As I see facebook status updates from my friends who are still in high school, I remember how stressful the first semester of senior year can be when it comes to choosing what schools to apply to.
I'm now a freshman here at Harvard and I'd be happy to answer any of your questions about the school life - classes, extracurriculars, the environment, the social scene, the most challenging parts of the application process...
College Confidential was a HUGE resource for me last year and I'll try to help you out like students did for me last year. In particular, I am an international student and I did early action, so if you're in either half of that situation my experience might be particularly relevant.
Finally, I started a blog since I got to college - I mostly use it to keep in touch with my family, but I realized it might also be a useful resource for prospective students: The Harvard Diaries
Feel free to ask me questions either by commenting on my blog of by posting on this thread!
@Philovitist: Ooh Harvard-Yale rivalry. Well, let me try to stay objective here - I personally preferred Harvard because of its city environment (Boston is an awesome college town and Harvard Square is full of eateries/fairly cheap stores). Harvard also has more of a class spirit whereas Yale is more divided into residential colleges - your key only lets you access your own residential college, and you stay in the college you're assigned to for all four years. In Harvard, you get to pick a "blocking" group after freshman year so you have a whole year to make friends across the entire class.
That said, the two Yalies I've met seem to love it so far, and one of my friends who got accepted (he's currently on a gap year) chose Yale because he felt like it provided more musical opportunities. As much as I love to hate on Yale, they're both great schools.
@msteiny1212: Social scene's more extensive than you would think. While it's perfectly acceptable to stay in on a weekend night to work (like I did tonight), you can also find something to do any weekend night (like I did yesterday). Most things are organized by student groups/clubs, so don't panic if not much goes on the first month, things will pick up later on. Upperclassmen have also told me that Harvard is trying to crack down this semester; apparently it's usually more active.
@ecouter11: I guess I'm not the average international in that I've also travelled a lot. My parents work in the humanitarian sector so we've lived in pretty obscure places, like Mongolia or Pakistan. I think for internationals in general, it's important to stress out what makes YOU special amongst all the international applicants: basically, tie your achievements back in to culture, unique difficulties you encountered in your country, etc. And thanks, I'm glad you like my blog!
For everyone's who's messaged me, I can only private message when I've made a certain number of posts on College Confidential. Post directly on this thread/my blog if you want a quick reply, or I'll just get there eventually
International student wise I am in the same-ish situation as you. I have lived in five countries and currently live in a country even more obscure than the ones you have mentioned! Do you mind sharing some of your stats with us? My grades and extracurriculars are not amazing but solid. Do you think it would be a bad idea for me to apply Early Action as the Early Action applicant pool tends to be more competitive?
Thank you so much and I love your blog~!
Thank you so much for your devotion towards this matter! I arrived here in the US three years ago from Hong Kong, but I do have citizenship here, so it's quite confusing. Because I've only been here for 3 years, I only have 2 APs, a depressing SAT score (15XX), and a 26 on my ACT. I scored a 108 on my TOFEL IBT, and am planning to take SAT 2s in Chemistry, Mandarin, and Math L1 (I may change it to Biology). I have been taking science classes every year since I've arrived, and am enrolled in an AP Bio class this year (honors Bio last year). Because my school only allows students to enroll in one AP science course per year due to budget cuts, I could not apply to AP chem and had to take honors chem this year. I was extremely active in extra curricular activities during my freshmen year (which was spent in Hong Kong), and have been participating in science fairs since my junior year. I won first place in my category in the LA county Science Fair.
I know my qualifications are not impressing compared to other locals or international students, but I really have a passion towards studying science, especial medicine. I hope my post won't turn out as a joke...
@ilovecollege95: That's great, what countries have you lived in? Maybe we have some overlap! As for stats, when I applied I had a predicted 44/45 IB score, 800 CR 800 W 740 M SAT I and 790 (Literature), 730 (Spanish) and 780 (Bio) SAT II scores. I think I made a more detailed post in the 2016 decisions thread a while back, that thread is a great resource when evaluating different schools.
From what I saw amongst my classmates, I would say that SAT scores are especially important for internationals because US colleges are not necessarily familiar with your grading system.
@winx12432: Don't fall into the trap of feeling inferior, you sound like you're really dedicated to science! Admissions are really random in that schools want to build a "class": I have some great friends who were rejected from one school but not another of similar academic standing.
Don't get too attached to any one school and remember that about 2 days after college starts, you completely forget where you were accepted/rejected: your school is your school, and that's that.
To increase your overall chances, I would however suggest retaking your SAT. Admission officers risk not looking at other stronger aspects of your application because of a relatively low SAT score.
This might sound like a weird question as it has no merit to prospective students, but does Harvard allow high schoolers to have field trips to the campus (or is campus access private and strictly regulated)? Are there underrepresented youth recruitment happening on campus? Basically what I'm asking is, are there school buses rolling into campus and younger kids getting tours, 1st gen college aspiring HS students invited to take field trips and the like? In short, does Harvard care about it's geographical region's well being or do you feel like "the gates are closed" when school is in session and it's basically an Elite, private, exclusive academy during the school year? I go to a public school so I always see young kids getting tours and programs happening on campus that are strictly funded and overseen by the University itself so I'm always curious to know which schools are not only impacting lives through science, but also impacting lives by motivating aspiring young minds. If Harvard does do this stuff, how often would you say that you see high school and middle school kids touring the campus and partaking in activities?
Thank you very much for your encouragement and reply. I am really struggling with the SAT because I don't really know much of the vocabularies they use, and I'm not proficient with prefixes. It's extremely challenging....but I am planning to retake it in december, and am waiting for my november scores.