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While we normally require two SAT Subject Tests , you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship. If you have the opportunity to take AP and IB exams, the results may be helpful for academic placement, should you be accepted and choose to enroll at Harvard.

If you wish to read more about the role of testing in our admissions process, please go to http: Contributions students make to the well-being of their secondary schools, communities and families are of great interest to us. So indicate for us the time you spend and the nature of the contribution to extracurricular activities, the local community, work experiences and help provided to your family.

Activities you undertake need not be exotic but rather might show a commitment to excellence regardless of the activity. For example, a student can gain a great deal from helping his or her family with babysitting or other household responsibilities or working in a restaurant to help with family or personal expenses.

Some students list only activities they feel will appear significant to the admissions office, while others endeavor to list every single thing they have ever done. Neither approach is right for everyone. We realize that extracurricular and athletic opportunities are either unavailable or limited at many high schools. You should not feel that your chances for admission to college are hindered by the lack of extracurricular opportunities.

For additional thoughts on extracurricular activities, please refer to this article in the New York Times. In this section, please describe the activity and your level of participation. The grades during which you have participated are important because they help us to understand the depth of your involvement in that activity and your changing interests over time. We are interested to know how you manage your time and to understand how you balance your life outside of the classroom.

We know that students are often active both during the school year and the summer — working, babysitting siblings, enrolling in courses, traveling, playing sports, holding internships, etc. Filling out the grid is an act of prioritization: Harvard is a residential institution, and our students are actively engaged in college life. This section helps us to understand how you might contribute at Harvard. The Common and Universal College Application essay topics are broad.

While this might seem daunting at first, look at it as an opportunity to write about something you care about, rather than what you think the Admissions Committee wants to hear. The point of the personal statement is for you to have the chance to share whatever you would like with us.

The essay is an opportunity for students to provide information that might not be contained in other parts of the application. As an admissions officer, I personally get excited to read through an essay that has a great lead. Think of your opening sentence or paragraph as the hyperlink on your favorite news website.

Editing is a critical talent that will become increasingly important as students advance through college, graduate and professional school, and, of course, in their professions. It can be helpful to have your essay reviewed by another person to check on typos, etc. The essay is not a vocabulary test! We want to get a glimpse of who you are, not who you think we want you to be.

Believe it or not, the essay nearly always fits in with the rest of the application. A terrific one can help and a careless one can hurt. Use the essay to convey more about you and what you value. As we have noted earlier, we realize that students have widely varying help in preparing their applications.

Some students have completed the essay entirely on their own. Others have used appropriate amounts of help from family, friends and teachers.

Such help would include proofreading and general suggestions about organization as well as brainstorming about topics.

We were extremely competitive and would get into brutal fights for seemingly no reason at all. I think that our connection was so intense that we could not have normal emotions toward each other. As friends, we were best friends, but in an argument, we wanted to fight each other to the death. Still, the Wrestlemania days were rare; ordinarily, the intensity of that connection was a good thing. I was pretty shy about girls, and when I did talk about them with guys, I would usually just say a girl was "hot.

Then we went to separate high schools. We tried to maintain the friendship, and you might think we would have been able to since we had been so close, but we drifted apart. Our friendship was based on being near each constantly, of growing up in the same town, under the same conditions, with the same hopes, fears, and dreams.

Now we still go to movies occasionally and hang out, but it's not the same, and we both know it. I thought Mike and I would be friends forever, and maybe we will be. I mean, we have to make those movies together, right? But the way things look right now, I doubt we will ever reconnect. My playwriting teacher from middle school left, but I handled it.

I learned a great deal from him, and I appreciate him for the subject he taught and the way that he taught it. I will probably miss my parents when I leave for college, but I doubt the separation will pain me deeply since the connection between parents and children will always be there.

With Mike, I lost the best friend I ever had, and I lost that forever. Losing that kind of bond cuts deep, and I know it's the type of wound that doesn't heal. But just because we're not friends anymore, it doesn't slight the times we had when we were friends. Those times are what influenced me so deeply. This was made clear by their enthusiasm, how they treated students, and how much they went above expectations to help.

If you honestly like learning and are an enthusiastic, responsible, engaging student, a great recommendation letter will follow naturally. The horse should lead the cart. Read my How to Get a 4. She was my favorite teacher throughout high school for these reasons:. By the time of the letter writing, I had known her for two full years and engaged with her continuously, even when I wasn't taking a class with her in junior year.

All of this flowed down to the recommendation you see here. Remember, the horse leads the cart. The Common Application now has 16 qualities to rate, rather than the 10 here. You can tell that the updated Common App places a great emphasis on personality. The most important point here: The more experienced and trustworthy the teacher, the more meaningful this is.

You'll see below how you can accomplish this. As you read this, think — what are the interactions that would prompt the teacher to write a recommendation like this? This was a relationship built up in a period of over 2 years, with every small interaction adding to an overall larger impression. You can see how seriously they take the letter because of all the underlining.

The letter here is very strong for a multitude of reasons. First, the length is notable — most letters are just a page long, but this is nearly two full pages , single spaced. The structure is effective: This is a perfect blend of what effective letters contain. On the micro-level, her diction and phrasing are precise and effective. She makes my standing clear with specific statements: This letter was important to complement the overall academic performance and achievements shown on the rest of my application.

My second teacher Mrs. Swift was another favorite. Emotionally she was a reliable source of support for students. You can see right away that her remarks are terser.

You might chalk this up to my not being as standout of a student in her mind, or her getting inundated with recommendation letter requests after over a decade of teaching. Regardless, I did appreciate the 3 marks she gave me. Once again, as you read this letter, think: Overall, this letter is very strong. She also writes with the flair of an English teacher:. These comments most support the personality aspect of my Personal Narrative — having an irreverent, bold personality and not being afraid of speaking my mind.

She stops just short of making me sound obnoxious and argumentative. An experienced teacher vouching for this adds so much more weight than just my writing it about myself. Teacher recommendations are some of the most important components of your application. If you want detailed advice on how to interact with teachers earnestly, check out my How to Get a 4. The first piece of this is reporting your academic status and how the school works overall.

So it was pretty distinctive that I got a letter from our Principal, compared to other leading applicants from my school. This was also a blessing because our counseling department was terrible. Our school had nearly 1, students per grade, and only 1 counselor per grade.

They were overworked and ornery, and because they were the gatekeepers of academic enrollment like class selection and prerequisites , this led to constant frictions in getting the classes you wanted. But the counseling department was still the worst part of our high school administration, and I could have guessed that the letters they wrote were mediocre because they just had too many students.

So how did my Principal come to write my recommendation and not those for hundreds of other students? Come senior year I might have talked to him about my difficulty in reaching counselors and asked that he write my recommendation. Since I was a top student he was probably happy to do this. Interestingly, the prompt for the recommendation has changed. It used to start with: Now, it starts with: The purpose of the recommendation has shifted to the specific: This letter is probably the weakest overall of all my letters.

It reads more like a verbal resume than a personal account of how he understands me. I still appreciate that he wrote my letter, and it was probably more effective than a generic counselor letter. This is the same application I sent to every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. If you keep reading to the end, I'll have advice for both younger students and current applicants to build the strongest application possible.

For most top colleges like Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and so on, you will need to complete a supplemental application to provide more info than what's listed on the Common Application. Harvard was and is the same. The good news is that it's an extra chance for you to share more about yourself and keep pushing your Personal Narrative.

This section is pretty straightforward and is similar to what you'd see on a Columbia application. Just as in my Common App, I noted that I was most likely to study biological sciences, choose Medicine as my vocation, and participate in orchestra, writing, and research as my extracurriculars. Want to improve your SAT score by points? We have the industry's leading SAT prep program. Built by Harvard grads and SAT full scorers , the program learns your strengths and weaknesses through advanced statistics, then customizes your prep program to you so you get the most effective prep possible.

I had the space to list some additional honors, where I listed some musical honors that didn't make the cut in my Common App. The reason was that I was actually pretty mediocre at violin and was nowhere near national-ranked. I wanted to focus attention on my most important materials, which for my Personal Narrative meant my research work.

For the most part, the Harvard supplemental essay prompt has stayed the same. You can write about a topic of your choice or about any of the suggestions. Even though this is optional, I highly recommend you write something here. Again, you have so few chances in the overall application to convey your personal voice — an extra words gives you a huge opportunity.

I would guess that the majority of admitted Harvard students submit a Writing Supplement. After a lot of brainstorming, I settled on the idea that I wanted to balance my application by writing about the major non-academic piece of my Personal Narrative — my music training. Reading it now, I actually think this was a pretty bad essay, and I cringe to high heaven. I used my violin teacher as a vehicle for talking about what the violin meant to me.

You can tell I love the concept of the vehicle in essays. He represented passion for the violin — I represented my academic priorities. Our personal conflict was really the conflict between what we represented. Halfway in the essay, I also explicitly acknowledged the Asian stereotype of parents who drove their kids, and said my parents were no different.

The reader underlined this sentence. By pointing this out and showing how my interest took on a life of its own, I wanted to distance myself from that stereotype. Despite all that, this essay was WAY overdramatic and overwrought. Some especially terrible lines:. Who really honestly feels this way? This is clumsy, contrived writing. It signals insincerity, actually, which is bad. To be fair, all of this is grounded in truth. I did have a strict violin teacher who did get pretty upset when I showed lack of improvement.

I did appreciate music as a diversion to round out my academic focus. I did practice hard each day, and I did have a pretty gross callus on my pinky. But really the best approach is to be honest. I think this essay was probably neutral to my application, not a strong net positive or net negative.

Harvard lets you submit letters from up to two Other Recommenders. The Princeton application, Penn application, and others are usually the same. Unlike the other optional components the Additional Information in the Common App, and the Supplementary Essay , I would actually consider these letters optional. The reader gets most of the recommendation value from your teacher recommendations — these are really supplementary.

If your Other Recommenders don't fulfill one or more of these categories, do NOT ask for supplementary letters. They'll dilute your application without adding substantively to it. To beat a dead horse, the primary component of my Personal Narrative was my science and research work.

So naturally I chose supervisors for my two major research experiences to write supplemental letters. This letter validates my participation in RSI and incorporates the feedback from my research mentor, David Simon. My mentor, who was at one of the major Harvard-affiliated hospitals, said some very nice things about my research ability, like:. Once again, it's much more convincing for a seasoned expert to vouch for your abilities than for you to claim your own abilities. My first research experience was done at Jisan Research Institute, a small private computer science lab run by a Caltech PhD.

My research supervisor, Sanza Kazadi, wrote the letter. In the letter, he focused on the quality of my work and leadership. He said that I had a strong focus in my work, and my research moved along more reliably than that of other students. I was independent in my work in swarm engineering, he says, putting together a simulation of the swarm and publishing a paper in conference proceedings. He talked about my work in leading a research group and placing a high degree of trust in me. One notable point — both supplemental letters had no marks on them.

I really think this means they place less emphasis on the supplementary recommendations, compared to the teacher recommendations. Let me beat the dead horse even deader. Because research was such a core part of my Personal Narrative, I decided to include abstracts of both of my papers. This is why I chose not to submit a tape of my music: I don't think my musical skill was unusually good. I made sure to note where the papers had been published or were entering competitions, just to ground the work in some achievement.

So there we have it — my entire college application. As promised, I showed you every single page and word, in excruciating detail. Once again, the point of my showing this to you is NOT to give you an application to replicate, but rather to talk you through how to craft a compelling, coherent application.

From my advice, you should be able to go through similar thinking and apply the concepts to your own situation. The earlier you are in high school, the more time you have to prepare and implement the right strategies to build a strong, distinctive application.

Here are the most important questions that form the foundation of your application:. If you execute successfully on these three dimensions, you will be on the path to getting admission to schools like Harvard and Princeton. I know, easier said than done. But you can accomplish a lot more than you think if you work hard and strategize smartly. At this point, most of your application is set in stone. Your job now is to package your 3 years of work into a cohesive, compelling application.

Here are the biggest questions for you to answer:. At PrepScholar, we've published the best guides available anywhere to help you succeed in high school and college admissions.

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My Successful Harvard Application (Complete Common App + Supplement) , College Essays In , I applied to college and got into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service.

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The Common and Universal College Application essay topics are broad. While this might seem daunting at first, look at it as an opportunity to write about something you care about, rather than what you think the Admissions Committee wants to hear.

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