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Harvard Book Award?

huehuehue32huehuehue32 Registered User Posts: 555 Member
edited September 2013 in Harvard University
So the junior class had its school-based award ceremony today. Along with the spirit and academic awards, apparently my school also hands out book awards to juniors. I got the Harvard one, and a bunch of other people near the top of my class got books from UK, WKU, RPI, Yale, Princeton, Notre Dame, etc.

Now, I'm not exactly sure how these awards work. All the people who got them were near or tied for the top in the class. Some people got them based on legacy (my friend whose parents both went to UVa but who is also a very good student) or at least siblings attending their schools (UofL, UK). The people who got awards from HYP had no connection at all to them.

I'm wondering how I got chosen for this. I was definitely considering Harvard, but was in no way thinking I was a shoe-in or even someone with good chances, since I have no hook, sport, or special talent that H seems to be looking for. I do, however, have the highest quantitative stats in my grade. So, onto my questions.

What are the criteria for this award? On a CC thread from 8 years ago, posters were saying that the award is entirely meaningless, while others said the H award is reserved for the highest stat student. Perhaps this depends on which local section gave you your award? That brings me to my next question...

Should this go in the award section? Is this an award that reflects my abilities at least in comparison with my peers?

Do I only mention this in H related things like the interview and any supplementals (haven't looked into if they are required at H)? Can I put this on my app to, say, Princeton or MIT and have it still be recognized, or will they simply think they are not my first choices?

Does this mean Harvard is looking at me especially, or at least that as of right now they think I'm the most likely to get in from my school?

Any other clarifying comments are welcome. Wikipedia and past CC threads seemed unhelpful, so I'm counting on you guys! I don't expect this to be a high-caliber award since 2000 people get it each year and I didn't have to do anything for it directly to get it, but anything helps!
Post edited by huehuehue32 on

Replies to: Harvard Book Award?

  • MD MomMD Mom Registered User Posts: 6,728 Senior Member
    I do not think you will get your answer on here. Every high school does different things and colleges offer book awards as well. For example, my daughter was awarded her school's St. John's College (Annapolis, MD, school) book award for the junior who most loved to read. It was a nice pat on the back and DD was proud to be recognized. She also was awarded a Princeton book award that was given by the regional Princeton alumni group. That book award involved an extensive application and no one from my daughter's school had ever won it. Six students were selected from the metropolitan area and at the award ceremony, the alums told the kids that if they applied to Princeton, the group would recommend them. It was obvious that the six students were exceptional young people.

    Not all book awards are created equally. Congratulations on yours! It can go in the awards section on your applications, but ask guidance how the award is selected.
  • huehuehue32huehuehue32 Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    Okay, I'll ask guidance. If they are unhelpful (as they often are) I guess I could just shoot an email at my local section.

    I'm still wondering if this is an award that I should share with other schools like Princeton and MIT. I'm not going to show up to their interviews in a Harvard shirt, and I don't want to send a similar message on my app.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    Here's how it worked at the school where I taught that gave book awards.

    Local alumni chapters sponsored the awards; the colleges had nothing to do with it. Local alumni chapters determined the criteria that they wanted the school to use in making the awards.

    Then, at a faculty meeting in the spring, the upper-school teachers would take the list of awards, the list of juniors and start matching them up. After a bit of debating, we all got weary enough to agree: "OK, then, Janet will win the Harvard College Book Award, Melanie will get the St. John's College Book Prize, Priyah will get the 'I Dare You' Award, and Nicole will get the Bausch & Lomb Science Award. Everyone good with that?" (It was an all girls' school; otherwise at least some of the prize-winners surely would have been boys.)

    Usually, they tried to find a graduate of one of the colleges (preferably an alumna, because it was, after all, a girls' school) to present the book prizes; sometimes they let me present the prize from my alma mater, even though I was (and still am) a man.

    Winning the Harvard College Book Prize meant that the Upper School faculty thought you were not just smart, but intellectual--with a genuine love of learning. (Or, at least, you were as close to that as we could come in your graduating class. Some years were better than others!) It was a significant school-based honor, and you should list it on all your college applications. But the prizes was neither from Harvard, nor a significant leg up on getting into Harvard.

    We had a long, rancorous argument last year about how important the Harvard College Book Prize is. From that argument, I learned that not every local alumni association gives out the prize in the same way. But I don't think the majority of them are very different from what I've described.
  • T26E4T26E4 Registered User Posts: 24,274 Senior Member
    hue: How many high schools in your metro area receive a Harvard Book award? 1? 10? 200?

    Do you know who the winner of the Harvard Book award is for the barely marginal performing HS in the poorly served urban/rural area where maybe 10% of kids even go to college of any sort? You don't because none exists.

    What schools give out Harvard Book awards? Ones where a local alumnus has a relationship. Congrats. Some Harvard alum wants to keep Harvard in the eyes and minds of your school. He or she dropped off the award a few weeks ago -- and your faculty/principal decided which junior would receive it on Awards night. Was there more than one book award awarded? If so, it wasn't to the same person, was it? I'll bet you a million dollars it wasn't. Why? Because your teachers and principal chose the winners.

    posters were saying that the award is entirely meaningless, while others said the H award is reserved for the highest stat student.

    They can both be right. Since the criteria is your staff, they award it to whomever.

    Harvard (or RPI or Dartmouth or Yale, etc.) had nothing to do with it directly. Like sikorsky said, list it in your awards listing. But everyone "in the know" knows of its relative lightweight nature.
  • rizadorizado Registered User Posts: 62 Junior Member
    As the person in charge of the book award for my local alumni club, I can attest to Sikorsky being generally right. In my state, the club asks schools to participate in the award program. Not all schools, including some well-regarded independent schools, want to give out book prizes, so only about half of the schools we solicit actually ask for one. When the schools say they want the award, we send them the book. Although we do track who receives it at each school, we leave the choosing to the school, although the general criteria according to the national alumni ass'n web site are "outstanding students in the next-to-graduating class who demonstrate excellence in scholarship and achievement in other nonacademic areas." Some schools do it strictly based on class rank; others have alternative criteria that generate a top candidate. The award means you are well regarded by your school, and you should be proud to have received it and definitely list it on your awards for any college you apply to. But it doesn't mean much beyond this; there is often little, if any, correlation between the group of juniors who receive the book award and the same group of students who, as seniors, are accepted to Harvard the following year. MIT and other schools won't look askance at you for listing it on your awards list; they will just view it as confirming what the rest of your high school record is probably telling them anyway.
  • rizadorizado Registered User Posts: 62 Junior Member
    One other thing: some Harvard clubs can only award books to the extent their budget permits, and this may in turn be determined by whether an alum is willing to fund the book at a given school. So some clubs give out only a handful of book awards, and only to schools that, for one reason or another, a local alum wants to support in this way. So the fact that a given high school does not hand out a Harvard book award may simply mean that it doesn't have the ability to finance the award without a specific alum underwriting it, and no alum has stepped forward on behalf of the particular high school. Just another reason supporting the conclusion that getting a Harvard book award is wonderful and to be commended, but not getting it doesn't mean you aren't "Harvard" material (whatever that is! :)).
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    rizado wrote:
    MIT and other schools won't look askance at you for listing it on your awards list; they will just view it as confirming what the rest of your high school record is probably telling them anyway.

    Exactly this.
  • PianoParentPianoParent Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    Our high school's book awards are sponsored by alumni groups, but selected by the guidance counselors. We have the Harvard, Yale, and Brown (among other) book awards, but not Princeton. Although my son is ranked first in a class of 360, the counselors gave him the RIT Computing medal because they view him as a tech-type person, even though he doesn't fit that category. He did, however, get to the 75th percentile on the AIME math test. Apparently, they thought he would appreciate getting a medal from a school where the top 75 percent SAT scores are 100 points per test below his scores. RIT would be astounded if he applied there even as a safety school. The counselors think he is wonderful, but it's clear that they were just fitting students to awards. He didn't apply for the RPI medal because he knew he didn't want to go there and wanted someone else to get a chance at the scholarship. So now he has an award that he can't put on his MIT application. MIT would wonder why his guidance counselors thought he was RIT material, or at least why he didn't get the RPI medal.
  • Yab123Yab123 Registered User Posts: 67 Junior Member
    @PianoParent: I don't claim to have any inside knowledge on how MIT would look at that award, but IMHO, you shouldn't worry.

    School teachers and guidance counselors have no clue on who is "MIT material" or "Harvard material," whatever that means. And colleges know that. So I wouldn't think too much of it.
  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,159 Senior Member
    ^^ Actually, it all depends on the high school and the guidance counselor/college advisor and the relationship they have with a specific college. My son and daughter, for example, attended a very large public school, and the college advisor spoke with both Harvard and MIT Admissions Officers several times a year about students who they felt were either "MIT material" or "Harvard material." I'm not sure how much attention Harvard or MIT paid to their advice, but every year about 150 kids applied to each school and anywhere from 8 to 26 kids got in each year. I imagine private school college advisors spend even more time on the phone promoting their students.

    "I wouldn't think too much of it." -- This I agree with. PianoParent: Your son should list his RIT award for all his colleges, including MIT. It's an award; he should list it and be damned what they think!
  • silogramsilogram Registered User Posts: 101 Junior Member
    I bet it's different for every school, but I'll share my anecdotal experience-
    At my school, many of the awards seemed somewhat random. Nevertheless, the Harvard Book Award went to, in my opinion, the strongest student in my grade. Perfect SAT, incredible ECs, etc. Take that for what you will.

    Anyways, I get the feeling that the award is good (means your counselors think you're one of the best kids in the class) but nothing that will significantly boost your chances at any elite school.
  • scmom12scmom12 Registered User Posts: 2,696 Senior Member
    At Ds high school, Harvard book award was given at end of junior year to top student (GPA) and another book award was given to #2 junior. So basically just an award for GPA....yes D who got Harvard book put it on resume...used book in an altered book art project.
  • T26E4T26E4 Registered User Posts: 24,274 Senior Member
    Many of the respondents fail to see a very important point that I made in post #5. Very few high schools give Harvard book awards, Yale book awards, RPI medals, etc.

    Does this mean the the RPI medalist at your school is automatically better than the valedictorian at another HS that is not "worthy" enough to be on RPI's mailing list?

    Since the whole idea of "Book Awards" is arbitrary from school to school, and then even amongst those who receive it within a school -- can't you fathom why very selective colleges put zero weight into whether any individual student has or does not have one of these "awards"?

    I'm a very active Yale recruiter for my large metro area. In the few hundred high schools, do you know how many Yale Book Awards were given? Zero. Our local alumni club did not allocate funds for it the last few years. Does this mean that the top HS students in our area were somehow less valued than in years previous when a handful of them could list "Yale Book Awardee: Junior Year"?

    Of course not.
  • EnoughAlreadyEnoughAlready Registered User Posts: 237 Junior Member
    A book award is definitely something worth putting on your application, but I highly doubt that any school will think, "Oh look, this student got fill-in-the-blank book award. This means that we should/shouldn't accept him/her."
  • PianoParentPianoParent Registered User Posts: 78 Junior Member
    So there is no downside?

    If, as I tend to agree, the awards are not too meaningful, why should anyone include the award? Either it matters to admissions or it doesn't. I think that with so much competition, admissions' offices have way too much control, and people are left trying to read application tea leaves. A person at MIT tells students to enjoy the random walk of college admissions. I would be happier if the random walk included a dart board. It's probably just as effective.
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