The Application Process: FAQs & My Advice
Today is the last day of July.
Tomorrow, marks the beginning of August. August is the month that most students will register and begin applying to college through one of 3 application systems–the Common Application, the Universal College Application, and the Coalition Application–for the 2019-2020 school year. Applying to colleges can be confusing since you might have many questions for each individual college. To make the Harvard application process more manageable, I have compiled some frequently asked questions for you.
Why should I apply to Harvard?
Harvard has 50 concentrations, or majors, ranging from history to neurobiology and English to applied mathematics. Additionally, we also have a wide range of secondary fields. Personally, I think what makes the academics at Harvard truly special is that you can set the course and pace of your studies here at Harvard, and you will always have your advisers and faculty to support you. We also have more than 450 extracurricular activities. If you want to do something, you will probably find at least one club that you can join. If there is no club that interests you, you can create one. Personally, I am involved with Student Mental Health Liaisons (SMLH)—we are peer educators that facilitate conversations about mental health. I am also involved with Chinatown Citizenship, which is a tutoring program for elderly Chinese people hosted by the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA). Harvard also has amazing financial aid. Without the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, whose mission is to make Harvard education affordable for all Harvard students, I wouldn’t be able to attend Harvard at all. With all this being said, I personally think that what makes Harvard a truly special institution are the people. My class, class of 2021, is very diverse. Because of this, I got to meet so many people from all around the U.S. and all around the world. They are all unique individuals, and I grew a lot by interacting with them in addition to attending my classes here.
I don’t even have perfect test scores. Should I even apply?
Yes, you should! I personally did not have perfect test scores, and I still got in. Harvard does not have set cutoffs for a student’s GPA or SAT/ACT test scores. There is also no formula for getting into Harvard. Our admissions process is a “whole person review,” meaning that the Admissions Officers look at you as a whole and everything you do—how you spend your time, your passion, how you contribute to your community to name a few—and not just fixate on one thing, like your test score.
Additionally, when I was applying I found the “What We Look For” page on Harvard’s website to be very encouraging and helpful. If you are interested, please take a look at https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-process/what-we-look
When does the application open?
You can apply to Harvard through the Common Application, the Universal College Application, OR the Coalition Application. Most students will register and begin applying to college through one of these application systems this August for the 2019-2020 school year. I personally used the Common Application. The Common Application opens on August 1st. Here is the link to the Common Application, https://www.commonapp.org/
However, if you are interested in using the Universal College Application and want to learn more, please visit https://www.universalcollegeapp.com/. The Universal College Application has been opened since July 1.
If you are interested in using the Coalition Application and want to learn more, please visit http://www.coalitionforcollegeaccess.org/. Like the Common Application, the Coalition Application opens on August 1.
Please remember that you only have to submit an application through ONE of these general application systems.
What are the application requirements?
To see the full list of application requirements, please visit https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-requirements
What is the application deadline?
People typically choose to apply in the fall or winter of their senior year. Therefore, if you choose to apply your senior year then you would need to apply in the fall or winter depends upon your decision to apply Early Action or Regular Decision. The deadline for Early Action is November 1. The deadline for Regular Decision is January 1. For more information about the application timeline, please visit https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/apply/application-timeline
Paying the application fee is a financial burden for my family. Is there a fee waiver?
Yes, there is! I personally know that before you submit the application fee on the Common Application, there is a fee waiver box that you can click on. You are qualified to click the fee waiver box if you are qualified for free or reduced lunch, or have an ACT or SAT fee waiver to name a few. If you are not qualified, then you can email Harvard College at [email protected] to explain the situation and get an application fee waiver.
Do I have to apply for scholarships?
No, you don’t. Harvard does not offer neither athletic scholarships nor merit-based scholarships. Here at Harvard College, families with incomes less than $65,000 a year have no expected parental contribution for their student’s education, and families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 a year have a parental contribution between 0% and 10% of their income on a sliding scale. Additionally, you can use our Net Price Calculator to get a good estimation of Harvard’s affordability. However, please note that the estimation from the calculator is not a guarantee of aid. Here is the link to the Net Price Calculator: https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/net-price-calculator
With all this being said, I want to emphasize that all financial aid is awarded on the basis of demonstrated financial need and international students receive the same financial aid as American students. All you have to do is apply and once you get in, your financial aid officer will work with you and your family to fully meet your demonstrated need for all your four years on campus.
For more information about our financial aid program, please visit https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/how-aid-works
If I don’t have to apply for scholarships then what is the application process for financial aid like?
You need to submit three documents to apply for financial aid: FAFSA, CSS Profile, and IDOC Packet. To learn more about the application process and deadlines for financial aid, please visit https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/applying-aid/prospective-students
If I am an international students, will I qualify for financial aid? If so, how do I apply for financial aid?
Yes, you will be qualified for financial aid. In fact, international students are eligible for the same amount of aid as US students. The application process for international students is essentially the same as US students. To apply for financial aid as an international student, you will need to submit a CSS Profile and IDOC Packet. Additionally, if your parents file an income tax document in their country, you will submit that as part of the financial aid process. Make sure to translate the document to English. You don’t need an official translation - usually students will write the translation on the document themselves. If your parents don’t file an income tax document, submit a wage statement, payslip, or letter from their employer(s) stating their annual income.
What does FAFSA stand for? And what’s the difference between the FAFSA and the CSS Profile?
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The differences between the FAFSA and the CSS Profile are (1) you can submit CSS Profile regardless of your citizenship, but you have to be US Citizen or Permanent Resident in order to submit FAFSA, and (2) the CSS profile asks for more detailed financial information than the FAFSA.
I’m having trouble writing my personal statement. What should I do?
I think the hardest part about writing is starting it. Therefore, my advice for you is to pick a prompt and just start writing. My friend and another summer student coordinator, Kez, recently wrote a blog post on this specific topic. I think you might find her blog post very helpful. If you are interested, you can read her blog post at https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/hear-our-students/student-blog/personal-statement-my-process-and-my-advice-you
I hope that this masterpost of frequently asked questions is helpful for you! I know that the college application season can be daunting and stressful. I know I was very stressed and anxious while I was applying to Harvard because I thought that I would not get in since I didn’t have perfect ACT score. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, I would tell her to not look up the “qualified” ACT score to get into Harvard because that only induces unnecessary anxiety. There is no such thing as a “qualified” ACT score to get into Harvard. I want to emphasize our admissions process again. The admissions process is a “whole person review,” meaning that the Admissions Officers look at you as a whole and everything you do—how you spend your time, your passion, how you contribute to your community to name a few—and not just fixate on one specific thing, like your test score. Start writing your essays early, ask your teachers to look over your essays, and contact teachers that know you well and ask them early on in the school year if they are available to write letters of recommendation for you. Fulfill all the application requirements, submit your application, sit back and relax. Don’t be too stressed out. I promise you that you will end up at the college that is just right for you.
Good luck with everything, and I hope that you will decide to apply to Harvard!
About the author
Hello there! My name is Borey, and I am a rising sophomore living in Eliot House. I was born and raised in Cambodia for the first thirteen years of my life, and I moved to Iowa City five years ago.... View full profile