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❶You want to do something so important that everything else you do pales in comparison to it.

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For students who need a visa to study in the United States, this question is of critical importance: This is an optional question on the Common Application form used by some colleges with a religious affiliation that we do not download from your applications — and we do not maintain records of religious affiliation.

Religious preference in no way affects chances for admission. We work to create a diverse campus community and educational experience for all of our students, giving the opportunity for everyone to share ideas and learn from each other.

We look at the whole person and consider your unique background and life experiences, in addition to your personal qualities, test scores and grades. The applications of veterans are most welcome and your service is a positive factor in our admissions process. The fee covers a very small portion of the administrative costs of processing applications. However, if the fee presents a hardship for you or your family, the fee will be waived.

Each applicant applying with a fee waiver should select an option for a need-based fee waiver. Do not let the application fee prevent you from applying! Family life is an important factor in helping us to learn more about the circumstances and conditions in which you were raised, and how you have made the most of the opportunities provided by your family.

Information about parents may indicate challenges you have faced — and overcome. It is not uncommon for students to change schools or take time off during high school.

We always defer to the secondary school report for information about grades. This is a place to highlight any achievements or awards you have received. You do not need to have a ten year plan, but getting a sense of what kinds of professions you have considered gives us insight into your current plans.

Beginning with the application cycle students applying for Fall admission , applicants may provide self-reported SAT and ACT test scores including Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, etc. Admitted students who decide to enroll at Harvard College will be required to submit official test scores. We ask about the tests here to ensure that you are aware of the testing requirements, and so that we can anticipate the test results we will receive.

You should not submit two Subject Tests in mathematics to meet this requirement. If your first language is not English you should ordinarily not use a Subject Test in your first language to meet the two Subject Tests requirement. All students are encouraged to submit additional Subject Tests which may include one in your first language , Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test results, or any other evidence of the breadth and depth of your academic accomplishments.

We take into account your educational background when reviewing your scores. For Regular Decision applicants, we encourage you to submit at least one set of scores from the October test or an earlier series. Doing so enables the admissions staff to begin considering applications in December.

We recommend that you complete your standardized testing by the December series and have scores reported promptly. We have always looked at the best scores of our applicants. These exam scores are additional pieces of academic information which can help us as we think about your preparation and potential for college level work.

While we normally require two SAT Subject Tests , you may apply without them if the cost of the tests represents a financial hardship. If you have the opportunity to take AP and IB exams, the results may be helpful for academic placement, should you be accepted and choose to enroll at Harvard.

If you wish to read more about the role of testing in our admissions process, please go to http: Contributions students make to the well-being of their secondary schools, communities and families are of great interest to us. So indicate for us the time you spend and the nature of the contribution to extracurricular activities, the local community, work experiences and help provided to your family. Activities you undertake need not be exotic but rather might show a commitment to excellence regardless of the activity.

For example, a student can gain a great deal from helping his or her family with babysitting or other household responsibilities or working in a restaurant to help with family or personal expenses. Some students list only activities they feel will appear significant to the admissions office, while others endeavor to list every single thing they have ever done.

If you use the Common Application, you must submit your application before your supporting materials Secondary School Report, Teacher Reports, etc. Until you submit your own application sections, no part of your application will be transmitted to the Harvard Admissions Office. We will send an acknowledgment of receipt within two weeks of receiving your application. Complete the Harvard Questions with the Common Application.

These forms must be completed by your school counselor or other school adviser. Ask that the School Report form be completed and returned to our office as soon as possible.

If you have attended more than one high school in the past two years, we request that your previous guidance counselor s or school official s submit a statement on your behalf about your time at that school.

We require all applicants to submit the ACT or SAT , but you may choose to submit with or without the writing component. While we recommend two SAT Subject Tests, you may apply without them if the cost of taking the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them. If you were eligible for a fee waiver from the SAT or ACT , you are eligible for unlimited free score reports to be sent to institutions to which you are applying.

We recommend you use your free score reports to share your scores with Harvard. Standardized testing is only one component of our admissions process and your application will be evaluated on the basis of all of the other information that you submit. It worked for me, but it may be totally inappropriate for you. Looking at it with a more seasoned perspective, some parts of it are WAY too try-hard.

I try too hard to show off my breadth of knowledge in a way that seems artificial and embellishing. With just words, I could have made the essay more cohesive by keeping the same theme from beginning to end. Some phrases really make me roll my eyes. A key principle of effective writing is to show, not say. The mention of Nietzsche is over-the-top. I mean, come on. Where in the world did fried rice come from?

I could have deleted the sentence and wrapped up the essay more cleanly. I think it accomplished my major goals and showed the humorous, irreverent side of my personality well. However, it also gave the impression of a kid who thought he knew more than he did, a pseudo-sophisticate bordering on obnoxious. I still think it was a net positive. At the end of the day, I believe the safest, surefire strategy is to develop a Spike so big that the importance of the Personal Essay pales in comparison to your achievements.

You want your Personal Essay to be a supplement to your application, not the only reason you get in. There are probably some cases where a well-rounded student writes an amazing Personal Essay and gets in through the strength of that. Without a strong application to back it up, your mileage may vary. We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools. This is a really fun section. Teacher recommendations are incredibly important to your application.

The average teacher sees thousands of students through a career, and so he or she is very well equipped to position you relative to all other students. Furthermore, your teachers are experienced adults — their impressions of you are much more reliable than your impressions of yourself see my Personal Essay above.

They can corroborate your entire Personal Narrative as an outside observer. The most effective recommendation letters speak both to your academic strengths and to your personality. For the second factor, the teacher needs to have interacted with you meaningfully, ideally both in and out of class.

Check out our guide on what makes for effective letters of recommendation. Starting from sophomore year, I started thinking about whom I connected better with and chose to engage with those teachers more deeply. The minimum requirement for a good letter is someone who taught a class in which you did well.

Beyond this, I had to look for teachers who would be strong advocates for me on both an academic and personal level. These tended to be teachers I vibed more strongly with, and typically these were teachers who demonstrably cared about teaching. This was made clear by their enthusiasm, how they treated students, and how much they went above expectations to help. If you honestly like learning and are an enthusiastic, responsible, engaging student, a great recommendation letter will follow naturally.

The horse should lead the cart. Read my How to Get a 4. She was my favorite teacher throughout high school for these reasons:. All of this flowed down to the recommendation you see here. Remember, the horse leads the cart.

The Common Application now has 16 qualities to rate, rather than the 10 here. You can tell that the updated Common App places a great emphasis on personality. The most important point here: The more experienced and trustworthy the teacher, the more meaningful this is.

As you read this, think — what are the interactions that would prompt the teacher to write a recommendation like this? This was a relationship built up in a period of over 2 years, with every small interaction adding to an overall larger impression. You can see how seriously they take the letter because of all the underlining.

The letter here is very strong for a multitude of reasons. First, the length is notable — most letters are just a page long, but this is nearly two full pages , single spaced. The structure is effective: This is a perfect blend of what effective letters contain.

On the micro-level, her diction and phrasing are precise and effective. She makes my standing clear with specific statements: This letter was important to complement the overall academic performance and achievements shown on the rest of my application. My second teacher Mrs. Swift was another favorite. Emotionally she was a reliable source of support for students.

You can see right away that her remarks are terser. You might chalk this up to my not being as standout of a student in her mind, or her getting inundated with recommendation letter requests after over a decade of teaching. Regardless, I did appreciate the 3 marks she gave me. Once again, as you read this letter, think: Overall, this letter is very strong.

She also writes with the flair of an English teacher:. These comments most support the personality aspect of my Personal Narrative — having an irreverent, bold personality and not being afraid of speaking my mind. She stops just short of making me sound obnoxious and argumentative. An experienced teacher vouching for this adds so much more weight than just my writing it about myself.

Teacher recommendations are some of the most important components of your application. If you want detailed advice on how to interact with teachers earnestly, check out my How to Get a 4. The first piece of this is reporting your academic status and how the school works overall. So it was pretty distinctive that I got a letter from our Principal, compared to other leading applicants from my school. This was also a blessing because our counseling department was terrible.

Our school had nearly 1, students per grade, and only 1 counselor per grade. They were overworked and ornery, and because they were the gatekeepers of academic enrollment like class selection and prerequisites , this led to constant frictions in getting the classes you wanted.

But the counseling department was still the worst part of our high school administration, and I could have guessed that the letters they wrote were mediocre because they just had too many students. So how did my Principal come to write my recommendation and not those for hundreds of other students? Come senior year I might have talked to him about my difficulty in reaching counselors and asked that he write my recommendation.

Since I was a top student he was probably happy to do this. Interestingly, the prompt for the recommendation has changed. It used to start with: Now, it starts with: The purpose of the recommendation has shifted to the specific: This letter is probably the weakest overall of all my letters.

It reads more like a verbal resume than a personal account of how he understands me. I still appreciate that he wrote my letter, and it was probably more effective than a generic counselor letter. This is the same application I sent to every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.

Harvard was and is the same. Just as in my Common App, I noted that I was most likely to study biological sciences, choose Medicine as my vocation, and participate in orchestra, writing, and research as my extracurriculars.

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The reason was that I was actually pretty mediocre at violin and was nowhere near national-ranked. I wanted to focus attention on my most important materials, which for my Personal Narrative meant my research work.

For the most part, the Harvard supplemental essay prompt has stayed the same. You can write about a topic of your choice or about any of the suggestions.

Even though this is optional, I highly recommend you write something here. Again, you have so few chances in the overall application to convey your personal voice — an extra words gives you a huge opportunity. I would guess that the majority of admitted Harvard students submit a Writing Supplement.

After a lot of brainstorming, I settled on the idea that I wanted to balance my application by writing about the major non-academic piece of my Personal Narrative — my music training. Reading it now, I actually think this was a pretty bad essay, and I cringe to high heaven.

I used my violin teacher as a vehicle for talking about what the violin meant to me. You can tell I love the concept of the vehicle in essays. He represented passion for the violin — I represented my academic priorities. Our personal conflict was really the conflict between what we represented. Halfway in the essay, I also explicitly acknowledged the Asian stereotype of parents who drove their kids, and said my parents were no different.

The reader underlined this sentence. By pointing this out and showing how my interest took on a life of its own, I wanted to distance myself from that stereotype. Despite all that, this essay was WAY overdramatic and overwrought.

Some especially terrible lines:. Who really honestly feels this way? This is clumsy, contrived writing. It signals insincerity, actually, which is bad. To be fair, all of this is grounded in truth.

I did have a strict violin teacher who did get pretty upset when I showed lack of improvement. I did appreciate music as a diversion to round out my academic focus. I did practice hard each day, and I did have a pretty gross callus on my pinky. But really the best approach is to be honest. I think this essay was probably neutral to my application, not a strong net positive or net negative.

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