“Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admission…”
A year ago, I had virtually no idea what would lie ahead for me at the almost mythical, ‘unreachable’ Harvard I now call home. Even going to Visitas, I felt like a fish out of water. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing and what they aspired to be. They were already forming friendships and connections; I was trying to navigate the school both as a first-generation student and as a first-generation American - spending my time translating for my family what I understood. As I walked around Harvard’s campus and as I finished my final remaining months in high school, so many questions ran through my head, and I want to share just a couple of those with you all, along with answers I wish I could have given my high school senior self.
Will I be successful in college?
There is no standard for success here. Everyone here is successful in their own ways. You don’t have to prove you belong here by listing all your achievements or accomplishments. You’ve made it this far. All that’s left to do is to get involved in the things you love. Harvard has so many opportunities to explore different passions. From term-time work opportunities, study abroad, and summer internships, there’s something for everyone.
During the school year, you’ll find an abundance of amazing job experiences. These can range from positions at nearby organizations, research positions with professors, or roles within organizations like the UMRP! We have the Office of Career Services that will happily assist you with figuring out how a resume works, what is a cover letter, and what future pathways you want to explore.
During winter and summer breaks, there are opportunities for growth as well! For winter breaks, there are multiple workshops and month-long internships available for those interested. Topics can span from discussing climate change to entrepreneurship. There are also “winterships” and “winter institute” internships in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Brazil, as part of the amazing David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. DRCLAS also provides numerous summer opportunities, ranging from public health, to migrant issues, to economic development. Thanks to the Phillips Brooks House Association, there are also numerous public service opportunities available!
This is only the tip of the iceberg. I know how worried I was at the idea of competing for job openings with my peers, but that feeling of competition is minimal compared to the support I’ve received from all those around me. You’ll find your own success, I promise. Right now, I’m excited to share that in the midst of applying for internship opportunities, I was accepted to work for La Liga Argentina as a part of the DRCLAS summer programming.
You worried that your identity would immediately pinpoint you as an outsider; not only did you feel like a “token minority”, but you also did not feel as smart or as prepared as everyone else. But that’s not the case; your voice resonates with all those who listen, and Harvard is filled with learners. I have nothing to be ashamed of.
No one can take away your place. You are not an outsider, especially when everyone else is in the same boat of trying to find their footing. And besides, there are over 450 student organizations on campus. I promise you will be surrounded by so many dynamic people that most of your fears will ebb away.
Will I be lonely?
You might feel that way for a bit. The constantly bustling campus always jolts me. Running from class to part-time jobs to extracurriculars to exploring Boston, there’s so much to do! There is sometimes that fear of missing out: have I missed out on making more friends or not attending more academic events? This is perfectly ok.
As a first-year, you will find that there are numerous opportunities to develop friendships. You’ll find communities (or communities find you) where the people are warm and welcoming. You’ll find a family with the amazing people from the East Coast Chicanx Conference, a supportive environment with Harvard’s Primus (our First-Gen student organization), and role models in every UMRP coordinator.
First-year fall semester was difficult. Trying to adjust to a new campus, living without the worries of family obligations, and learning more about what you hope to become, these as all things you'll learn to navigate. But if I could change anything to ease the friendship-making process, I would say take better advantage of the entryway meetings. First-years are sorted into dorms, then into floors (called entryways!). Entryways have weekly meetings where you get to connect with students living on your floor. I started going this semester, and I’ve met some truly incredible people that I otherwise would’ve only passed in the hallway. There are many opportunities like this that I encourage you to try!
Will I be ok?
Of course you will. Harvard chose you, and I believe in you.