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How unique is this exracurricular?

efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
edited February 2013 in Harvard University
I'm not asking one of those "will THIS ec get me in Harvard?!" I just read on a different thread that adcoms basically think to themselves, "Wow. Not many 17 and 18 year-olds do THAT!"

I may have one of those "wowing" extracurriculars.

I've been an altar server in the Catholic mass for 9 years and won an international award for it. I am a "head server" at my parish, meaning I'm in charge of roughly 150 other servers from the ages 10-16. I've served for the bishop of the city's diocese among other things. I'm just wondering, is this all that "unique" in any of your eyes?
edited February 2013
15 replies
Post edited by efeens44 on
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Replies to: How unique is this exracurricular?

  • persona3persona3 92 replies28 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 120 Junior Member
    I don't think I've seen something quite like that, so that could be good. But also, since it's something different, the admissions committee might view it as a bit sketchy. (not saying that it is, of course. But sometimes, the lone, exclusive things can look a bit off)

    In any case, it's good to have a leadership position like that, and that should help with your personal statement and all as well.

    Good luck!
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    Well it's definitely verifiable haha so I'm not worried about that. But it's good to hear it might help!
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    "I'm just wondering, is this all that "unique" in any of your eyes?"

    Harvard is home to students from a vast number of religious backgrounds, and hundreds of students actively participate in their religious services -- both in high school and in college. See: Harvard College Interfaith Council

    I imagine many students who actively participate in their religion at Harvard wrote down some form of religious service on their college application.
    With that in mind, your extracurricular activities DO NOT need to be unique. See: 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."
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  • notjoenotjoe 1178 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,181 Senior Member
    efeens44,

    I'm not sure that "unique" is the best way to look at this "extracurricular." Essentially, you're an altar server. There are well over 30,000 Catholic parishes in the US, most have altar servers.

    It's rather like being in the chess club at school.

    The difference here is your level of accomplishment, which would be similar to being president of a very large chess club, and one of the best scholastic chess players in your metropolitan region, and having won at least one very important international scholastic tournament.

    Although one can say that the level of accomplishment is "unique," I don't think we'd ordinarily view it quite like that. Rather, we'd just say, that's a very, very high level of accomplishment.

    In terms of showing passion for something, I think you've done that. In terms of showing an ability to hone skills and achieve high levels of performance, this certainly does that, as well. It also shows serious commitment to something beyond yourself, as I doubt any altar server so serious and accomplished would be anything but a devout and dedicated Catholic.

    All that being said, I don't know how it would go over with the admissions committee. Religion is a topic that can bring out deep, often unresolved, angry and hostile feelings. I'd hope that folks on the admissions committee would be able to view other folks' religious commitments with equanimity and without bias. I believe that my son's regional admissions committee was able to do so. But people are funny.
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    Yeah, I'm a bit skeptical on whether it will help or hurt me, seeing as Harvard tends to lean left and Catholics are, to put it politely, generally unwelcome on that side of the political spectrum.

    However, I know it isn't unique in terms of the general population, but in terms of students with stellar stats and whatnot who apply to Harvard, I would hope that it stands out.

    And gibby, I have thought about all that, but my depth of accomplishment outside of my altar serving isn't remarkable. I'm a mediocre basketball player even though I love the sport and have received varsity letters (basketball consumes virtually almost all of my time in the winter; I can't for the life of me wrap my head around those students who captain varsity sports teams while simultaneously volunteering, working, etc. I'm playing basketball at least 20 hours a week); I had the potential to be a D1 baseball recruit but suffered from severe ligament damage in my elbow and shoulder freshman year, effectively ruining any chances of that happening; and I'm no math or science savant.

    So, I think it is entirely necessary that I have a unique EC.
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  • cltdadcltdad 913 replies24 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 937 Member
    I don't understand the fear that your Catholicism will hinder your admission. Harvard welcomes students of all faiths (and political leanings), it has a Catholic Students' Association on campus, and arguably the most notable alumni of the past century were Catholics (the Kennedy family).
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    After your transcript, what matters most to Harvard, and to other select colleges, are your teacher recommendations and essays. EC's come into play when Admissions tries to create a balanced class, as they don't want to recruit too many students interested in one area. In your case, your EC is different enough that I don't think too many student's would also be doing the same thing. However, if you don't first clear the transcript, teacher recs and essays hurdle, unique EC's will not bring you a fat envelope.
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  • notjoenotjoe 1178 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,181 Senior Member
    efeens44,

    Although Harvard's environment is strongly liberal and strongly secular, my son, so far, has found it a reasonably tolerant place, considering the first two attributes. We are devout, orthodox Catholics, with all the things with which that comes, and for committed Catholics, Harvard's atmosphere can be quite a challenge. But what my son has found is that the overwhelming number of people he meets, students, advisors, faculty, etc., are extremely decent people.

    This was one of the major reasons he chose Harvard. When he visited for the weekend, it was clear that most folks are just really, really decent people.

    When he was accepted, the head of his regional admissions committee wrote him a very nice note, and made mention of things Catholic that my son would enjoy upon arrival at Harvard (my son graduated from a Catholic high school and there were various items in his application that made his Catholicity obvious), including the absolutely beautiful church, St. Paul's, which is just steps from campus. I live between two minor basilicas, both of which are fabulously beautiful in their own way, I've been to Notre Dame and seen the chapel on campus, and frankly, St. Paul's is in that league.

    Anyway, there is an active Catholic student association, a thriving Knights of Columbus council, and a significant Catholic community on campus, ranging from lapsed to liberal, to conservative, orthodox, to traditionalists.

    The Harvard Catholic community seems to also be rich in producing vocations, as it seems to have produced an average of about one vocation per year for at least the last decade.

    If you'd like to know more, PM me.
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    @notjoe, that's very refreshing to hear. My mother lost her faith during college and came back 15 years afterward and is wary of my dream to go to Harvard; she often makes me promise "never to lose my faith." So thank you for that, I might take you up on that PM offer in the future! (By the way, my family also describes themselves as "orthodox Catholics." Seems we're becoming increasingly few and far between these days!)

    @gibby, again, refreshing to hear, as I believe I will clear those first few hurdles, as my grades and test scores are definitely within Harvard's range (meaning, for an unhooked white male, above the 75th percentile).
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    @cltdad, many "real" Catholics (e.g. those that are orthodox, as in weekly church goers, social conservatives, etc.) cringe at that fact. The Kennedy family is as far from Catholic as possible in many people's eyes.
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  • jdavis5331jdavis5331 5 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 5 New Member
    dfewrerwqewqr
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  • AmericanHopeeAmericanHopee 368 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 381 Member
    Just out of curiosity:

    You won an award for bring the head altar boy?
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    No, I won an award for being a really good altar boy. The pastor selected me to be considered and I won it.
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  • AmericanHopeeAmericanHopee 368 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 381 Member
    That is kind of cool.

    (Explaining myself: I'm from Germany, we don't give out awards or laud anything in public, it's a cultural thing, but I am an alter girl and was just really impressed :))

    Congratulations!
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  • efeens44efeens44 844 replies52 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 896 Member
    Ah I see, thank you!
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