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Is Harvard really THAT hard to get into?

eternalallureeternalallure Posts: 52Registered User Junior Member
edited October 2008 in Harvard University
Okay, I know that Harvard is the number one school and everything, but are ALL of the students admitted to Harvard super geniuses with great test scores that manage to find time to be in sports, play an instrument, do research, and do community service?

Seriously, I look at the Chance threads and just feel ridiculously unqualified and depressed. Are people who post the Chance threads just a few of those top-notch students that will probably get into Harvard or are they representative of all of the students that potentially even have a ghost of a chance of getting accepted?
Post edited by eternalallure on

Replies to: Is Harvard really THAT hard to get into?

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 24,007Registered User Senior Member
    Look at the numbers as given by H and decide for yourself. H 's accept rate is about 10%. Considering that their app pool tends to be such that most of the kids are high quality applicants, unless you have some outstanding feature that the school wants, your chances are less, since those kids have a much higher chance of getting in. For instance, if H desperately needs a football QB, there may only be 3 or 4 applying and those kids have more than an 1/4 chance of acceptance. Qualified alums have about a 30-40% chance of accept. URMs have a 30-40% chance. So if you aren't in any of those categories, you chances may well be 1 out of 20 rather than 1 out of 10.
  • : ): ) Posts: 667Registered User Member
    as for "super geniuses with great test scores that manage to find time to be in sports, play an instrument, do research, and do community service": generally, all applicants have those traits. maybe not the super geniuses part, but you have to be pretty well-rounded.
  • chanfest22chanfest22 Posts: 365Registered User Member
    You don't have to be a super genius -- you have to stand out.

    Whether that means extreme success in international science fairs or national ranking in math/science olympiads or professional musician or legacies or URM's or sports or whatever.
  • Shalashaska64Shalashaska64 Posts: 683- Member
    Trust me there are plenty of head-scratcher cases here.
  • Shalashaska64Shalashaska64 Posts: 683- Member
    Olympiad winners have been much more impressive than science fair kids. I'm actually disappointed by some of these research people, a lot of em aren't. A lot of them aren't as bright as I thought they'd be.


    Sorry for the double post, I'm not at a computer atm
  • AdmiralAdmiral Posts: 720Registered User Member
    It's definitely not true that everyone has to "be in sports, play an instrument, do research, and do community service". I'm pretty sure only a minority do all four. I didn't play sports or do community service in high school (nothing that I put on my application, anyway).

    Most students here have not done science research. There's a difference between being well rounded (good) and being the best possible student anyone could imagine (unrealistic). Some people think that unless you do absolutely everything, you can't get in. That's silly, and it's not the reason Harvard is so hard to get into.

    Having said that, I'd say the reason Harvard is "hard" to get into is basically that absolutely nothing guarantees you. Not perfect test scores, not a ton of ECs, not being valedictorian. That doesn't mean you have to be all of those things to get in, not at all. It just means that you have to stand out somehow to the school, and that's not something that's easy to quantify.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 24,007Registered User Senior Member
    Our school gets a half dozen or so kids to H each year. All are excellent, outstanding students, outstanding at a school where all of the kids are prescreened and outstanding to begin with. However, there are many years when a perfect SAT with the best transcript and sterling profile is not accepted when other kids were. So as Admiral says, it not just the best student who necessarily gets admissions. And the numbers are very low so it is not a good shot for anyone. It does help if you have a "tag" that takes you out of the regular pool, a tag like legacy, URM, athletic recruit, special connection. In addition to the tags, every school, including H gets requests from the school on what it wants in its student body. Are they running low on musicians on a certain instrument, vocalists? Is the Classics dept getting antsy? Those are informal lists that provide a info to the adcoms as to what the school currently needs. It's a moving target as the lists change from year to year, really from minute to minute.
  • Shalashaska64Shalashaska64 Posts: 683- Member
    Admiral, my second post was directed at only the science stars.
  • DbateDbate Posts: 2,699- Senior Member
    ^^As a science fair type, the reason that science research kids may not be the brightest is because a large amount of science fair stuff is aided research. Usually all the people who win big have worked with a researcher and not necessarily done it on their own. With olympiads if I am correct you have to know your stuff. You do not have to be a super genius, but many are still really smart.
  • aznprincess525aznprincess525 Posts: 108Registered User Junior Member
    I agree that being a "super genius" is not an admissions requirement but of course, it probably wouldn't hurt :) I have met quite a bit of people so far and there are people who are extremely talented in something (singing, sports, math etc). However, it seems that many of the students here did an array of things in high school - everyone was just really involved. Now, not everyone was "involved" in the same way so there isn't a formula to follow when doing extra-curricular activities.

    Just be sure that you show them that you have passion for whatever you are doing. Personally, I did not do research in high school, but I will get that opportunity to do that at Harvard. Don't feel too intimidated and good luck!
  • hopeful2b_yank3ehopeful2b_yank3e Posts: 932Registered User Member
    okay, let's be reasonable. there is no way that someone can be super geniuses with great test scores that manage to find time to be in sports, play an instrument, do research, and do community service. First off, those are all really hard things to do to balance school with. Personally ( i don't go to harvard, just fyi), I do community service and sports, and i'm pretty clever, but by no means will I find the cure for cancer :), but if someone were to do all those things they wouldn't have one thing: a life. and i think harvard looks at that. How are your stats? Either way, like aznprincess said, don't be intimidated and best of luck with admissions :), in the end it'll all work out
  • bostongalbostongal Posts: 60Registered User Junior Member
    at my high school, which is in the boston area, we have SO MANY legacies and professors kids and even some higher ups kids in my class (think 35 out of 80 kids has some connection) that these maybe more mediocre people will be accepted over any really qualified applicants... which really is annoying
  • kwukwu Posts: 4,759Registered User Senior Member
    That's the reality of life.

    It would help for one to be exceptionally insightful and intellectual, on top of having a strong talent for something. Of course, having strong scores are important, too.

    But, there are some people, whom, as you become familiar with them, you can immediately point out as HYPS material, you know?
  • coureurcoureur Posts: 11,386Registered User Senior Member
    >>okay, let's be reasonable. there is no way that someone can be super geniuses with great test scores that manage to find time to be in sports, play an instrument, do research, and do community service.<<

    My daughter isn't a super genius, but she had some level of achievement for all the things on this list. She is a very bright and hardworking kid who graduated 2nd in her class of 700, had excellent test scores, competed for the high school track team, played piano, bassoon, and percussion, did research, and did community service.

    Let's see how it all fit together:

    1. Grades: She's smart and worked hard. Took the toughest courses.
    2. Test scores: always was good at standardized tests. Got excellent scores with very little direct prep.
    3. Ran track because she enjoyed competing plus it was a spring sport so did not conflict with marching band in the fall.
    4. Music: Her main EC. Talented but by no means pro level. Took piano since she was a little girl. Started bassoon in middle school and stayed with it through college. Bassoon was her primary instrument. Played it in community orchestra as well as school ensembles. Took up percussion in high school for marching band because double reed instruments didn't march. She loved percussion as sort of a fun diversion. Stroke of Good Luck: her Harvard interviewer was also a bassoonist.
    5. Did research for three months one summer working with grad students in the lab of a medical school professor. She produced some nice data, and the prof. wrote recs for her.
    6. Service - She served for two years on a city youth council run the the local city government - planned and participated in various charitable events. Required attendance at occasional council meetings and events.

    She graduated from Harvard this past June.

    So it's not possible to be super or to devote full time to all these things, but it is certainly possible to have a significant degree of participation and achievement in all of them. Genius? No. For her it was a question of motivation, hard work, talent, and scheduling.
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