Harvard was never actually my dream school. Not in the sense that I didn’t think I wanted to go to Harvard or that I didn’t like it, but in the sense that I didn’t dare to make it my dream school because it felt so far-fetched.
Ever since middle school, I knew that I wanted to go out of state. I didn’t want to leave my family, but I knew I wanted to explore more of the country and I needed a break from Texas. Harvard is definitely far from Texas, but I still didn’t consider it as an option.
The first time Harvard was put on my radar was during a parent-teacher meeting in the fall of my Junior year of high school. I had gotten a good score on a test and my English teacher (and favorite teacher of all time) Mrs. Cooke, told my mom that she believed I could get into Harvard. I couldn’t help but laugh a little when she said this because I thought she was joking, but she was serious. She went on to tell my mom about the previous, and only, student my high school sent to Harvard. I was proud that she thought I could get in, but I didn’t take the conversation seriously. My mom, of course, took it very seriously. Once we got out of the meeting, she turned towards me and said, “Harvard, mija!”
Fast-forward to a year later, and my college application season was in full action. As a first-generation student, I had no idea what I was doing, and while my family provided a ton of support, they couldn’t help me with the actual application process. I had no idea what Early Action was, so I didn’t apply to any school EA and most of my applications were due in December. My mom would ask me if I was applying to Harvard and she would remind me of what Mrs. Cooke had said to me every day of that fall. She would also repeat a saying of hers that pushed me to pursue my dreams, “El no ya lo tienes, entonces ve por el si.” (This roughly translates to “You already have the ‘no,’ so go for the ‘yes.’)
Because moms have that talent of being so persistent and convincing, I ultimately decided to apply. As I mentioned, I didn’t really know what I was doing with college applications, so I kind of muddled through by doing a lot of online research, hearing what my friends, whose parents had gone through the process, were doing, and asking my most trusted teachers for help along the way. For my personal statement and my supplemental essay, I wrote about elements of my own identity which I knew were important to me and which I actually wanted to write about. Ultimately, I finished my application, sent it into what felt like an abyss, and waited. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I got accepted, and after several months of disbelief and excitement, I started the next chapter of my life in the fall of 2016.
I’m writing this story four years after my application process and I’m one month into my last year here at Harvard. Before I came here, I didn’t really believe it was a place for me, but I was surprised to find welcoming spaces all throughout campus, ranging from spaces for Latinx students to spaces for first-gen students. As a senior, I’m trying to spend more time with my friends I’ve met along the way. I know we’ll keep in touch, but I also know I’ll miss those long nights in the dining hall filled with school work and long talks. Because one of my teachers believed in me and placed the idea of applying to Harvard, I’ve had the most incredible experience and I’m so thankful that my mom encouraged me to apply and believe in myself.