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gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,752 Senior Member
edited December 2013 in Harvard University
Before posting a chance thread, please realize that every poster will have a different opinion, and none of their opinions matter, including mine. All that matters is what an Admissions Director thinks, and as far as I know, none are posters on CC.

It's virtually impossible to predict with certainty anyone's chances as so much of the applications process is subjective and comes down to how an admissions director "feels" after reading your teacher recommendations, guidance counselor report and essays, and compares them to all other applicants. Also, every college tends to look for something different every year. For example: one year, maybe too few students are majoring in X, and Admissions needs to actively pursue students who might be interested in majoring in X. Then, the following year, it changes to Y. So your chances actually vary from year-to-year depending upon on a number of variables, some of them totally out of your control. You need to just send your applications out into the universe and hope for the best. Good luck to you.

To understand Harvard Admissions better, you should read:

Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard's Dean, Part 1 - NYTimes.com

"Many people believe “best” ought to be defined by standardized tests, grades, and class rank, and it is easy to understand why. Such a system, another Harvard dean of admissions, Bill Bender, wrote in 1960, “has great appeal because it has the merits of apparent simplicity, objectivity, relative administrative cheapness in time and money and worry, a clear logical basis and therefore easy applicability and defensibility.”

While we value objective criteria, we apply a more expansive view of excellence. Test scores and grades offer some indication of students’ academic promise and achievement. But we also scrutinize applications for extracurricular distinction and personal qualities.

Students’ intellectual imagination, strength of character, and their ability to exercise good judgment — these are critical factors in the admissions process, and they are revealed not by test scores but by students’ activities outside the classroom, the testimony of teachers and guidance counselors, and by alumni/ae and staff interview reports."

"Personal qualities and character provide the foundation upon which each admission rests. Harvard alumni/ae often report that the education they received from fellow classmates was a critically important component of their college experience. The education that takes place between roommates, in dining halls, classrooms, research groups, extracurricular activities, and in Harvard’s residential houses depends on selecting students who will reach out to others."

And: Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard's Dean, Part 1 - NYTimes.com

"Recommendations from secondary school teachers and counselors are extremely important at Harvard and at many other colleges, particularly those with selective admissions processes. Faced with more academically qualified applicants than places in the freshman class, our admission officers review the two required teacher recommendations and the counselor report with great care, often commenting on them in writing on “reader sheets” in each application.

We often project the recommendations themselves onto large screens so that all members of the Admissions Committee can see them during the subcommittee and full committee review processes in February and March.

Recommendations can help us to see well beyond test scores and grades and other credentials and can illuminate such personal qualities as character and leadership as well as intellectual curiosity, creativity, and love of learning. Along with essays, interviews, and other materials in the application, recommendations can offer evidence of an applicant’s potential to make a significant difference to a college community and beyond."

Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard's Dean, Part 3 - NYTimes.com

The term “extracurricular activities” covers an enormous amount of ground. We are interested in whatever a student does: in addition to school extracurricular activities and athletics, students can tell us of significant community, employment, or family commitments. There are many who spend a great deal of time helping to run their household, preparing meals and caring for siblings or making money with a part-time job to help the household meet expenses.

Unfortunately many schools have had to curtail or eliminate extracurricular activities and athletics, or they charge fees for participation. In addition, many students cannot afford expensive musical instruments or athletic equipment — or have families without the resources to pay for lessons, summer programs and the transportation networks necessary to support such activities.

Admissions Committees keep these factors in mind as they review applications, and are concerned most of all to know how well students used the resources available to them. Extracurricular activities need not be exotic — most are not — and substance is far more important. A student who has made the most of opportunities day-to-day during secondary school is much more likely to do so during college and beyond. This applies to academic life as well as extracurricular activities.
Post edited by gibby on

Replies to: Chance Threads - PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING ONE

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,752 Senior Member
    If your SAT/ACT fall's within Harvard's range, then you ARE a competitive applicant. And that's about all anyone can really tell you from a chance thread. The rest of the process is indeed nebulous.

    See: 'The Ideal High School Graduate' - NYTimes.com

    "College counselors and admissions directors crowded a hotel conference room on Thursday afternoon, many sitting on the floor for want of enough chairs, as William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions at Harvard, joined in a discussion on “The Ideal High School Graduate.”

    Mr. Fitzsimmons was speaking on a panel as part of the College Board’s annual conference in New York City.

    “I’m not sure Harvard has figured out what the ideal student is,” he said, clearly disappointing some cramped audience members. “But public service is a baseline. We’re trying to find people who make others around them better.”

    Mr. Fitzsimmons called successful applicants to Harvard “good all-arounders – academically, extracurricularly and personally,” and he stressed the importance of demonstrating humanity and three-dimensionality in one’s college application. “I want to know, what is it this person does beside chew gum and produce good grades or scores?”

    He warned against the superficiality of charismatic dispositions. “Charisma isn’t everything,” he said. “It actually makes a difference to have substance. And those quiet people can be incredibly easy to miss in college admissions, but they can be brilliant and wear incredibly well over the long haul.”

    Marcia Landesman, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Yale, cited modesty and resourcefulness as qualities she most closely associated with an ideal candidate, and she emphasized that recommendations were most helpful in communicating such traits.

    Mr. Fitzsimmons agreed. “Our applicant pools are more homogenous than ever,” he said. “So recommendations are more important than ever.” He shared that at Harvard, recommendations are ranked from one to six based on the strength of the endorsement of the student.

    Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions at the University of Rochester, stepped up to call the discussion a “100-pound topic in a five-pound sack,” but went on to tackle it all the same. He said that inquisitive students characterized his ideal, those who might “step up beyond the received wisdom of Lady Gaga and actually think about what she says.”

    To close, Mark Spencer, dean of admissions at Brandeis University, hinted at the futility of the whole conversation, saying, “I don’t believe in an ideal high school graduate.” Nonetheless, he went on to praise “authentic” applicants above all others and shared an anecdote from an interview he conducted last week.

    “A young woman told me her dad called her weird. She stated it. She accepted it. And she kind of liked it,” he said, laughing. In turn, Mr. Spencer really liked it. “She was real.”

    Echoing essay advice that The Choice picked up at the National Association of College Admissions Counselors conference in September, he advised that applicants loosen up, advocating that students are at their best – whether interviewing or in an essay – when they are answering “kooky questions.”

    The panelists nodded in consensus, suggesting that their shared, ultimate ideal is the student comfortable and free enough to be totally real."
  • redchairredchair Registered User Posts: 43 Junior Member
    Before posting a chance thread, please realize that every poster will have a different opinion, and none of their opinions matter, including mine. All that matters is what an Admissions Director thinks, and as far as I know, none are posters on CC.

    Excellent post.

    If you think you'd be a competitive applicant, apply. If you're not sure if you're a competitive applicant, still apply. Knowing some arbitrary percent chance of you getting into a school after you've sent an application will not change your GPA, SAT scores, extracurriculars, essays, personality, or how the admissions officers view you. At best, knowing your chances does nothing, and at worst it gives you a false sense of assurance that would make a rejection letter even more heartbreaking.

    We as applicants need to calm down and not freak out about this whole process. Not getting into Harvard doesn't diminish our achievements or our character. Let's be pragmatic -- the acceptance rate of Harvard, or really any of the Ivies, is less than 10%. More people are going to be rejected than accepted. But we're going to go on to be successful and live great lives no matter what college we end up in, so let's stop worrying about trying to figure out our chances of getting in to ease our nerves. None of us are admissions officers.
  • SeriweSeriwe Registered User Posts: 287 Junior Member
    Can we ge this stickied at the top as "IMPORTANT"?

    Thank you for posting this Gibby. Much easier than having to repaste the same words into every single thread.
  • WindCloudUltraWindCloudUltra Registered User Posts: 1,761 Senior Member
    All that matters is what an Admissions Director thinks, and as far as I know, none are posters on CC.

    And to be fair, that itself is pretty subjective as well.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,752 Senior Member
    ^^ Very true, but as this video explains, your application actually has to win approval from the majority of committee members in order to gain admission:
    A Glimpse Inside Harvard Admissions | Flyby | The Harvard Crimson
  • WindCloudUltraWindCloudUltra Registered User Posts: 1,761 Senior Member
    I had an interesting discussion a while back with a mentor/friend who was--at the time--on a panel/selection committee that screened applications for a certain prize. The rules of the competition required each jury member to look at the applications/submitted samples blindly, and then give each applicant a score. The scores of all the committee members were then tallied and averaged. [The details were a bit more complicated, but this will illustrate my point in any case]

    He personally hated the method because he believed that the actual winners (there were always multiple) always ended up being the safest. This was an artistic competition, and because different individuals have different tastes, the favorites of the individual jury members never got enough points from everyone to win. That is, if you were competent but boring (to a certain extent), you received, on average more points than the favorite candidates (usually edgier) of any individual juror, because other jurors often gave these candidates lower scores.

    This is sometimes why I wonder if decisions by committee might not generate the best results. That is, I wonder if Harvard's student body would look any different if it were represented by individual adcom members' favorites rather than by candidates that manage to please the majority of committee members. I also wonder whether this would have any effect quantitatively--would this be a more talented pool?
  • lovenerdslovenerds Registered User Posts: 161 Junior Member
    @Wind, Art is a lot different from college apps. If an artist is very unique in his or her drawings, there will be lots of disagreement about whether that uniqueness is true talent or simply unworthy painting that's a just bit bizarre. However, in the case of college apps, it's very easy to identify uniqueness being positive or not (in most cases)-someone who founded a company and another who codes successful software are both very unique, but that uniqueness be easily judged as true talent. Simply put, art is far more subjective than college apps, although college apps are already pretty subjective.
  • conquerer7conquerer7 Registered User Posts: 230 Junior Member
    Mhm, very true. Nobody here can predict if, I dunno, the officer reading your essay is sick, or too tired to laugh at your jokes. And god forbid your app comes up right before lunch! ( If you want parole, have your case heard right after lunch | Ars Technica )
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,752 Senior Member
    Another Crimson article on the applications process: Don't Touch That File | News | The Harvard Crimson
  • EastGradEastGrad Registered User Posts: 972 Member
    Thanks for these guidelines, Gibby.
  • Curiosity7Curiosity7 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    gibby: Thank you.
    Your statements are perfect and hopeful.
  • Curiosity7Curiosity7 Registered User Posts: 10 New Member
    gibby: Thank you.
    Your statements are perfect and hopeful.
  • 3chainz3chainz Registered User Posts: 36 Junior Member
    Ahh such a great post
This discussion has been closed.