school when writing your supplemental essays.
- Your choice of topic could make a difference - Let’s face it—you have no shortage of options when it comes to picking your topic for t he Harvard supplemental essays 2023-2024 . If you have a vague idea about what to answer for how you would use your gap year but feel much more comfortable talking about the books you’ve read in the past year, you should obviously choose the latter topic. If you feel like the essay you’ve written fits a prompt differently than the one you initially tackled, go ahead and select that prompt on the Common App. Don’t forget to adjust accordingly to specific requirements asked by the new question!
The reality is: it can be difficult to stand out among over 42,000 applicants. But if you avoid common answers in your Harvard supplemental essays 2023-2024 and show admissions officers that you possess the values that Harvard looks for, you’ll set yourself up for a chance at admission.
At InGenius Prep, we take pride in our record of helping students triple their chances of being accepted into a top 10 school. If you're seeking expert advice on how to effectively strategize your supplemental essays, sign up for a free consultation today with one of our college admissions experts.
Tags : applying to harvard , how to get into harvard , harvard essays , Harvard Supplemental Essay 2023-2024
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Search the site, search suggestions, the personal essay.
Unlike the rest of your application, which primarily consists of filling in boxes, the personal essay gives you the freedom to essentially write about whatever you want. No rules! Show who you are! Which sounds pretty cool, until you’re sitting there looking at a blank Word document.
While the personal essay is a great opportunity to infuse your voice into the application, I think some people (cough, me, cough) can get overwhelmed by it to the point where they don’t know how to begin. What do I write about? What makes me stand out? How can I explain all of this in only a few hundred words?
Well, as someone who eventually managed to get some words down on that blank document and turn out a decent college essay, here are a few words of advice.
1. Start by writing something.
I know, that sounds really obvious. But sometimes the hardest part of writing is just getting started – if you spend too much time criticizing your ideas before you write anything down, you won’t get anywhere. Write a few sentences, jot down some random ideas, note a couple anecdotes that might be interesting… just get something on paper that you can look back to. Maybe one of those ideas will catch, and BOOM you have an essay – or maybe you’ll look back to this list after a few weeks and think of something else that you would rather write about. That’s fine! The beginning of the creative process involves coming up with ideas, judging them comes later. Trust me, I took a class on this (really: it was a psych class called “Creativity: Madmen, Geniuses, and Harvard Students.”)
2. Think about something that has some significance to you.
Many students feel like they have to write about some huge, life-changing, important event in their lives. If you have something like this that you want to write about, that’s great! However, you can also write an awesome essay about something other than The Most Important Thing Ever. It can be the littlest things, if you explain their significance well, that actually stand out. In my case, somewhere in my essay I mentioned that I got up at 5:37am (rather than 5:30 or 5:45) because I liked prime numbers – and the first thing my admissions officer said when I walked into the room for my interview was, “So, prime numbers, huh?” That being said, remember that this is a college essay, so keep this audience and goal in mind as you write. When they finish reading, what do you want the admissions officers to know about you? Does this essay demonstrate something about who you are and what you care about? If not, you might want to go back to the drawing board.
3. Don’t be afraid to start over.
After finishing my first draft, I was glad to have something, but I wasn’t completely happy with it either. A week or two later, as I was reading over my essay again, I had an idea for a totally different topic - so I opened another document and completely started over. The second attempt was so much better, and I felt happy with how it turned out. It can be hard to scrap an initial attempt after spending so much time on it, but think of that time as just part of the process of getting to what you really want to write about.
4. Get an outside perspective.
One of the most useful things I did while working on my college essay was asking a couple people to read it over. At the time, I had two drafts that I was choosing between, and I wasn’t sure which one captured “me” better. When I asked my parents and teacher what they thought, they unanimously picked one option over the other. In the end, it’s important to have an essay that you are happy with – but sometimes having a fresh set of eyes can help you see what that is.
This is an important step! Both you, and perhaps someone who knows you well, should read over your essay and make sure it is in tip-top shape before you turn it in. There should be no grammatical or spelling mistakes – that gives the impression that you did not take your time on it. I know you’ve spent a long time on it by this point, but those last edits are super important!
The personal essay is a snippet of who you are and where you’re coming from – a snapshot for the admissions officers to look at as they read your application. It will never be able to capture everything about you, but you want to make sure that you’re giving them your best angle. So sit down, smile, and get to writing!
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Read 2 Transfer Student Essays That Worked
Strong transfer essays can help pave the way to admissions offers.
Read 2 Transfer Essays That Worked
Though it isn't a golden ticket, a strong transfer essay may boost an applicant's odds of admission. (Getty Images)
There are as many reasons to transfer colleges as there are transfer students. But regardless of why someone wants to move to a new institution, the process for doing so usually requires an admissions essay.
Colleges With the Most Transfer Students
Josh Moody Jan. 28, 2020
Though it isn't a golden ticket, a strong transfer essay may boost an applicant's odds of admission.
In a 2018 National Association for College Admission Counseling survey , 41.5% of colleges polled said a transfer applicant's essay or writing sample is of either considerable or moderate importance in the admission decision.
A compelling, well-written transfer essay doesn't guarantee acceptance – many other factors are at play, such as an applicant's GPA. However, a strong essay can be a factor that helps move the odds in the applicant's favor, says Kathy Phillips, associate dean of undergraduate admissions at Duke University in North Carolina.
Know What Colleges Are Looking For In a Transfer Essay
Some schools have prospective transfer students use the Common App or the Coalition Application to apply. In addition to the main essay, students may be required to submit a second writing sample or respond to short-answer questions, though this isn't always the case. Prospective students can check a college's website for specific guidance regarding how to apply.
Whatever application method they use, prospective students should be aware that writing a transfer essay is not the same as writing a first-year college application essay, experts advise. First-year essays are more open-ended, says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York. When applying as first-years, prospective students can generally write about any experience, relationship or goal that has shaped who they are as people, she says.
This contrasts with transfer essays, where the focus is typically narrower. Barron says she thinks of transfer essays as more of a statement of purpose. "We're really looking to see students' reasons for wanting to transfer," she says.
Katie Fretwell, the recently retired dean of admission and financial aid at Amherst College in Massachusetts, says prospective transfer students are in a position to be a bit more reflective about their educational goals because of their additional year or years of experience post-high school. The essay helps admissions officers get a sense of whether an applicant has done "an appropriate level of soul-searching about the match," she says.
Transfer Essay Examples
Below are two transfer essays that helped students get into Duke and Amherst, respectively. Both institutions are very selective in transfer admissions. For fall 2018, Duke had a transfer acceptance rate of 8% and Amherst accepted 4% of its transfer applicants, according to U.S. News data.
Hover over the circles to read what made these essays stand out to admissions experts.
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Harvard University 2023-24 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide
Harvard University 2023-24 Application Essay Question Explanations
The Requirements: Five essays of 200 words or fewer
Supplemental Essay Type(s): Diversity , Activity , Oddball
Harvard is asking 2023-24 applicants to pen five short essays in response to the following prompts:
Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. how will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to harvard* (200 words).
Admissions wants to know what has made you into the person you are today and how those experiences will affect the way you engage with and contribute to the Harvard community. So, tell a story about an experience that has shaped you and connect the lessons you learned to the ways in which you will contribute to diversity on campus next fall. Start by thinking about the kinds of experiences you’ve had in the communities you’ve been a part of thus far. Then, once you’ve identified the life experience(s) that have shaped you, think ahead to how those will impact your time at Harvard. Admissions wants to know what your area of influence will look like on campus—whether that be applying the leadership skills you developed in your community theater troupe to the drama productions at Farkas Hall, celebrating intersectional identities with other members of the queer Jewish community with BAGELS , or connecting and networking with your peers through Harvard Black Students Association . Whatever you write about, make sure your response to this prompt shows that you have put some serious thought into the things that have shaped you and how you will apply those lessons and experiences to your time at Harvard next fall.
Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.* (200 words)
It’s no surprise that Harvard is hoping to invite students to campus who are excited about learning, so take this opportunity to geek out about an awesome learning experience you had recently. Maybe you find marine life to be absolutely fascinating, so you’ve been reading up on the most dangerous creatures in the deep dark sea (and their preferred prey, of course). Perhaps you had the opportunity to take a class or seminar with a thought leader you really admire or you went on a reading retreat that expanded your horizons. Whatever it may be, this is the perfect opportunity to show admissions your passion for pursuing knowledge and reflect on the impact it had on you.
Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.* (200 words)
Next up is a fun twist on the classic activity essay, which asks you to expand on an extracurricular endeavor that has shaped who you are. Our advice is to focus on one or two activities that have made the biggest impact on you. Although we usually urge students to write about items that haven’t appeared elsewhere on their application, the activity essay is an exception since it specifically asks you to address an item on your resume. The trick here is to pick something with meat! Maybe your trip to visit your extended family members in Thailand opened your eyes to how limited your world had been in your small Midwestern town. Perhaps four years of debate club have nurtured your communication skills and ability to speak up for yourself. Whatever activity you choose to write about, be sure to pick one that has been fundamental to your understanding of who you are.
How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?* (200 words)
Admissions already knows a bit about what makes you you; now they want to know why Harvard is the obvious next step in the trajectory of your life. Take some time to meditate on what you hope your life will look like after Harvard—we’re talking ten, twenty years in the future. Once you have an idea of what you hope for that person to be like or do on an average day, invite admissions into your vision and show them how a Harvard education is a pivotal step (or three) on the ladder of success to get there. Regardless of your vision, your response should cite programs, activities, and organizations that Harvard offers. Anyone can say they hope to become a renowned doctor or an attorney for the people, but not everyone is going to do their homework to show admissions that they’ve thought through exactly how they want to get there. Of course, admissions isn’t going to hold you to your blueprint, but they do want to see that you’ve given not only your decision to apply to Harvard some serious thought, but your life post-graduation as well.
Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you.* (200 words)
With this prompt, admissions is hoping to see a different side of you, perhaps one that is less intellectual (unless that’s just who you are, in which case, rock on with your nerdy self) and a little more casual. Start by making a list. Write down everything that comes to mind. You can edit and revise later—no idea is too silly to jot down! Maybe you think your roommates should know that you just can’t not sing while in the shower (we’re talking Celine Dion, Adele, Whitney Houston) or that you make the meanest plate of rice and beans in your pressure cooker (and you love to share). Once you’ve narrowed your list down to three (3) things, see if you can weave together a narrative that gives admissions a little taste of what it would be like to hang out in the dorms with you. How do you connect with your peers? What most excites you about residential life? What are the quirks that make you you ? By the time admissions puts down your application, they should feel like your personality is jumping off the page.
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Harvard University Transfers: 2023 Requirements, Dates, GPAs & More
This is the complete guide for transferring to Harvard University. We suggest you read until the end - you can also use the below calculator to estimate your likelihood of being able to transfer to Harvard University.
This free college chances tool calculates your acceptance chances at any other U.S. college
Please note all chances are estimates based on test score and GPA averages.
I get it - transferring colleges can be confusing, time-consuming and overwhelming. You are not alone . In fact, more than 700,000 students transfer colleges every year. Watch the Harvard University CampusReel
At Harvard University, 0.13% of the entire student body are transfer students, so you won’t be alone.
To read about regular admission requirements for Harvard University, click here
Can you transfer into Harvard University
What are the transfer requirements for Harvard University?
Harvard University requires a number of completed documents for consideration. The table below summarizes the most important pieces of information:
In addition to the above requirements, Harvard University also requires a minimum number of credits completed to apply to be a transfer student.
Harvard University requires a minimum of 4 credits.
What are Harvard University’s Transfer Deadlines?
Many universities accept transfer applications during each semester. For this reason, we break down Harvard University transfer deadline by fall, winter, spring and summer.
Waiting until the last minute to finalize your application could result in a silly mistake.
We recommend you complete your application at least 1 week before the required deadline.
In fact, take a full 2 day break from looking at anything related to your application and then come back to look for errors. I bet you’ll find a few 😉
When are decision dates for Harvard University transfer applicants?
If you applied to transfer to Harvard University on or before the reported deadlines then you should have your decision date by the notification dates in the below table.
Note this data is current as of 2019 and to the best of our knowledge this hasn’t changed.
What is Harvard University’s transfer acceptance rate?
In 2019, Harvard University received 1548 transfer applicants.
The school accepted 15 students. Therefore, the transfer acceptance rate for Harvard University is 0.97%.
This indicates how hard it is to transfer into Harvard University. You can use the free calculator below to predict your chances of getting accepted.
Additionally, of the 15 accepted transfer students, 13 students enrolled - that means the yield was 86.67%.
Harvard University accepts 1 out of every 100 transfer applicants.
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What are the Harvard University transfer GPA requirements?
Harvard University requires a minimum college GPA of 4.18 - this is on a 4.33 point scale.
In addition, Harvard University requires a minimum high school GPA of 4.18.
Harvard University has noted the additional policies: N/A.
Will you enjoy transferring to Harvard University?
There are a lot of reasons to transfer to Harvard University.
Maybe your plan has always been to attend community college, and then move to a four year college to save money while completing your degree.
Maybe you had a bad experience at your first school - don’t worry this is more common than you think.
Or perhaps you’re drawn to Cambridge...
Will you be able to find a place to find home and grow?
Regardless of your reason for transferring, you’re already enrolled at another college or university so you know that the most important element in your college experience is the people and community
Finding success at Harvard University is dependent on feeling comfortable - will you be able to find a place to find home and grow?
These are the questions that numbers and data cannot answer, but CampusReel can.
If you’re considering transferring to Harvard University then I highly recommend that you watch the school’s videos on CampusReel. These are real students with real stories.
Let’s wrap up everything we’ve learned. If you still have questions about transferring, check out the Harvard University website for more info. Harvard University accepts 0.97% transfer applicants, which is competitive.
To have a shot at transferring into Harvard University, you should have a current GPA of at least 4.18 - ideally you’re GPA will be around 4.35. In addition, you will need to submit standardized test scores.
The below tables show the SAT and ACT breakdown of Harvard University students.
Harvard University’s average SAT score is 1515. To be a competitive applicant for Harvard University your SAT score should come close to the average - for the ACT you should be aiming for the equivalent.
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10 Successful Harvard Application Essays | 2022
With the top applicants from every high school applying to the best schools in the country, it's important to have an edge in your college application. Check out our updated list of 10 Harvard application essays below from students who made it in, and hear from expert college consultants about what made these work.
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Successful Harvard Essay - “Black Eyeliner Does Not Make You a Nonconformist”
Several years ago, my mother told me I listen to “white people music.” And I suppose that’s true—rock 'n' roll tends to spring from the middle-class basements of young, white men. Though I did point out that its origins trace back to jazz musicians of the Harlem Renaissance. Also that one of the greatest guitarists of all time—dear Mr.Hendrix; may he rest in peace—was black.
My devotion to punk rock began in seventh grade, when Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” came up on my iTunes shuffle. I started to look into their other releases, eventually immersing myself into the complete punk discography. My mother, having grown up in a racially segregated New York, was more likely to listen to Stevie Wonder than Stevie Nicks.
But, she must have figured, to each her own. So while my compatriots indulged in the music of Taylor Swift, One Direction, and Lady Gaga, my tacky Hot Topic headphones blasted Green Day, Ramones, and The Clash. My young adolescent ears drank in the raw, chaotic beauty, an echo of the pain of the past. The thrashing, pulsating vitality of the instruments painted a picture, connecting me to the disillusioned kids who launched an epic movement of liberation some 40 years ago.
Punkers question authority. Aggressively contrarian, they advocate for the other side—the side that seemed smothered silent during the post-Vietnam era. They rejected the established norms. They spoke out and weren’t afraid.
I had always felt different from my peers. In my girls’s prep school, the goal was to be blond and good at soccer. I was neither, which automatically deemed me “uncool”. I had a few close friends but never felt like I was part of a whole.
Then came the punk philosophy, for the outliers, for those who were different. That was something I could be part of.
Instead of trying to conform to my peers, I adopted an anti-conformist attitude. Much like the prematurely gray anti-hero of my favorite book, I sneered at all the “phonies” around me. I resented anything popular. Uggs? Wouldn’t buy them. Yoga pants? Never. Starbucks?Well, I could make a few concessions.
But I felt more cynical than liberated. I wasted so much energy on being different than I lost track of what actually made me happy. I insisted I didn’t care what people thought of me, which was true. Yet if I based my actions almost solely on their behavior, how could I deny their influence?
Luckily, as I transitioned from a private school to a brand new public high school, I got to clean the slate. I bought yoga pants and found they were comfortable. I listened to a wide variety of music, even the eh kind that wasn’t 100% hardcore punk. And I was happier.
I revised my punk philosophy: Do as you like—whether it fits into the “system” or not.
The Beatles’s “Revolution” lyrics sum it up well:
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
What I think Lennon was getting at is questioning everything does not entail opposing everything.
What I think Lennon was getting at is questioning everything does not entail opposing everything. Defiance for the sake of defiance is unproductive at best, destructive at worst. I believe in life’s greater Truths, like Love and Justice. These Truths are what should govern my actions—not what’s popular and what isn’t. Striving to act on these ideals has helped me stay true to myself, regardless of what’s considered “conformist."
Perhaps I’ve failed the punk movement. We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’ll do what makes me happy and change what doesn’t. I’ll wear Doc Martens instead of Uggs; I’ll partake in a grande pumpkin spice latte; I’ll watch Gossip Girl; I’ll blare my favorite guitar solo over the speakers in my room.
And that’s as punk as it gets.
Professional Review by The Art of Applying
From the snarky title and fiery opening, I was immediately drawn in. I and many people on our team at The Art of Applying® grew up as one of the few students of color in our honors classes, being told we liked “white people things.”
When you write about very specific personal experiences you’ve had, you can strike an emotional chord and connection with people who have similar experiences, and you can simultaneously intrigue people who have had vastly different experiences.
The student’s response to her mother’s assertion and the level of knowledge the student demonstrates about punk rock’s origins and political context show that she doesn’t just enjoy punk music passively as a fan; she was curious enough to research and learn about its historical roots, and confident enough to offer a contradictory viewpoint about what punk music is and who it is and isn’t for.
I enjoyed reading the journey of how the student’s interest in punk rock blossomed from an interest into a passion and eventually an identity. Don’t just tell us the beginning and the end of a personal growth journey; show us the messy middle too.
The student concisely depicts a vivid image of her outsider status in her private school without villainizing the other students. She also uses humor and wordplay well when she makes a concession for enjoying Starbucks.
A turning point in the essay comes when the student starts questioning whether her staunchly nonconformist identity is serving her. This shows an even deeper level of self reflection and personal growth.
While including quotes and lyrics in your essay can divert attention from your own words to a famous person’s, the student effectively uses the lyrics as a launching point for further reflection.
It ends in the same confident, energetic voice I grew to love throughout the piece, and the final sentences read like a glorious mic drop.
The conclusion is strong in that we see a person who has embraced all sides of herself rather than stubbornly clinging to a rigid image of nonconformity.
This essay is an excellent example to learn from if you want to write about how one of your passions spurred personal growth, struggles with fitting in, changing your mind about who you are, and/or getting clear on your values.
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Successful Harvard Essay: More Boluses to Dissect
Finally, I had found a volunteer opportunity at the Long Marine Lab, a marine biology research facility at UC Santa Cruz! I envisioned swimming with dolphins, or perhaps studying behavioral patterns of decorator crabs. But when I discovered the nature of my work on the first day of volunteering, my excitement turned to disappointment: I’d be picking through albatross boluses, the indigestible materials they cough up before going to sea. Sure enough, after three hours of separating fishing line from brown muck, I began to dread what I was in for. At that point, I had no clue of just how interesting the opportunity would turn out to be, and it would remind me of how easily I become engrossed and fascinated by all sorts of random stuff.
It didn't take long for my boredom with the boluses to shift toward curiosity.
It didn’t take long for my boredom with the boluses to shift toward curiosity. In the first place, the project itself was fascinating. The idea was to research the behavior and diet of albatrosses at sea. These birds can fly for months without touching land! When the birds have chicks, they cough up whatever they’ve eaten at sea to feed their young. When the chicks become old enough to fly, they cough up the hard, indigestible materials left in their stomachs. These boluses contain squid beaks that can reveal the types of squid eaten and the area where the squid were caught. We volunteers would pick through the boluses, separating out anything that looked interesting.
As I got better at dissecting these blobs, I started finding crazy stuff, and my colleagues and I would often discuss important findings. There was, of course, the search for the biggest squid beak, and the fish eyes were always interesting. But most shocking was the plastic. Beyond the normal Styrofoam and fishing line were plastic bottle caps, lighters, even toothbrushes. Occasionally, Asian writing revealed distant origins. Once, I picked through a bolus permeated with orange goo, eventually to discover the round mouthpiece of a balloon. The origins of these artifacts were sad, but also fascinating. I learned of the Texas-sized trash heap in the middle of the Pacific, the effects of which I was witnessing firsthand. I gained a heightened awareness of the damage inflicted on the oceans by humans, and their far-reaching impacts. Perhaps most importantly, I realized that even the most tedious things can blow my mind.
If dissecting boluses can be so interesting, imagine the things I’ve yet to discover! I play piano and can see myself dedicating my life to the instrument, but I can’t bear to think of everything else I’d have to miss. I’d love to study albatrosses, but also particle physics or history, and preferably all three. At this point in my life, I can’t imagine picking just one area. At the same time, though, I love studying subjects in depth. I tend to get overwhelmed by my options, since I can’t possibly choose them all. But at least I know I’ll never be bored in life: there are just too many subjects to learn about, books to read, pieces to play, albatrosses to save, and boluses to dissect.
Professional Review by Prep Expert (Akbar Rahel)
While many applicants write essays full of detail and superlatives, emotional honesty is a critical component of a great essay.
What immediately distinguishes the first paragraph of the essay is the emotional honesty: Taras admits how “excitement turned to disappointment” and how he “had no clue” about how the opportunity would turn out. Too often, applicants fail to recognize that admissions officers are just normal people reading essays—people who also experience a range of emotions such as disappointment and confusion. While many applicants write essays full of detail and superlatives, emotional honesty is a critical component of a great essay.
Moreover, on a simple, albeit important level, he situates readers in the very first sentence by mentioning that his research was a volunteer opportunity at Long Marine Lab. Too many applicants attempt to keep a reader in suspense when, in fact, it is always better to provide context for an experience. Admissions officers don’t want to feel like they are deciphering the seemingly mundane who, what, when, and where. Nobody has time to untangle an essay.
Moving on, Taras succeeds in clearly demonstrating a sincere passion for his research by sharing interesting details of his work, such as understanding boluses. Whether writing about birds, Model UN, or any other possible topic, details are what help applicants show the admissions committees a level of intellectual vitality.
While an overall vibrant essay that captures a reader’s attention because of the unique topic, some aspects could have been improved. For example, exclamation points may come across as contrived enthusiasm to many readers—and strip away some of the decorum of an essay. Moreover, in the last paragraph, Taras mentions particle physics and history as possible interests, which did not align with the essay (and could have hurt chances for admissions in the final “shaping” of an incoming class).
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Successful Harvard Essay: Yukta
Garishly lined with a pearlescent lavender, my eyes idly scanned the haphazard desk in front of me, settling on a small kohl. I packed the ebony powder into my waterline with a shaky hand, wincing at the fine specks making their way into my eyes.
The palette's colors bore in, the breadth of my imagination interwoven into now-brittle brushes.
The girl in the mirror seemed sharper, older, somehow. At only 12, I was relatively new to the powders and blushes that lined my birthday makeup kit, but I was determined to decipher the deep splashes of color that had for so long been an enigma to me.
After school involved self-inflicted solitary confinement, as I shut myself in my bedroom to hone my skills. The palette’s colors bore in, the breadth of my imagination interwoven into now-brittle brushes. Much to my chagrin, my mom walked in one day, amused at my smudged lipstick, which congealed on the wispy hairs that lined my upper lip.
“Halloween already?” she asked playfully.
I flushed in embarrassment as she got to work, smoothing my skin with a brush and filling the gaps in my squiggly liner. Becoming a makeup aficionado was going to take some help.
“What’s this even made of?” I asked, transfixed by the bright powder she was smattering on my cheeks.
“You know, I’m not sure,” she murmured. “Maybe you should find out.”
Hours down the internet rabbit hole, I learned that the shimmery powder was made of mica, a mineral commonly used in cosmetics. While the substance was dazzling, its production process was steeped in humanitarian violations and environmental damage. Determined to reconcile my burgeoning love for makeup with my core values, I flung the kit into the corner of my drawer, vowing to find a more sustainable alternative. Yes, I was every bit as dramatic as you imagine it.
Now 17, I approach ethical makeup with assured deliberation. As I glance at my dusty kit, which still sits where I left it, I harken back on the journey it has taken me on. Without the reckoning that it spurred, makeup would still simply be a tool of physical transformation, rather than a catalyst of personal growth.
Now, each swipe of eyeliner is a stroke of my pen across paper as I write a children’s book about conscious consumerism. My flitting fingers programmatically place sparkles, mattes, and tints across my face in the same way that they feverishly move across a keyboard, watching algorithms and graphs integrate into models of supply chain transparency. Makeup has taught me to be unflinching, both in self expression and my expectations for the future. I coat my lips with a bold sheen, preparing them to form words of unequivocal urgency at global conferences and casual discussions. I see my passion take flight, emboldening others to approach their own reckonings, uncomfortable as they may be. I embark on a two-year journey of not buying new clothes in a statement against mass consumption and rally youth into a unified organization. We stand together, picking at the gritty knots of makeup, corporate accountability, and sustainability as they slowly unravel.
Deep rooted journeys of triumph and tribulation are plastered across the surface of my skin — this paradox excites me.
I’m not sure why makeup transfixes me. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy seeing my reveries take shape. Yukta, the wannabe Wicked Witch of the West, has lids coated with emerald luster and lips of coal. Yukta, the Indian classical dancer, wields thick eyeliner and bright crimson lipstick that allow her expressions to be amplified across a stage. Deep rooted journeys of triumph and tribulation are plastered across the surface of my skin — this paradox excites me.
Perhaps I am also drawn to makeup because as I peel back the layers, I am still wholly me. I am still the young girl staring wide-eyed at her reflection, earnestly questioning in an attempt to learn more about the world. Most importantly, I still carry an unflagging vigor to coalesce creativity and activism into palpable change, one brushstroke at a time.
Professional Review by Prepory
This student takes a household item as common as makeup to build a narrative that is as universally accessible as it is unique. This object is inflected with facets of both her personal and cultural identity that give the reader immediate contact with the student’s personality. She takes us on a sweeping journey through her investigation of the world around her, and embarks on a coming-of-age story without losing sight of the essay’s main topic. This student strikes a balance between the narrative and creative writing elements that are integral to successful personal statements. The writer gives us glimpses of insight into her personal development across multiple years, using makeup as a medium for self-reflection and discovery. She masterfully leverages the colors and elements of her makeup collection to craft vivid descriptions, situating imagery as the cornerstone of this essay’s approach and success. She takes up an object so easily tied to consumerism and superficiality and uses it to champion the societal and ethical battles for which she advocates.
We also see that the writer of this essay has a clearly defined voice. While many students struggle with the temptation to elevate their writing through ornamentation, this writer is able to maneuver a vibrant writing style that remains engaging, rhythmic and measured. Through each moment of this essay, we learn what the author cares about: conscious consumerism, creativity, and activism; we also learn how she thinks: curiosily, selflessly, and with feminist undertones. The opening sentences of this essay employ a successful strategy for personal statement writing, rich with adjectives detailing a small scene, that is expanded upon to make a larger commentary about the author and where she stands in society. Last, the student’s essay compliments her larger admissions profile in which the reader learns about years of advocacy, sustainable practices, and intentions to positively impact her community.
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Successful Harvard Essay: Homeless for Thirteen Years
I sat on my parents’ bed weeping with my head resting on my knees. “Why did you have to do that to me? Why did you have to show me the house and then take it away from me?” Hopelessly, I found myself praying to God realizing it was my last resort.
For years, my family and I found ourselves moving from country to country in hopes of a better future. Factors, such as war and lack of academic opportunities, led my parents to pack their bags and embark on a new journey for our family around the world. Our arduous journey first began in Kuçovë, Albania, then Athens, Greece, and then eventually, Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout those years, although my family always had a roof over our heads, I never had a place I could call “home.”
Instantly, I knew that it was fate that was bringing this house to me.
That night that I prayed to God, my mind raced back to the night I was clicking the delete button on my e-mails, but suddenly stopped when I came upon a listing of the house. It was September 22, 2007 —eight years exactly to the day that my family and I had moved to the United States. Instantly, I knew that it was fate that was bringing this house to me. I remembered visiting that yellow house the next day with my parents and falling in love with it. However, I also remembered the heartbreaking phone call I received later on that week saying that the owners had chosen another family’s offer.
A week after I had prayed to God, I had given up any hopes of my family buying the house. One day after school, I unlocked the door to our one-bedroom apartment and walked over to the telephone only to see it flashing a red light. I clicked PLAY and unexpectedly heard the voice of our real estate agent. “Eda!” she said joyfully. “The deal fell through with the other family—the house is yours! Call me back immediately to get started on the papers.” For a moment, I stood agape and kept replaying the words in my head. Was this really happening to me? Was my dream of owning a home finally coming true?
Over the month of November, I spent my days going to school and immediately rushing home to make phone calls. Although my parents were not fluent enough in English to communicate with the bank and real estate agent, I knew that I was not going to allow this obstacle to hinder my dream of helping to purchase a home for my family. Thus, unlike a typical thirteen-year-old girl’s conversations, my phone calls did not involve the mention of makeup, shoes, or boys. Instead, my conversations were composed of terms, such as “fixed-rate mortgages,” “preapprovals,” and “down payments.” Nevertheless, I was determined to help purchase this home after thirteen years of feeling embarrassed from living in a one-bedroom apartment. No longer was I going to experience feelings of humiliation from not being able to host sleepovers with my friends or from not being able to gossip with girls in school about who had the prettiest room color.
I had been homeless for the first thirteen years of my life. Although I will never be able to fully repay my parents for all of their sacrifices, the least I could do was to help find them a home that they could call their own—and that year, I did. To me, a home means more than the general conception of “four walls and a roof.” A home is a place filled with memories and laughter from my family. No matter where my future may lead me, I know that if at times I feel alone, I will always have a yellow home with my family inside waiting for me.
Professional Review by Potomac Admissions
Honest. Heartbreaking. Powerful.
Those were the first three words that came to mind after reading Eda’s essay.
By being so honest, Eda showcases her genuine growth and maturity over time.
What we love about Eda’s essay is its refreshing vulnerability. Too many college essays are “too” picture-perfect. Eda doesn’t censor the truth, even if admitting her inner thoughts may potentially paint her in a negative light. For example, she starts the entire essay with a scene of her weeping on her parents’ bed, blaming them for her misfortune. By being so honest, Eda showcases her genuine growth and maturity over time.
Her personal voice is also strong throughout the essay. When she talks about falling in love with “that yellow house,” an image of said house is automatically conjured up in our minds. When she speaks of the heartbreak she experienced upon learning “that yellow house” was sold to another family, we felt pain in our hearts too. Her deliberate choice to “PLAY” the voicemail she received for us and include her subsequent internal thoughts further pulls us into reliving her journey with her.
Yet, she goes beyond merely telling us of her journey. She highlights just how atypical her journey has been. Instead of enjoying phone conversations about makeup or shoes, she is talking to agents about fix-rate mortgages and down payments… all at the age of 13. Though she does not explicitly state this (she doesn’t need to): it is clear that Eda has had to grow up fast, becoming a stronger individual as a result.
Her understanding of the word “home” evolves from a physical roof over her head to a more abstract one. Home is wherever her “memories and laughter” exist. In the end, she comes to terms with the sacrifices her parents have made. Learning to be proud of her upbringing showcases Eda’s evolution.
Eda is someone who will overcome whatever challenges thrown her way, making her a strong college applicant.
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Successful Harvard Essay: Playing it Dangerous
In hazy stillness, a sudden flurry of colored skirts, whispers of “Merde!” Sternly, my fingers smooth back my hair, although they know no loose strands will be found. My skin absorbs heat from stage lights above—if only that heat would seep into my brain, denature some proteins, and deactivate the neurons stressing me out. A warm hand, accompanied by an even warmer smile, interrupts my frenzied solitude. I glance up. My lovely teacher nods, coaxing my frozen lips into a thawed smile. A complex figure, filled in with doubt, yet finished with shades of confidence: My body takes its place and waits.
One, two, three, four; two, two, three, four. On stage, the lights and music wash over me. Never having had a true ballet solo before, my lungs are one breath away from hyperventilating. Trying to achieve a Zen-like state, I imagine a field of daisies, yet my palms continue sweating disobediently. It’s not that I’ve never been on stage alone before; I’ve had plenty of piano recitals and competitions. Yet, while both performances consume my mind and soul, ballet demands complete commitment of my body.
I've had plenty of piano recitals and competitions. Yet, while both performances consume my mind and soul, ballet demands complete commitment of my body.
Gently slide into arabesque and lean downward; try not to fall flat on face—Mom’s videotaping. In terms of mentality, I would hardly be described as an introvert; yet, a fear of failure has still kept me from taking risks. Maybe I was scared of leaping too high, falling too far, and hitting the hard floor. As I moved up in the cutthroat world of dance, this fear only increased; the pressure of greater expectations and the specter of greater embarrassment had held me contained. Now, every single eyeball is on me.
Lean extra in this pirouette; it’s more aesthetic. But is it always better to be safe than sorry? Glancing toward the wings, I see my teacher’s wild gesticulations: Stretch your arms out, she seems to mime, More! A genuine smile replaces one of forced enthusiasm; alone on the stage, this is my chance to shine. I breathe in the movements, forget each individual step. More than just imagining, but finally experiencing the jubilation of the music, I allow my splits to stretch across the stage and my steps to extend longer and longer, until I’m no longer safe and my heart is racing. Exhilarated and scared in the best way, I throw myself into my jumps. I no longer need to imagine scenes to get in the mood; the emotions are twirling and leaping within me.
Reaching, stretching, grabbing, flinging ... My fear no longer shields me. I find my old passion for ballet, and remember the grace and poise that can nevertheless convey every color of emotion. Playing it safe will leave me part of the backdrop; only by taking risks can I step into the limelight. Maybe I’ll fall, but the rush is worth it. I’ll captain an all-male science bowl team, run a marathon, audition for a musical, and embrace the physical and intellectual elation of taking risks.
Professional Review by MR. MBA®, Val Misra
Lisa creates a winning essay by successfully invoking real emotions in the reader through her creative, descriptive prose that conveys vivid imagery, heartfelt feelings, and wholesome introspection. I instantly likened Lisa’s allegory to a bird trapped in a closed cage; the cage serves as a metaphor for what we all face in our lives, our fears. Lisa’s first ballet solo is brilliantly illustrated as her ‘Aha! moment’ where she sheds her fears (opens her cage) and, with careful self-reflection, chooses to embrace future risks (flies only forward).
In paragraphs 1-3, Lisa captivates us instantly through her beautiful, rich language and imagery, as she portrays herself immobilized by stress and a fear of failure and family/public opinion. I empathize and want to learn more! Her warm humor shines perfectly: wanting to deactivate her brain neurons and reminding herself not to fall face-first lest she gets scolded by her mother/family - wonderfully done! Lisa uses her “lovely teacher” as her grounding, comfort zone and supporter, a theme many can share. Her anxiety is relatable, and she uses this to explicate her general risk averse nature.
In paragraphs 4-5, Lisa’s solo is radiantly depicted as her defining moment where she dances and realizes her transformation- fears turn to passion and excitement. She is poetry in motion in the moment, smiling, shedding her fears, and embracing risk like a warm glass of milk. A poignant question is posed, “But is it always better to be safe than sorry?” Through introspection, Lisa expresses her desire to pursue risks that will advance her personally. Acknowledging she may not always succeed, “the rush is worth it”. Lisa ends with concrete examples of leadership roles and activities that she will pursue at college- admissions officers favorably view students eager to step outside their comfort zones and embark on new adventures/challenges at college. To make this essay stronger, Lisa could have highlighted precisely how she will tackle any fears that may crop up during new obstacles at college, tying to lessons learned through her ballet.
Superbly written in a distinct narrative form, this essay crafts an experience that is vibrant, funny, deep, and relatable.
Superbly written in a distinct narrative form, this essay crafts an experience that is vibrant, funny, deep, and relatable. Lisa’s brand values seamlessly flow throughout the essay: creativity, determination, overcoming obstacles, self-reflection, growth through risk and, of course, passion! We are left with a glowing lesson in motivation in the hope of ridding oneself of such negative feelings to go on and achieve greater things - ‘playing it dangerous’.
Michelle C.'s Essay
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Successful Harvard Essay
“You should scrub off the top layer of your skin whenever you lose a round,” my debate teammate once advised me.
“That’s not practical,” I replied.
“Neither is your refusal to wear clothes you’ve lost important debate rounds in. Your wardrobe has very little to do with your success.”
Half of me disagrees with him. I still bring three BIC Round Stic pencils with 0.7 lead to every test because my gut tells me this fastidious procedure raises my scores. I’m still convinced that labs receive better grades if written in Calibri. And I still won’t rewear clothes in which I’ve lost crucial rounds.
Yet the other half of me is equally dismissive of my own superstitions. I love logic, never failing to check that steps in a proof lead to a precise conclusion without gaps in reasoning.
Fortunately, I often abandon my penchant for pragmatism to accommodate for my unwarranted superstitions. And since I only feel the need to act logicalcally in selective situations, I am perfectly content with the illogical nature of my other habits:
Raised with my great-grandmother, grandparents, and parents all under one roof, I never lacked a consultant to help me transcribe Korean holiday dates from the lunar calendar onto my schedule. Yet whenever all four generations of my family celebrates with a traditional meal of bulgogi, my untraceable and admittedly nonexistent Italian blood flares in protest; I rebelliously cook myself linguine con le vongole that clashes terribly with my mom’s pungent kimchi.
If I plot a graph of “hours I spend in physical activity” versus “week of the year,” the result looks like an irregular cardiac cycle. The upsurges symbolize my battles with colossal walls of water in hopes of catching a smooth surf back to Mission Bay shore. The ensuing period of rest mirrors the hours I spend researching in that one spot in my debate team’s war room that isn’t covered in papers (yet), or at the piano sight-reading the newest Adele song. Then the diastolic tranquility is interrupted by the weekends when I’m sprinting through trenches to avoid paintballs swarming above my favorite arena at Paintball USA.
I find comfort in the familiar. I treasure the regular midnight chats with my brother as we indulge in batter while baking cupcakes for a friend's birthday, keeping our voices hushed
I find comfort in the familiar. I treasure the regular midnight chats with my brother as we indulge in batter while baking cupcakes for a friend’s birthday, keeping our voices hushed to avoid waking our mom and facing her “salmonella is in your near future” lecture. Yet, some of my fondest memories involve talking to people with whom I share nothing in common. Whether my conversations are about the Qatari coach’s research on Kuwait’s female voting patterns, or about the infinite differences between the “common app” and the Oxford interviewing process, or even about my friend’s Swedish school’s peculiar policy of mandating uniforms only on Wednesdays, I love comparing cultures with debaters from different countries.
My behavior is unpredictable. Yet it’s predictably unpredictable. Sure, I’ll never eat a Korean dinner like one might expect. But I’ll always be cooking linguine the moment I catch a whiff of kimchi.
Professional Review by Key Education (Bryan)
Most often, it is the down-to-earth topics that make for the most successful Common App essays. My students have written on subjects as mundane as cleaning, loading the dishwasher, eraser shavings, finding a piece of driftwood, or looking after not one, but two Shiba Inus. And so, it was a delight to read Michelle Choi’s essay. Choi took an idea that the rest of us probably give very little thought to – superstitions – and effectively used it as a focusing lens to explore different parts of her life.
By drawing these connections between seemingly unrelated and different aspects of her life, Choi demonstrated her ability to introspect while giving the reader a richer picture of who she is. Choi is not just another high achiever. Her superstitions – and that ever-present struggle between being logical and superstitious – is what makes her appealing. One can’t help but to like her. As I often remind my students, quirky is cool.
These various connections give the reader insight into what drives Choi as someone who is profoundly curious and quirky, someone who takes a different approach to things.
With Choi’s hook, the reader’s attention is immediately captured. One could be forgiven for probably cringing a little at the thought of scrubbing off a layer of one’s own skin. And besides that, what was Choi even going on about? Her opening compels the reader to want to keep on reading. Very early on in her essay, we know that debating is a core part of her identity. As she guides the reader through the rest of her essay, she skillfully connects her superstitions to other important aspects of her life, including her cultural heritage, family, surfing, music, paintball, baking, conversations with random strangers, and examinations of different cultures around the world. These various connections give the reader insight into what drives Choi as someone who is profoundly curious and quirky, someone who takes a different approach to things, whether it be intentionally combining Korean and Italian cuisine (I picture the likes of Gordon Ramsay already shuddering at the clash of flavors) to playing pop on the piano (perhaps a refreshingly different take than Mozart or Beethoven).
If I could offer one suggestion, it would be that after reading Choi’s essay, I was craving a little more. Perhaps she could have expanded slightly: what did she learn from this process of being unconventional? How did it influence the way she saw the world and influenced her actions? And in what ways did she apply this learning? That said, even with her essay, Choi does what many other students don’t with their Common App essay; she takes that a unique approach using a down-to-earth topic as a focusing lens to draw connections to various parts of her life.
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Successful Harvard Essay: Beauty in Complexity
Gazing up at the starry sky, I see Cygnus, Hercules, and Pisces, remnants of past cultures. I listen to waves crash on the beach, the forces of nature at work. Isn’t it odd how stars are flaming spheres and electrical impulses make beings sentient? The very existence of our world is a wonder; what are the odds that this particular planet developed all the necessary components, parts that all work in unison, to support life? How do they interact? How did they come to be? I thought back to how my previously simplistic mind-set evolved this past year.
The very existence of our world is a wonder; what are the odds that this particular planet developed all the necessary components, parts that all work in unison, to support life?
At Balboa, juniors and seniors join one of five small learning communities, which are integrated into the curriculum. Near the end of sophomore year, I ranked my choices: Law Academy first—it seemed the most prestigious—and WALC, the Wilderness Arts and Literacy Collaborative, fourth. So when I was sorted into WALC, I felt disappointed at the inflexibility of my schedule and bitter toward my classes. However, since students are required to wait at least a semester before switching pathways, I stayed in WALC. My experiences that semester began shifting my ambition-oriented paradigm to an interest-oriented one. I didn’t switch out.
Beyond its integrated classes, WALC takes its students on trips to natural areas not only to build community among its students, but also to explore complex natural processes and humanity’s role in them. Piecing these lessons together, I create an image of our universe. I can visualize the carving of glacial valleys, the creation and gradation of mountains by uplift and weathering, and the transportation of nutrients to and from ecosystems by rivers and salmon. I see these forces on the surface of a tiny planet rotating on its axis and orbiting the sun, a gem in this vast universe. Through WALC, I have gained an intimate understanding of natural systems and an addiction to understanding the deep interconnections embedded in our cosmos.
Understanding a system’s complex mechanics not only satisfies my curiosity, but also adds beauty to my world; my understanding of tectonic and gradational forces allows me to appreciate mountains and coastlines beyond aesthetics. By physically going to the place described in WALC’s lessons, I have not only gained the tools to admire these systems, but have also learned to actually appreciate them. This creates a thirst to see more beauty in a world that’s filled with poverty and violence, and a hunger for knowledge to satisfy that thirst. There are so many different systems to examine and dissect—science alone has universal, planetary, molecular, atomic, and subatomic scales to investigate. I hope to be able to find my interests by taking a variety of courses in college, and further humanity’s understanding through research, so that all can derive a deeper appreciation for the complex systems that govern this universe.
Professional Review by Dan Lichterman
Tony’s essay opens with stargazing at the ocean’s edge where we experience his boundless curiosity towards the natural world, sentience, and life itself. This wide-eyed wonderment is rendered artfully, yet what actually enables this essay to succeed is its ability to ponder deep concepts without getting lost in the clouds.
The story itself revolves around an event that seems far removed from the incomprehensibility of the universe: a randomized selection has assigned Tony to study wilderness arts when he preferred the path of law. He is bitter that a decision impacting his studies has been determined by chance. We see vulnerability in his admission that he was beholden to an “ambition oriented paradigm,” rather than studying what interested him most. However, what we discover through the rest of the essay is that Tony’s decision to remain in wilderness arts is one that has transformed him completely, changing his perspective from a “simplistic mindset” to one that is addicted to “understanding the deep interconnections embedded in our cosmos.”
The strength of Tony's language helps us appreciate the breadth and excitement of his unforseen awakening.
The strength of Tony’s language helps us appreciate the breadth and excitement of his unforseen awakening. From visualizing the “carving of glacial valleys” to reveling in the complex mechanics of natural systems, the essay showcases how much more Tony appreciates our world thanks to an event that had once seemed unfairly arbitrary. Observing Tony’s thirst for life’s interconnectedness, we grow confident that his evolving perspective will guide his studies into exciting unexpected realms.
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My Ye-Ye always wears a red baseball cap. I think he likes the vivid color—bright and sanguine, like himself. When Ye-Ye came from China to visit us seven years ago, he brought his red cap with him and every night for six months, it sat on the stairway railing post of my house, waiting to be loyally placed back on Ye-Ye’s head the next morning. He wore the cap everywhere: around the house, where he performed magic tricks with it to make my little brother laugh; to the corner store, where he bought me popsicles before using his hat to wipe the beads of summer sweat off my neck. Today whenever I see a red hat, I think of my Ye-Ye and his baseball cap, and I smile.
Ye-Ye is the Mandarin word for “grandfather.” My Ye-Ye is a simple, ordinary person—not rich, not “successful”—but he is my greatest source of inspiration and I idolize him. Of all the people I know, Ye-Ye has encountered the most hardship and of all the people I know, Ye-Ye is the most joyful. That these two aspects can coexist in one individual is, in my mind, truly remarkable.
Ye-Ye was an orphan. Both his parents died before he was six years old, leaving him and his older brother with no home and no family. When other children gathered to read around stoves at school, Ye-Ye and his brother walked in the bitter cold along railroad tracks, looking for used coal to sell. When other children ran home to loving parents, Ye-Ye and his brother walked along the streets looking for somewhere to sleep. Eight years later, Ye-Ye walked alone—his brother was dead.
Ye-Ye managed to survive, and in the meanwhile taught himself to read, write, and do arithmetic. Life was a blessing, he told those around him with a smile.
Years later, Ye-Ye’s job sent him to the Gobi Desert, where he and his fellow workers labored for twelve hours a day. The desert wind was merciless; it would snatch their tent in the middle of the night and leave them without supply the next morning. Every year, harsh weather took the lives of some fellow workers.
After eight years, Ye-Ye was transferred back to the city where his wife lay sick in bed. At the end of a twelve-hour workday, Ye-Ye took care of his sick wife and three young children. He sat with the children and told them about the wide, starry desert sky and mysterious desert lives. Life was a blessing, he told them with a smile.
But life was not easy; there was barely enough money to keep the family from starving. Yet, my dad and his sisters loved going with Ye-Ye to the market. He would buy them little luxuries that their mother would never indulge them in: a small bag of sunflower seeds for two cents, a candy each for three cents. Luxuries as they were, Ye-Ye bought them without hesitation. Anything that could put a smile on the children’s faces and a skip in their steps was priceless.
He would buy them little luxuries that their mother would never indulge them in: a small bag of sunflower seeds for two cents, a candy each for three cents.
Ye-Ye still goes to the market today. At the age of seventy-eight, he bikes several kilometers each week to buy bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then bikes home to share them with his neighbors. He keeps a small patch of strawberries and an apricot tree. When the fruit is ripe, he opens his gate and invites all the children in to pick and eat. He is Ye-Ye to every child in the neighborhood.
I had always thought that I was sensible and self-aware. But nothing has made me stare as hard in the mirror as I did after learning about the cruel past that Ye-Ye had suffered and the cheerful attitude he had kept throughout those years. I thought back to all the times when I had gotten upset. My mom forgot to pick me up from the bus station. My computer crashed the day before an assignment was due. They seemed so trivial and childish, and I felt deeply ashamed of myself.
Now, whenever I encounter an obstacle that seems overwhelming, I think of Ye-Ye; I see him in his red baseball cap, smiling at me. Like a splash of cool water, his smile rouses me from grief, and reminds me how trivial my worries are and how generous life has been. Today I keep a red baseball cap at the railing post at home where Ye-Ye used to put his every night. Whenever I see the cap, I think of my Ye-Ye, smiling in his red baseball cap, and I smile. Yes, Ye-Ye. Life is a blessing.
Professional Review by Crimson Education
Yueming’s essay is the perfect example of an application essay that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it fills out the picture of who Yueming is and allows the admissions committee to learn things about him that are not contained in the rest of his application. Yueming uses the story of his Ye-Ye’s baseball cap to show the reader what is important to him and to demonstrate key personality traits that he’d contribute to life on campus.
Yueming uses the story of his Ye-Ye's baseball cap to show the reader what is important to him and to demonstrate key personality traits
Even though most of the text is devoted to Ye-Ye’s biography, the essay is not just about him. Ye-Ye’s whole story is a prelude to the final paragraphs, which reveal the most important aspects of Yueming’s personality. Just like in life, our ancestors’ past is a prelude to a future generation’s history, which is still emerging. This subtle parallel, unnoticeable at first glance, allows the reader to understand the profound development of Yueming’s personality and his talent for looking deeper into the essence of things.
Yueming shows his ability to learn from the experience of others, and he highlights his own resilience and the positive mindset he gained from Ye-Ye. These qualities are undoubtedly essential for a future Harvard student and demonstrate his ability to embody “life is a blessing” on campus and beyond.
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James was not fitting in with everyone else. During lunch, he sat alone, playing with his own toys. During group activities, the other campers always complained when paired with him. What was wrong? As camp counselor, I quietly observed his behavior—nothing out of the ordinary. I just couldn’t fathom why the other campers treated him like a pariah.
After three days of ostracism, James broke down during a game of soccer. Tears streaming down his cheeks, he slumped off the field, head in his hands. I jogged toward him, my forehead creased with concern. Some campers loudly remarked, “Why is that creep crying?” Furious indignation leaped into my heart. They were the ones who “accidentally” bumped into him and called him “James the Freak.” It was their cruelty that caused his meltdown, and now they were mocking him for it. I sharply told them to keep their thoughts to themselves. I squatted beside James and asked him what was wrong. Grunting, he turned his back to me. I had to stop his tears, and I had to make him feel comfortable. So for the next hour, I talked about everything a seven-year-old boy might find interesting, from sports to Transformers.
I had to stop his tears, and I had to make him feel comfortable. So for the next hour, I talked about everything a seven-year-old boy might find interesting, from sports to Transformers.
“I have a question,” I asked as James began to warm to me. I took a deep breath and dove right into the problem. “Why do the other campers exclude you?” Hesitantly, he took off his shoes and socks, and pointed at his left foot. One, two, three … four. He had four toes. We had gone swimming two days before: All the campers must have noticed. I remembered my childhood, when even the smallest abnormality—a bad haircut, a missing tooth—could cause others, including myself, to shrink away. I finally understood.
But what could I do to help? I scoured my mind for the words to settle his demons. But nothing came to me. Impulsively, I hugged him—a gesture of intimacy we camp leaders were encouraged not to initiate, and an act I later discovered no friend had ever offered James before. Then, I put my hand on his shoulder and looked him straight in the eyes. I assured him that external features didn’t matter, and that as long as he was friendly, people would eventually come around. I listed successful individuals who had not been hindered by their abnormalities. And finally, I told him he would always be my favorite camper, regardless of whether he had two, five, or a hundred toes.
On the last day of camp, I was jubilant—James was starting to fit in. Although the teasing had not completely disappeared, James was speaking up and making friends. And when, as we were saying our good-byes, James gave me one last hug and proclaimed that I was his “bestest friend in the whole wide world,” my heart swelled up. From my campers, I learned that working with children is simply awesome. And from James, I learned that a little love truly goes a long way.
Professional Review by College Confidential
Charles Wong takes the all too common experience of watching someone be excluded and explains how he combats it. In his personal account of being a camp counselor, Charles not only communicates that he cares deeply for others, but also displays his thought process for how he solves problems in general. Instead of just declaring these personal characteristics, he shows them through a personal account. The pointed decision to “show” not “tell” is an excellent essay tactic.
Charles not only communicates that he cares deeply for others, but also displays his thought process for how he solves problems in general.
First, Charles begins with his description of the situation. His tone is casual and straightforward. He incorporates crucial details, but his writing is not superfluous. His essay is concise and easy to follow. While this approach may seem to lack sophistication, it reflects Charle’s raw, real thoughts. The reader can feel his concern; Charles walks us through his genuine dilemma. Additionally, the acts of kindness he describes—the pep talks, the hugs—offer insight into his character. The decision to include these details paint Charles as a kind and bright personality, something of value on any college campus.
Moreover, Charles does more than just describe how he solved this particular problem, but expands it to life in general. He grasps meaning from a seemingly mundane experience and explains how it changed his entire mindset. This ability to consciously grow suggests Charles’s drive to to learn from all life has to offer; he is a student in more than just the classroom.
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I have always envied the butterfly.
Its graceful poise as it glides through the air; the blissful flutter of its wings as it courageously embarks upon life’s journeys. Its ambitious and adaptive nature — a change-maker and discoverer, a trendsetter in the animal world, a leader amongst other species. Charles Darwin said, “it is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” I envy the butterfly’s adaptive approach to change, making them the silent leaders of the animal kingdom.
It was at age nine, on a family trip to the Boston Museum of Science, that I was first drawn to the breathtaking butterfly. As I stepped into the butterfly’s endless capsule of nature, the flamboyant and audacious nature of the butterfly was captivating — their vibrant colors flaunted proud and shame-free, central to their persona but not defining of their personality. Their extraordinary courage in self-expression brought a little boy great inspiration. As someone who has questioned and struggled with my identity and accepting my queerness throughout life, the butterfly exemplified what it meant to be bold, courageous, and proud to a young boy who was lacking in all of those.
The butterfly exemplified what it meant to be bold, courageous, and proud to a young boy who was lacking in all of those.
I vividly recall one butterfly standing out among its comrades. Being an uncreative third-grader, I named my new friend Bloo due to his radiant cerulean shades descending from darkness to light as they progressed from the wing’s base. I watched Bloo soar, using his wings to glide far above the dainty and fragile stereotypes placed on him by society. I admire the profound growth Bloo must have achieved to get here, at one point a timid and powerless inchworm evolved into a carefully-crafted canvas of power. Bloo exemplified the strength and pride that I needed to begin accepting my identity. Looking back on this brief encounter with Bloo, I recall how he taught an insecure child self-acceptance. From here, I began to internalize the butterfly’s power. I began to molt into a new skin with fledgling wings.
As I progressed through life with these newly-discovered wings, I became increasingly drawn to observing butterflies in nature. They have proven much more than just precious gems found amongst clouds or prize trophies for kindergarteners to catch in their nets. The butterfly has shown itself as the hidden alpha of the animal kingdom — a leader and trendsetter amongst organisms both small and large, a fearless change-maker enabling them to outsurvive the rest for the past fifty-six million years.
With the wings and strength of the butterfly latched to my shoulders, I proudly embraced the challenge posed by this delicate yet powerful creature — to be a leader and a change-maker. Recognizing many social injustices in my community, I was inspired by the butterfly to become a voice of change. Driven by the butterfly’s creativity, I developed a social justice discussion program to take place at my high school, and became a local leader and fighter against corrupt politics in the 2020 election cycle. Bloo reminds me that time moves quickly and I must never settle nor lose focus in the crusade for justice. I hope to use this fragile time to advocate for equality in medicine, combining my passion for science with advocacy to leave a lasting legacy.
Today, the lessons taught by the butterfly are never far from my mind, whether I'm sitting in my English classroom discussing Beowulf, dreading the prospect of my upcoming integral exam, or even studying Darwin in Biology.
All these years later, as I ponder my defining characteristics and core values, I recognize that it is my time to become the butterfly — to embody Darwin’s words and face life with the courage to create change as I break free from my cocoon and enter the long-awaited adult world.
Professional Review by HS2 Academy
This piece is quite touching, as it deftly crafts a delicate and nuanced picture of Sean’s lifelong connection with the butterfly. It is playful (“my new friend Bloo”) while also profoundly introspective. It starts out effectively with a thought-provoking hook. After all, how many people would think to envy a butterfly? But the essay quickly picks up pace and shows how the butterfly truly is a perfect symbol for Sean’s own metamorphosis into a true leader and agent of change.
The essay works on so many levels because it utilizes an extended metaphor that aptly describes many parallels with Sean's life.
The essay works on so many levels because it utilizes an extended metaphor that aptly describes many parallels with Sean’s life. Oftentimes, many college essays utilize figurative language, but the connection with the narrative of that student’s life tends to be rather superficial. The idea of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon may seem a bit cliche as an image of a student’s transformation, but Sean’s essay goes deeper, in part because of a parallel with Sean’s own struggles with their queer identity. Phrases like using his wings to “glide far above the dainty and fragile stereotypes placed on him by society” powerfully capture Sean’s own journey from an insecure child to an advocate for social justice and equality in medicine.
We learn that Sean has truly found inspiration in the butterfly, rising above struggles with self-identity to become a principled leader with a genuine desire to fight injustice. The qualities Sean demonstrates—determination over adversity, passion for equality and justice—would be a welcome addition to any college community.
Harvard University Essay Guide 2020-2021
In this Harvard University Essay Guide, CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts Jesper (Harvard ‘19), Julia (Harvard ‘21), and Miranda (Harvard ‘19) cover how to approach the 2020-2021 Harvard supplementary essays. For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is a private university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is widely recognized as one of the world’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. Placing at #2 in U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges Rankings, Harvard’s acceptance rate of 4.63% in 2019 ranks it among the most selective colleges in the United States. Harvard has an undergraduate enrollment of 6,788 students, with a 6:1 faculty to student ratio.
Outside of academics, Harvard is a member of the Ivy League, a group of 8 private universities on the East Coast. Harvard students participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, ranging from the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra to the Phillips Brooks House Association, a volunteering group. The school’s alumni include 8 former U.S. Presidents, actresses like Natalie Portman and Rashida Jones, and company founders like Bill Gates of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences (150 word limit, Mandatory)
What can you showcase in this prompt?
Miranda: This is an opportunity to describe how you can contribute to the college community and add value outside of academics, either through the insights you’ve gleaned from an activity or that activity itself. In your response, show that you are passionate about something outside of your studies and have committed time and effort towards that passion.
Jesper: Think carefully about which activity or experience you choose to talk about. If you are involved in multiple extracurricular activities, consider writing about the activity that is most significant to you or the activity you are most likely to continue pursuing in college. Of course, if you are admitted, there is no expectation that you will continue that activity at Harvard; many of my peers and I ended up not spending much time in college on the activities we wrote about. You can also talk about work experience here.
I chose to write about piano, which was something I had studied since I was young, and the enjoyment I took from playing piano.
Julia: In this essay, try to convey how this activity has helped you grow, how it has led you to impact your community, and why it is important to you.
If you need help choosing a topic, consider these questions — is there an activity that you’re particularly proud of, or one that you’ve spent a lot of time and energy on? Have you had any notable leadership positions? Is your activity unusual or unique? Have you had to overcome a great challenge within this field? Are you a minority amongst the people who usually participate in this activity? Have you worked with someone that has influenced you greatly or completed an interesting research project?
If you can, try to pick an activity that isn’t already featured elsewhere on your application, or that shows another side to you. For example, most of my application centered around my passion for the arts, so for this essay, I wrote about serving as captain for my high school’s tennis team.
How can you approach writing this essay?
Miranda: In your response, you only have 150 words, so be sure to write with focus and concision . When describing your chosen experience or extracurricular, be sure to explain exactly what it is and how you participated. In addition, explain what you personally took away from engaging in this activity or experience. If you’ve chosen an extracurricular activity, describe why you love doing it and what it has taught you . Perhaps you love being a member of a sports team because you’ve developed self-discipline and you enjoy working towards a goal with your friends.
Jesper: If you’ve chosen a work experience, you can describe what you learned from that job and how it has shaped your perspective or your future career or studies. For example, working as a cashier at a fast food restaurant may have provided new insights into how you interact with other people, or working as a camp counselor might have made you passionate about teaching and education. Let your personality and interests shine through in your response to this prompt.
Julia: I recommend starting with one or two short sentences (or more!) setting the scene to catch your reader’s eye — paint them a picture, place them in the moment, and show them how hard you’ve worked! Descriptive words and adjectives will help your essay exude passion. Even though it’s a short response, you should still try to make it engaging.
Prompt 2 (150 word limit, Optional):
Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere.
Jesper: If you have meaningful intellectual pursuits that are not already captured in the Common Application Activities Section, this is a great place to highlight them for the admissions committee. For example, did you work on an independent literature study with a teacher or a lab research project outside of your school? Did you start an informal film discussion club with your peers? Did you work on new computer programs or mobile applications as a hobby? Sharing these activities here can help paint a fuller picture of you as an applicant to the admissions committee.
Julia: Even though it’s listed as optional, I highly recommend filling it out. Don’t pass up this opportunity to showcase your intellectual pursuits — Harvard University is seeking curious, unique, active individuals. In this essay, you can reveal not only that you love to learn, but also that you are driven enough to pursue knowledge outside the classroom.
Jesper: This does not appear to be an essay prompt, so it makes most sense here to list additional activities of interest, along with brief explanations of those activities, if needed . If there is more space, you can also highlight what you learned from these activities or accomplishments from them.
If there is only one activity you wanted to highlight, you may be able to turn that into a short essay. However, don’t feel obligated to do so and remember the purpose of this section is more to describe other intellectual activities you want to share with the admissions committee than showcase your creative writing skills.
Julia: Exactly what Jesper said. Also, “intellectual activities” is also a pretty broad category, so don’t be afraid to include something that doesn’t fall into one of the categories that Harvard listed in the prompt.
Prompt 3 (No word limit, Optional):
You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics:
- Unusual circumstances in your life
- Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities
- What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
- An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science, or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you
- How you hope to use your college education
- A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
- The Harvard College Honor Code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
- The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
- Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
- Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.
Jesper: Although this essay is optional, you should take advantage of the opportunity to highlight an aspect of yourself not captured in other parts of your application. If you have personal circumstances, hobbies, interests, or experiences that you feel can contribute to the diverse Harvard student body, this is your chance to highlight that. You can write on diverse topics ranging from hobbies like card magic and car repairs, to your plan for using your Harvard education in the future, to unusual circumstances or challenges that have shaped your path.
Julia: Again, although this prompt appears to be optional, it’s not really optional . You should spend time carefully brainstorming, coming up with a topic, and crafting this one. Take every opportunity you can get to show the Admissions Officers what makes YOU special!
Jesper: For example, writing about the prompt on a “list of books you have read over the past twelve months” and providing commentary on what you learned from these books and why you chose them can shed new light into your interests and way of thinking.
Jesper: Whatever you choose to write about should be 1.) Complementary to what already exists in your application and 2.) Authentic to your identity.
If you chose to write the extracurricular activities essay about tennis, don’t write about tennis again here, unless you can cover a significantly different aspect of it. Each of your essays should contribute a new aspect or reinforce an existing one to Harvard’s understanding of you as an applicant.
If you’re struggling to think of a topic, feel free to refer to essays you may have already written for other colleges. Or, you can spend time writing down key experiences, interests, and background points in order to map out what ideas you can turn into essays.
The topic you choose to write about should feel authentic to you and show what you can bring to Harvard’s community. For example, don’t feel pressured to write a “Why Harvard” essay or select any of the Harvard-related prompts if you don’t feel it will showcase new aspects of yourself .
And keep in mind the offered prompts are not exhaustive: you can write on any topic of choice.
Julia: There’s no limit to the number of directions that you can go with this essay. Some of the prompts are very open-ended, such as “Unusual circumstances in your life” or the “student body diversity” question. For these questions, you can talk about anything, from your family background and your relationship with your grandfather, to your passion for bird-watching.
And although some of the questions are more straightforward — such as the “book list” or “taking time off” question — you should still try to use these to stand out. Like the main common app essay, this supplementary essay provides you with another opportunity to showcase your personality, quirks, passions, talents, and/or unique experiences. Basically, think of it as a second primary essay – another chance to demonstrate what makes you special.
So, now you might be saying, “Ok, got it – I can talk about anything. But how do I actually choose a topic that’ll make me stand out?” Everyone knows that an important part of the application process is creating a unique candidate profile . But most students struggle with finding something unique about their interests or background. Keep in mind – your topic doesn’t necessarily have to be a unique hobby, experience, or project. It’s your personality that makes you unique – the way that you learn, engage, dream, and grow – and that’s what this essay should reveal.
How have others approached this essay?
Jesper: I chose to write about my experience working with fellow students and administrators to improve my high school’s experience, which included efforts to create a coding class and help transition new transfer students into my high school’s community. I wrote about this topic because improving my community was a key part of my identity, and I felt that narrating the efforts I made to improve my high school over several years would best showcase this.
Julia: Admitted Harvard students have taken this in numerous directions. Some write about their experience interning in a bioengineering research lab, or about their dream to become a governor. Others might talk about their experience as an immigrant, the feeling of flying, or their hope to empower the voices of others through school journalism. One friend of mine even wrote about his strange sleeping habits for his supplementary essay.
I ended up going with option number four: “Describe an intellectual experience that has meant the most to you.” For my essay, I wrote about a musical composition project that I was working on. I began the essay with a line of song lyrics before diving into a descriptive paragraph detailing my songwriting process. After that, I explained the project, my motivation for writing it, and what I hoped to achieve by writing the musical. Harvard University is looking for students that will make a positive impact on the college’s community. I chose this topic because I was particularly passionate about it, and because I was interested in participating in theater in college.
Jesper: Finally, although there is no word limit to this essay, I would advise keeping your essay under 500 words, which is similar to the limit you will see on open-ended essays for other colleges. Please note that 500 words is not a hard cutoff, but rather a recommendation. If the essay is too long, then the admissions reader will be more likely to stop reading after a certain point, meaning that you won’t get to convey everything you wanted to in your essay.
Prompt 4 (50 word limit, Optional, For International Students Only): What specific plan do you have, if any, for using the education you hope to receive?
Miranda: Harvard has a large and flourishing international student body. Therefore, in response to this question, you’re not trying to convince the Admissions Office that you are more deserving of a place than a domestic student. Rather, it’s useful to demonstrate why you’ve chosen Harvard and why you’ve chosen to move to another country for your undergraduate degree. In your response, convey that you’ve seriously thought about how an undergraduate experience at Harvard, rather than at the equivalent top institution in your own country, fits more broadly into your plans.
Jesper: Furthermore, the question is asking what plan you have for using your education. It’s fine if you’re not sure what you want to do after you graduate — many of my peers at Harvard were in that position even during college. However, if you do have some idea of what you want to do after graduation, then you should share a sentence or two about how a Harvard education will help you achieve those goals.
Jesper: With only 50 words, you should focus on the key details that respond to the points raised above. You likely won’t have space for verbal flourishes or lengthy anecdotes here.
This Harvard University essay guide was written by Jesper Ke (Harvard ‘19) , Julia Riew (Harvard ‘21) , and Miranda Sadler (Harvard ‘19) , both Harvard Class of 2019. If you want to get help writing your Harvard application essays from Jesper, Julia, Miranda or other CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Experts , register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.
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What Is Happening on College Campuses Is Not Free Speech
By Gabriel Diamond , Talia Dror and Jillian Lederman
Mr. Diamond is a senior at Yale University. Ms. Dror is a junior at Cornell University. Ms. Lederman is a senior at Brown University.
Since the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, campus life in the United States has imploded into a daily trial of intimidation and insult for Jewish students. A hostile environment that began with statements from pro-Palestinian student organizations justifying terrorism has now rapidly spiraled into death threats and physical attacks, leaving Jewish students alarmed and vulnerable.
On an online discussion forum last weekend, Jewish students at Cornell were called “excrement on the face of the earth,” threatened with rape and beheading and bombarded with demands like “eliminate Jewish living from Cornell campus.” (A 21-year-old junior at Cornell has been charged with posting violent threats.) This horror must end.
Free speech, open debate and heterodox views lie at the core of academic life. They are fundamental to educating future leaders to think and act morally. The reality on some college campuses today is the opposite: open intimidation of Jewish students. Mob harassment must not be confused with free speech.
Universities need to get back to first principles and understand that they have the rules on hand to end intimidation of Jewish students. We need to hold professors and students to a higher standard.
The targeting of Jewish students didn’t stop at Cornell: Jewish students at Cooper Union huddled in the library to escape an angry crowd pounding on the doors; a protester at a rally near New York University carried a sign calling for the world to be kept “clean” of Jews; messages like “glory to our martyrs” were projected onto a George Washington University building.
This most recent wave of hate began with prejudiced comments obscured by seemingly righteous language. Following the Oct. 7 attacks, more than 30 student groups at Harvard signed on to a statement that read, “We, the undersigned student organizations, hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” There was no mention of Hamas. The university issued such a tepid response , it almost felt like an invitation.
Days later, at a pro-Palestinian rally, the Cornell associate professor Russell Rickford said he was “exhilarated” by Hamas’s terrorist attack. (He later apologized and was granted a leave of absence.) In an article, a Columbia professor, Joseph Massad, seemed to relish the “awesome” scenes of “Palestinian resistance fighters” storming into Israel. Most recently, over 100 Columbia and Barnard professors signed a letter defending students who blamed Israel for Hamas’s attacks. To the best of our knowledge, none of these professors have received meaningful discipline, much less dismissal. Another green light.
Over these last few weeks, dozens of anti-Israel protests have been hosted on or near college campuses. Many of these demonstrations had threatening features: Masked students have chanted slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which many view as a call for the destruction of Israel. Others have shouted, “There is only one solution, intifada revolution.” The word “intifada” has a gruesome history: During the Aqsa intifada of the early 2000s, hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed in attacks .
On at least one occasion, these student protests have even interrupted candlelight vigils for the victims of Oct. 7. And they haven’t been condemned by the leadership at enough universities. In recent days, some universities, including Cornell, have released statements denouncing antisemitism on campus. Harvard also announced the creation of an advisory group to combat antisemitism.
The terms “Zionist” and “colonizer” have evolved into epithets used against Jewish students like us. These labels have been spit at some of us and our friends in dining halls, dorm common rooms, outside classes and at parties.
Failure by any university to affirm that taunts and intimidation have no place on campus legitimizes more violent behaviors. We are seeing it play out before our eyes.
At Columbia, an Israeli student was physically assaulted on campus. Near Tulane, a Jewish student’s head was bashed with the pole of a Palestinian flag after he attempted to stop protesters from burning an Israeli flag. And students at Cornell live in fear that their peers will actualize antisemitic threats.
All students have sacred rights to hold events, teach-ins and protests. And university faculty members must present arguments that make students uncomfortable. University campuses are unique hubs of intellectual discovery and debate, designed to teach students how to act within a free society. But free inquiry is not possible in an environment of intimidation. Harassment and intimidation fly in the face of the purpose of a university.
The codes of ethics of universities across the country condemn intimidation and hold students and faculty to standards of dignity and respect for others. Campuses are at a crossroads: The leadership can either enforce these ethics or these places of learning will succumb to mob rule by their most radical voices, risking the continuation of actual violence.
Simply affirming that taunts and intimidation have no place on campus isn’t enough. Professors violating these rules should be disciplined or dismissed. Student groups that incite or justify violence should not be given university funds to conduct activity on campus.
Furthermore, in line with anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies, established university initiatives that protect minority groups must also include Jews. Universities should adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, as a mechanism for properly identifying and eliminating anti-Jewish hate.
No students should be subject to discrimination, let alone outright threats and hostility, on the basis of their identity. This standard must be applied to Jewish students, too.
Finally, it is vital that individual campus community members — students, professors, alumni, staff members and parents — act against intimidation and incivility. Stand with your Jewish friends at peaceful assemblies. Call on universities via letters and petitions to restore civility on campus.
Although one may think antisemitism has an impact only on Jews, history shows it poisons society at large. Universities have a moral responsibility to counter hateful violence in all its forms. When they fail to do so, they fail us all.
Gabriel Diamond is a senior at Yale University studying political science. Talia Dror is a junior at Cornell University studying industrial and labor relations and business. Jillian Lederman is a senior at Brown University studying political science and economics.
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Happiness is within your control. write your own ending..
Managing Happiness is an online course from Harvard that encourages you to explore the science of happiness, allowing you to find your truest self.
What You'll Learn
What is happiness? What makes you happy?’ Can you get happier through study and effort?
Maybe you have pondered these questions over the course of your life, but haven’t been able to come up with any definitive answers. Still, you’d like to think that happiness is something you can understand and manage, right?
This is a class that answers these questions and shows you how you can use the answers to build a happier life. It introduces you to the modern science of human well-being and shows you how to practice it. Unlike other happiness courses, Managing Happiness goes a step further and demonstrates how you can share the ideas with others, thus bringing more happiness and love to the world and supercharging your own well-being efforts.
Led by Harvard professor, author, social scientist, and former classical musician Arthur Brooks, this course will introduce cutting-edge survey tools, the best research, and trends in social science, positive psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy to help learners unlock the strategies to create a more purposeful life, full of long-lasting enjoyment and satisfaction. Managing Happiness uses philosophical and technical insights to challenge your assumptions about happiness — helping you break bad habits that hold you back and build good ones you can use for the rest of your life.
Happiness is a core competency for those that want to be in charge of their lives — both personally and professionally. The concepts learned in this course will lead to enduring improvements and lifelong learning. At the end of the course, you will take away key concepts and actionable insights to apply to your daily routines. People around you will notice the difference.
The course will be delivered via edX and connect learners around the world. By the end of the course, participants will be able to:
- Explore diverse definitions of happiness and understand its function in everyday life
- Learn how genetic, social, and economic influences impact your happiness
- Apply the science of the mind, body, and community to manage emotions and behaviors for greater happiness
- Develop a happiness portfolio focused on your deepest goals and desires
- Recognize how success and achievement impact short versus long-term happiness
- Write your ending — build happiness strategies for your work and life at any age or stage
Arthur C. Brooks is the William Henry Bloomberg Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. Before joining the Harvard faculty in July of 2019, he served for ten years as president of the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute (AEI), one of the world’s leading think tanks.
Brooks is the author of 12 books, including the national bestsellers “Love Your Enemies” (2019) and “The Conservative Heart” (2015), as well as the forthcoming book “ From Strength to Strength ” to be published in February 2022. He is also a columnist for The Atlantic, host of the podcast “How to Build a Happy Life with Arthur Brooks,” and subject of the 2019 documentary film “The Pursuit,” which Variety named as one of the “Best Documentaries on Netflix” in August 2019. He gives more than 100 speeches per year around the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Brooks began his career as a classical French hornist, leaving college at 19, touring and recording with the Annapolis Brass Quintet and later the City Orchestra of Barcelona. In his late twenties, while still performing, he returned to school, earning a BA through distance learning at Thomas Edison State College, and then an MA in economics from Florida Atlantic University. At 31, he left music and earned an MPhil and PhD in public policy analysis from the Rand Graduate School, during which time he worked as an analyst for the Rand Corporation’s Project Air Force.
Brooks then spent 10 years as a university professor, becoming a full professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in his seventh year out of graduate school and occupying the Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business and Government. During this decade, Brooks published 60 peer-reviewed articles and several books, including the textbook “Social Entrepreneurship” (2008).
In 2009, Brooks became the 11th president of AEI, also holding the Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Free Enterprise. Under his leadership, the Institute more than doubled its annual revenues, deepened its outreach to leaders across the ideological spectrum, and expanded its research portfolio to include work on poverty, happiness, and human potential. During this period, he was selected as one of Fortune Magazine’s “50 World’s Greatest Leaders” and was awarded six honorary doctorates.
Originally from Seattle, Brooks currently lives in Needham, Massachusetts, with his wife Ester Munt-Brooks, who is a native of Barcelona. They have three children, Joaquim, Carlos, and Marina.
Ways to take this course
When you enroll in this course, you will have the option of pursuing a Verified Certificate or Auditing the Course.
A Verified Certificate costs $219 and provides unlimited access to full course materials, activities, tests, and forums. At the end of the course, learners who earn a passing grade can receive a certificate.
Alternatively, learners can Audit the course for free and have access to select course material, activities, tests, and forums. Please note that this track does not offer a certificate for learners who earn a passing grade.
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Exercising Leadership: Foundational Principles
The crises of our time generate enormous adaptive challenges for our families, organizations, communities, and societies. The need for leadership that can mobilize people to meet these challenges and improve life is critical.
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Learn about prior attempts to address social problems, identify points of opportunity for smart entrepreneurial efforts, and propose and develop your own creative solutions.