With the Early Action deadline just a few days away, I’m sure there’s a lot of panic and tension in the air.
At least, that’s how it was for me when I was in your shoes just a year ago. I would constantly be worried about editing my essays and waiting on the latest test score releases. Then there was the interview to prepare for. I understand that this is a hectic time for you and all these concerns just add to the stress of senior year. I also recognize that it’s hypocritical of me to tell you to pause, take a deep breath, and relax.
That being said, I hope to offer you some words of advice and encouragement in an attempt to alleviate your concerns, and possibly give you a chance to enjoy your senior year of high school, leaving with some wonderful memories.
One of the greatest concerns of students is their GPA and standardized test scores. While both are relevant to your application, be rest assured that a perfect GPA and test scores are not necessary. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try your hardest to achieve the best grades and test scores you can. However, it does mean that Harvard implements a whole-person review of your application, therefore, the admissions committee will look beyond your test scores. Every component of your application will be taken into consideration. I hope you find comfort in knowing that students arrive at Harvard with a wide range of test scores and GPAs. Lastly, there is so much more to you as a person than just a number.
This is the one thing I feel high school students spend the most time on, constantly wondering if they’re involved in enough extracurricular activities, presiding over enough clubs, or putting enough hours into community service. This may sound like some over-used advice, but I would recommend doing what you’re passionate about! Pursue extracurricular activities that you will appreciate and enjoy—not what you think will impress colleges. Take the time to explore different interests and expand upon your passions because in the end, it should be those very activities that help you grow.
This can arguably be the most difficult part of your application. It is one of the few chances you’ll get to speak to the admissions committee and tell them who you are as a person. Be careful, because this should not be a restatement of your resume. Instead, you should talk about whatever it is that you’re passionate about and love. Another suggestion would be to share a personal story drawn from your life experiences that is of great significance to you but also helped you change and grow as a person. At the end of the day, just be sure to be yourself and convey what sets you aside from other applicants.
This is, once again, a chance to speak with someone and share who you are as a person. Don’t be nervous. In fact, it is just a conversation so the admissions committee can put a face to the application. That being said, I would encourage you to be prepared for standard interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself!”, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, and “Why do you want to go to Harvard?”. The best advice I can give you is to reflect on yourself as a person and determine some genuine answers to these questions.
In the end, Harvard is looking for students who have genuine passions and interests, and the ways in which they can contribute to Harvard community. I truly hope this helps in reducing your stress. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us here at the Harvard First Generation Program! Best of luck!