Harvard has created an amazing reputation. The college wasfounded in 1636 and it has the lowest rates of universityacceptance in the world. Last year, more than 39,000 applicantsapplied to Harvard College and only 5.2% of that number wereexcepted to join the 2021class.
It is not surprising that the application process to HarvardCollege is an important part in the admission procedure. Inaddition to asking applicants to submit their recommendationletters and extracurricular activities, the application procedurealso requires students to write a college essay. Every yearstudents struggle with what to make their essays about in orderto make their application stand out.
There are no strict rules for writing supplemental essays toHarvard College and that is why it makes this process even moredifficult. Below you will find a full guide on how to writeeffective Harvard college essays to be noticed by the admissioncommittee.
Prompts for essays
If you feel that the college app form does not give you an ampleopportunity to tell important details about yourself or yourachievements, you may want to include an additional essay to yourapplication process. In this case, you may compose a paper on anytopic 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 mostimportant 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 inpromoting the mission of Harvard College?
The importance of writing an essay
Every year, Harvard College claims that its essay is notobligatory, which confuses a lot of students. However, it isstrongly recommended to take this opportunity and submit theessay to show yourself on your application. Among 200 applicants,86% of accepted students decided to compose the essay. Awell-written essay can revive your chances if you have a weakextracurricular profile or poor SAT grades. The essay is youropportunity to introduce yourself to the admission committees andtell them a little about your life beyond your resume.
Tips for Harvard application
Harvard doesn’t have a certain word limit for essays. Even thoughit may mean that you can submit a dissertation 58 pages long, themost efficient Harvard college essays are usually from 500 to 700words. Keep in mind that your paper should be approximately apage long when you write using Times New Roman font of 12 pointswith a single space.
- If you’re writing your essay from scratch, it should becompletely 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 froma different angle.
- If your app is focused on your research and your common appessay talks about how you are obsessed with chemistry researchand how it impacted you as a person, your supplemental essayshould be about something like how you helped raise money forcharity. It should show you from an original side outside of yourprofessional or academic environment. In this essay, you canwrite about your hobby or passion and this will be your tool totell about your exciting experiences as well as emphasizing yourparticipation in the society in a very original way.
- If your application describes many leadership positions youtook, your may want to write an essay that concentrates on youruncertainties with being in front of many people or managingother people. This may be a sincere way to humanize yourself forthe audience. Your objective is to give an excepted depth to yourapplication.
In any case, it is highly recommended to write the optional essayfor most students in order to stand out from others. This essaycan be your opportunity to emphasize the things about yourselfthat are different from the ones you described in your app essay.This way, the admissions officers will get an authentic pictureof 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 anessay on a topic how cooking impacted your life, don’t show anydoubts or uncertainties of your sincerity. Use real examples toprove your point.
- It says something about you. The goal of your essay is toperfectly match the rest of your app to provide a better pictureof you as an applicant. When telling about your maturation,growth, and lessons you have learned, you can distinguishyourself from other candidates in the eyes of the committee.
- It demonstrates how you’re fit into college. Harvard Collegeactively looks for students who not only follow the instructionsbut promotes the culture of the college. In your essay, you needto show why you are different from others. Take the time toconnect your personal qualities and experiences to the communityof Harvard and show how you are going to enhance the campus ofHarvard.
Harvard College gives an incentive to an environment of studentswith a global view and diverse thought. One of the mainpriorities of the college is to develop future innovators andleaders who will change the world. The college encouragesapplicants to be driven and thoroughly educated, ready to conquerthe world that changes so fast.
Think about what kinds of research projects, internshipopportunities, activities, and curriculum styles within Harvardwould interest you. If you do not have a concentration yet, stillexamine your possible interests when looking for the university.Remember that the students of Harvard have concentrations and notmajors. If you find the research elements that support your essaysubject, include them and show why they fit you.
Cultural extravagancies of Harvard
There are several points you need to consider when writing youressay. First, the college values community passion/involvementdevelopment over academic achievements. Second of all, you wantHarvard to be curious in your application – weather it isacademically, intellectually, philosophically, or in terms ofyour extracurricular activities. Students of Harvard are reallyardent about something and in your essay, you need to show howyou will also promote that. The college looks for sincerely goodpeople. Therefore, it is important to express a concern forhumanity or a citizenship sense in your essay.
Extraordinary situations in your life
When writing the essay, it is recommended to mention someextraordinary situations in your life. Even though we’re talkingabout something unusual, these circumstances do not have to beone of a kind. The important thing is for your essay to show whoyou are and how the circumstances have impacted you. If youmanage to achieve that, your essay will be answering the questioneffectively. It is important to describe how the circumstancesimpacted you. You need to show that you fully understand what hashappened and how you can link your experience to who you’vebecome.
Be specific showing how your experience changed your outlook. Forinstance, if you’re writing your essay about how you were movinga lot over the last 10 years, you can say that changingresidences all the time throughout your high school yearsinfluenced many aspects of your life. Concentrate on what exactlychanged in your perspective, relationships, and family life as aresult of moving constantly. You can add anecdotes to show whatchanged. The significant key is to include as many details aspossible.
Remember that the objective of your essay is not to get sympathyfrom the acceptance committee. When telling a sad story, the maingoal is to show what qualities and personal strengths it gaveyou. Even if you’re describing a sad situation, let your essayend optimistically.
Living abroad experiences or travels
When talking about your abroad experiences or travel, it is anopportunity to tell how this experience has impacted yourpersonal life and growth. It is recommended to choose anotherprompt, if you didn’t have any significant experience abroad orhave not travelled at all.
At the same time, if you choose this prompt, it shows theadmission officers of Harvard that you have a diverse background,perspective, and experience. When using this prompt, don’t justdescribe the landmarks of the area, instead get deeper into thenature of the place. Of course, you can mention the Colosseum butif it didn’t have a significant impact on your personal growthnor it changed you as a personality, it is better to talk aboutthe culture.
It is important to make your story personal instead of justsubmitting an itinerary. Talk about how the places you visitedimpacted you. For example, how did Spanish architecture influenceyour understanding of the Spanish culture? How did yourbackpacking experience impact your beliefs about the place ofhumans in the world? How did your becoming a vegetarian shape howyou feel about what you eat today?
Be accurate when describing all the cultures and the influencesthey had on your outlook and life. When writing an essay on thistopic, you should show a deeper meaning rather than just sayingthat you were there.
If you leaved in the two different countries or more, it would bea great idea to compare those cultures and your experiences inthem. For example, if you leaved for sometime in the village inEngland and then moved to Los Angeles, talk about how manners,interpersonal relations, and daily life differs between the twoplaces. The important thing is also to mention how these twocultures have impacted you.
Even though it is fun to explore new places, your essay shouldsupport the point you’re making about your personal growth.Elaborate on how the hospitality of the country you leaved inmade 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 verygeneral essay. A lot of people like things like sleep andchocolate and that is why you need to try and focus on thingsthat are personal to you. In order to make your essay unique andattract the interest of readers you can do the following:
- Use a unique style. You may want to format your essay as aletter to your potential roommate or you can talk about yourselfin 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 aroommate, it doesn’t mean that you need to use slang or be informal.
Also keep in mind that you do not need to make yourself look likea perfect person. Also, don’t only concentrate on your negativequalities. Simply admit that you have certain flaws but rememberthat you are still presenting yourself to an admissionscommittee.
Describe any intellectual experience that is the most importantto you
If you want to describe your intellectual skills, this prompt isperfect for you. If you have certain experiences that made youchoose your concentration, this is an excellent opportunity towrite about it. Admissions committee like to see that you areardent about your future specialization and committed to yourinterests.
Also, you may want to describe your intellectual experiences inthe area outside of your comfort zone. For example, your Englishteacher asked you to write a paper on a topic that is not yourarea of specialization like engineering, and as a result youfound a passion for medieval English literature. Comparing thesetwo separate interests by emphasizing the depths, to which youstudied the new topic, will make the admissions officer look atyour application from a different angle. The important thing isto show how your experiences shaped your intellectualdevelopment.
Whatever experience you may want to write about, highlight theimpact it had on you. Harvard College pays great attention toadvancement and growth so these subjects are central to youressay.
How are you going to use your Harvard education?
This is a generalized question that you may need to answer acouple of times during your application process so it isrecommended to have a strong answer on it anyway. Harvard willinvest their effort and time into you and they want to know whatyou will give them in return. From this question, they want toknow what kind of person you are going to be after graduation.
Never say that your degree from Harvard will help in yourfinancial gain. It is not a good strategy saying that you want togo to Harvard only because their graduates on average make moremoney, even if you’re trying to say that making a lot of moneywill help you make changes in society. Also, don’t say that youwant to go to Harvard because of the prestige it has. These arevery bad ways to convince the admissions officer of yourinterest.
It is significant to also talk about certain things about thecollege that will make it easy for you to become successful.Reflect on how Harvard education will be beneficial to yourpersonal growth and then success.
Books you’ve read in the last year
This prompt may seem very simple. However, many students getaccepted at Harvard after preparing an essay on this prompt. Ifyou are passionate reader, this brand is prompt is perfect foryou.
For this prompt, the college asks you to submit a list of booksyou’ve read during the last year. However, it does not prohibityou from commenting on the books you’ve read. If you can providean original analysis on the book, make sure to include it in youressay. If a book had a great impact on you, ensure to talk aboutit and describe how it changed you.
How will you contribute to promoting the mission of HarvardCollege?
In this prompt, Harvard tests your self-knowledge as to how andwhere you can help fit the needs of society. They want to seewhat kind of person you will become when you graduate.
If the central part of your life experience has been occupied byleadership, make sure to mention these roles in the essay.Discuss how your leadership contributed to the culture of theclub you were a member of on a campus. In this prompt, your goalconsists of two parts:
- Address how your society or community benefited from yourleadership skills
- Create an evaluation for your personal leadership skills
It is important for Harvard to have students that come fromdifferent backgrounds allowing them to learn more from oneanother. Think about what you can bring to this diverseenvironment. Some of the essays that could fit well to thisprompt are about inequality in society or discrimination.
Writing on your own topic
Choosing a topic of your own may highlight aspects of yourselfthat other prompts cannot reveal. When choosing this prompt, youhave the freedom to write about whatever you want. Consider theprompts mentioned above as suggestions to your own topic.
When writing an essay on your topic make sure it does thefollowing:
- 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 broaderpicture of yourself. Since there is no word limit, you have manyoptions to choose from and show how creative you are.
You are persuading the admissions officers to accept yourapplication. Your argument is greatly strengthened by the qualityof your essay. If you follow the tips mentioned above, you willbe able to create a successful essay that will attract theattention of the admissions committee.
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