Harvard has created an amazing reputation. The college was founded in 1636 and it has the lowest rates of university acceptance in the world. Last year, more than 39,000 applicants applied to Harvard College and only 5.2% of that number were excepted to join the 2021class.
It is not surprising that the application process to Harvard College is an important part in the admission procedure. In addition to asking applicants to submit their recommendation letters and extracurricular activities, the application procedure also requires students to write a college essay. Every year students struggle with what to make their essays about in order to make their application stand out.
There are no strict rules for writing supplemental essays to Harvard College and that is why it makes this process even more difficult. Below you will find a full guide on how to write effective Harvard college essays to be noticed by the admission committee.
Prompts for essays
If you feel that the college app form does not give you an ample opportunity to tell important details about yourself or your achievements, you may want to include an additional essay to your application process. In this case, you may compose a paper on any topic you like or you may select one of the following subjects:
- Living abroad experiences or travels
- Extraordinary situations in your life
- What your potential college roommate should know about you
- Describe any intellectual experience that is the most important to you
- Books you’ve read in the last year
- How are you going to use your Harvard education?
- How will you contribute to your classmates’ lives in promoting the mission of Harvard College?
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The importance of writing an essay
Every year, Harvard College claims that its essay is not obligatory, which confuses a lot of students. However, it is strongly recommended to take this opportunity and submit the essay to show yourself on your application. Among 200 applicants, 86% of accepted students decided to compose the essay. A well-written essay can revive your chances if you have a weak extracurricular profile or poor SAT grades. The essay is your opportunity to introduce yourself to the admission committees and tell them a little about your life beyond your resume.
Tips for Harvard application
Harvard doesn’t have a certain word limit for essays. Even though it may mean that you can submit a dissertation 58 pages long, the most efficient Harvard college essays are usually from 500 to 700 words. Keep in mind that your paper should be approximately a page long when you write using Times New Roman font of 12 points with a single space.
- If you’re writing your essay from scratch, it should be completely different from your common app paper in content, tone, and style, as well as your personality traits you are describing. The essay should add something original to your application from a different angle.
- If your app is focused on your research and your common app essay talks about how you are obsessed with chemistry research and how it impacted you as a person, your supplemental essay should be about something like how you helped raise money for charity. It should show you from an original side outside of your professional or academic environment. In this essay, you can write about your hobby or passion and this will be your tool to tell about your exciting experiences as well as emphasizing your participation in the society in a very original way.
- If your application describes many leadership positions you took, your may want to write an essay that concentrates on your uncertainties with being in front of many people or managing other people. This may be a sincere way to humanize yourself for the audience. Your objective is to give an excepted depth to your application.
In any case, it is highly recommended to write the optional essay for most students in order to stand out from others. This essay can be your opportunity to emphasize the things about yourself that are different from the ones you described in your app essay. This way, the admissions officers will get an authentic picture of you.
Main points the essay has to accomplish
Make sure that your essay accomplishes these three main points:
- It shows not tells. For example, if you decide to write an essay on a topic how cooking impacted your life, don’t show any doubts or uncertainties of your sincerity. Use real examples to prove your point.
- It says something about you. The goal of your essay is to perfectly match the rest of your app to provide a better picture of you as an applicant. When telling about your maturation, growth, and lessons you have learned, you can distinguish yourself from other candidates in the eyes of the committee.
- It demonstrates how you’re fit into college. Harvard College actively looks for students who not only follow the instructions but promotes the culture of the college. In your essay, you need to show why you are different from others. Take the time to connect your personal qualities and experiences to the community of Harvard and show how you are going to enhance the campus of Harvard.
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Harvard College gives an incentive to an environment of students with a global view and diverse thought. One of the main priorities of the college is to develop future innovators and leaders who will change the world. The college encourages applicants to be driven and thoroughly educated, ready to conquer the world that changes so fast.
Think about what kinds of research projects, internship opportunities, activities, and curriculum styles within Harvard would interest you. If you do not have a concentration yet, still examine your possible interests when looking for the university. Remember that the students of Harvard have concentrations and not majors. If you find the research elements that support your essay subject, include them and show why they fit you.
Cultural extravagancies of Harvard
There are several points you need to consider when writing your essay. First, the college values community passion/involvement development over academic achievements. Second of all, you want Harvard to be curious in your application – weather it is academically, intellectually, philosophically, or in terms of your extracurricular activities. Students of Harvard are really ardent about something and in your essay, you need to show how you will also promote that. The college looks for sincerely good people. Therefore, it is important to express a concern for humanity or a citizenship sense in your essay.
Extraordinary situations in your life
When writing the essay, it is recommended to mention some extraordinary situations in your life. Even though we’re talking about something unusual, these circumstances do not have to be one of a kind. The important thing is for your essay to show who you are and how the circumstances have impacted you. If you manage to achieve that, your essay will be answering the question effectively. It is important to describe how the circumstances impacted you. You need to show that you fully understand what has happened and how you can link your experience to who you’ve become.
Be specific showing how your experience changed your outlook. For instance, if you’re writing your essay about how you were moving a lot over the last 10 years, you can say that changing residences all the time throughout your high school years influenced many aspects of your life. Concentrate on what exactly changed in your perspective, relationships, and family life as a result of moving constantly. You can add anecdotes to show what changed. The significant key is to include as many details as possible.
Remember that the objective of your essay is not to get sympathy from the acceptance committee. When telling a sad story, the main goal is to show what qualities and personal strengths it gave you. Even if you’re describing a sad situation, let your essay end optimistically.
Living abroad experiences or travels
When talking about your abroad experiences or travel, it is an opportunity to tell how this experience has impacted your personal life and growth. It is recommended to choose another prompt, if you didn’t have any significant experience abroad or have not travelled at all.
At the same time, if you choose this prompt, it shows the admission officers of Harvard that you have a diverse background, perspective, and experience. When using this prompt, don’t just describe the landmarks of the area, instead get deeper into the nature of the place. Of course, you can mention the Colosseum but if it didn’t have a significant impact on your personal growth nor it changed you as a personality, it is better to talk about the culture.
It is important to make your story personal instead of just submitting an itinerary. Talk about how the places you visited impacted you. For example, how did Spanish architecture influence your understanding of the Spanish culture? How did your backpacking experience impact your beliefs about the place of humans in the world? How did your becoming a vegetarian shape how you feel about what you eat today?
Be accurate when describing all the cultures and the influences they had on your outlook and life. When writing an essay on this topic, you should show a deeper meaning rather than just saying that you were there.
If you leaved in the two different countries or more, it would be a great idea to compare those cultures and your experiences in them. For example, if you leaved for sometime in the village in England and then moved to Los Angeles, talk about how manners, interpersonal relations, and daily life differs between the two places. The important thing is also to mention how these two cultures have impacted you.
Even though it is fun to explore new places, your essay should support the point you’re making about your personal growth. Elaborate on how the hospitality of the country you leaved in made you bring more kindness home.
What your potential college roommate should know about you
When choosing this prompt, there is a risk of producing a very general essay. A lot of people like things like sleep and chocolate and that is why you need to try and focus on things that are personal to you. In order to make your essay unique and attract the interest of readers you can do the following:
- Use a unique style. You may want to format your essay as a letter to your potential roommate or you can talk about yourself in the third person.
- Include stories to talk about yourself.
- Insert a little of humor.
Even though in this essay you need to talk about yourself as a roommate, it doesn’t mean that you need to use slang or be in formal.
Also keep in mind that you do not need to make yourself look like a perfect person. Also, don’t only concentrate on your negative qualities. Simply admit that you have certain flaws but remember that you are still presenting yourself to an admissions committee.
Describe any intellectual experience that is the most important to you
If you want to describe your intellectual skills, this prompt is perfect for you. If you have certain experiences that made you choose your concentration, this is an excellent opportunity to write about it. Admissions committee like to see that you are ardent about your future specialization and committed to your interests.
Also, you may want to describe your intellectual experiences in the area outside of your comfort zone. For example, your English teacher asked you to write a paper on a topic that is not your area of specialization like engineering, and as a result you found a passion for medieval English literature. Comparing these two separate interests by emphasizing the depths, to which you studied the new topic, will make the admissions officer look at your application from a different angle. The important thing is to show how your experiences shaped your intellectual development.
Whatever experience you may want to write about, highlight the impact it had on you. Harvard College pays great attention to advancement and growth so these subjects are central to your essay.
How are you going to use your Harvard education?
This is a generalized question that you may need to answer a couple of times during your application process so it is recommended to have a strong answer on it anyway. Harvard will invest their effort and time into you and they want to know what you will give them in return. From this question, they want to know what kind of person you are going to be after graduation.
Never say that your degree from Harvard will help in your financial gain. It is not a good strategy saying that you want to go to Harvard only because their graduates on average make more money, even if you’re trying to say that making a lot of money will help you make changes in society. Also, don’t say that you want to go to Harvard because of the prestige it has. These are very bad ways to convince the admissions officer of your interest.
It is significant to also talk about certain things about the college that will make it easy for you to become successful. Reflect on how Harvard education will be beneficial to your personal growth and then success.
Books you’ve read in the last year
This prompt may seem very simple. However, many students get accepted at Harvard after preparing an essay on this prompt. If you are passionate reader, this brand is prompt is perfect for you.
For this prompt, the college asks you to submit a list of books you’ve read during the last year. However, it does not prohibit you from commenting on the books you’ve read. If you can provide an original analysis on the book, make sure to include it in your essay. If a book had a great impact on you, ensure to talk about it and describe how it changed you.
How will you contribute to promoting the mission of Harvard College?
In this prompt, Harvard tests your self-knowledge as to how and where you can help fit the needs of society. They want to see what kind of person you will become when you graduate.
If the central part of your life experience has been occupied by leadership, make sure to mention these roles in the essay. Discuss how your leadership contributed to the culture of the club you were a member of on a campus. In this prompt, your goal consists of two parts:
- Address how your society or community benefited from your leadership skills
- Create an evaluation for your personal leadership skills
It is important for Harvard to have students that come from different backgrounds allowing them to learn more from one another. Think about what you can bring to this diverse environment. Some of the essays that could fit well to this prompt are about inequality in society or discrimination.
Writing on your own topic
Choosing a topic of your own may highlight aspects of yourself that other prompts cannot reveal. When choosing this prompt, you have the freedom to write about whatever you want. Consider the prompts mentioned above as suggestions to your own topic.
When writing an essay on your topic make sure it does the following:
- It says something about you
- It shows you’re a great fit to Harvard
- It shows and not tells
Writing an essay to Harvard gives you a chance to show a broader picture of yourself. Since there is no word limit, you have many options to choose from and show how creative you are.
You are persuading the admissions officers to accept your application. Your argument is greatly strengthened by the quality of your essay. If you follow the tips mentioned above, you will be able to create a successful essay that will attract the attention of the admissions committee.
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