A First Year's Perspective on Applying to Harvard

Category Student Voices


Maryam, HFAI Coordinator
Maryam Class of '25
Authored on January 26, 2022


A few weeks ago, I was in a team meeting when one of my peers mentioned that today was November 1st and the deadline for Harvard’s Restrictive Early Action program.

I couldn’t believe an entire year had passed since I had been a senior in high school putting the final touches on my application. I understand how challenging the college application process can be and would love to share advice from my own experience.   I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the thousands of students pressing submit on that day

Start Early

Start your applications early! I started my application in early August when the Common App first released the prompts. The extra time was incredibly helpful to determine what I wanted to communicate and plan how to best convey it. I was able to look through all of the application requirements, form any questions I had, and ask my guidance counselor any lingering questions before the mid-semester rush when most others are just getting started. By starting early, I was able to get the logistical aspects of the application out of the way and focus on my essays and written responses.

Get Feedback for Your Essays

The personal and supplemental essays are an instrumental component of your application. If possible, ask someone to read through your essays and provide feedback. It may be difficult to share your personal statement with someone, but if you can find a trusted friend, teacher,  or even a stranger (which is what I did) to give you honest and constructive feedback, your essay will be all the better for it. Sometimes what we think we are conveying may be received differently by a reader. An essay can benefit from fresh eyes! But don’t fall into the trap of asking too many people for feedback. Admissions doesn’t want the essay to be a conglomeration of other people’s voices; they  want to hear your voice. 

Use Your Counselor or Mentor 

If you have access to a guidance counselor or school administrator who is familiar with the college application process, they can be a guide throughout your college application journey.  Again, I recommend doing this early before your guidance counselor becomes busy with the school year.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions big and small, questions that may sound silly, or even to ask for a meeting to talk through the application process. You may  feel more comfortable completing the application after addressing some of your questions and decrease the risk of completing a section incorrectly and having to redo it. 

Reach Out to Admissions and Financial Aid

Your guidance counselor may not have all of the answers, or you may not have access to a guidance counselor, and that’s okay! In those instances, either visit the Harvard website or reach out to Harvard Admissions and Financial Aid Office directly. I remember feeling intimidated when I called the office for the first time, believing I was going to be judged on the question I asked. But that was definitely not my experience! The Admissions representative was incredibly welcoming and forthcoming with information. I entered the conversation with a ton of stress and left with a sense of ease and clear purpose. 

Keep the Anxiety Low 

I experienced my senior year of high school during Covid-19 and had to miss out on many of my school’s traditions. When you look back on this year, you don’t want to only remember the anxiety you felt and the sleepless nights you had pondering essay ideas. You also want to remember the fun times you spent with your friends and family. Although senior year is a time to start preparing for college, it is still a part of your high school experience. Enjoy your senior year while it lasts. 



  • Admissions
  • Financial Aid

Maryam Class of '25

Hi everyone! My name is Maryam and I am a first-generation, low-income (FGLI) junior at Harvard College! I am an Algerian-American student. 

Maryam, HFAI Coordinator