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Would Harvard take a chance on a kid who has top academics but very lopsided ECs?

TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
edited July 2016 in Harvard University
Hi, dear CCers, this is an updated version of the profile I posted elsewhere, for those who read it before, please feel free to jump to the end and enjoy the music!


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Academics:

Full IB diploma (2017) at a decent public school in Washington state.

GPA: 3.983 (unweighted)
SAT: 2400 (one sitting), will take subject Math II, biology, and literature in October


Sports:

1. Has trained in Shotokan karate since age 5
2. Earned his black belt at age 14
3. Has taught youth karate for 2 years
4. Has won a gold medal at the Oregon state championship and national qualifier
5. Has competed at the 2016 USA National Karate Championship & Team Trials
6. Will compete in 2016 AAU National Junior Olympics

Music:

1. Has studied piano since age 6
2. Has performed at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Carnegie Hall (5 times) in New York, and Salle Cortot concert hall in Paris.
3. Has performed in free concerts at senior centers in around Seattle area
4. Has performed in fund raising concerts for Seattle Int'l Piano Competition
5. Was the rehearsal pianist for his high school musical "Pippin" in 9th grade and "Mary Poppins" in 10 grade
6. Has won numerous top prizes:

Gold medal, Northwest Chopin Festival
Second place, Washington State Outstanding Artist Competition
Second place, American Protégé International Competition
First place, Crescendo International Piano Competition

He composes music for fun.


Misc.

He is the founder of his high school film club that produces short films for competition and for their own entertainment.
He is also an avid writer. He has just published his novel on Wattpad.
edited July 2016
17 replies
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Replies to: Would Harvard take a chance on a kid who has top academics but very lopsided ECs?

  • ap012199ap012199 1497 replies127 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    Lopsided ECs are almost never bad - Harvard wants many lopsided kids to make a well rounded student body. In fact, that's what most schools aim to do. The OP seems very invested in his respected ECs; I think they're great! I would say you should definitely apply. if it is your first choice, applying EA would help too. Good luck!
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  • CheddarcheeseMNCheddarcheeseMN 3266 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 3,277 Senior Member
    It is nice that you have more than one specialty. Karate plus piano rather than just one EC. Good luck!
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    GPA: 3.983 (unweighted)
    SAT: 2400 (one sitting)
    Both of those are pluses (+++)

    Full IB diploma (2017) at a decent public school in Washington state.
    Washington State is a plus right there (+++), as you are not from a state that traditionally has thousands of applicants applying to Harvard.

    Has studied piano since age 6
    That's a neutral, as thousands of high school students apply to Harvard having a similar background. I personally know very talented pianists -- students who have been accepted to Juilliard, Curtis and Oberlin for piano -- who were rejected from Harvard. I suppose the reasoning comes down to "how many pianists does an orchestra really need? Two!"

    5. Has competed at the 2016 USA National Karate Championship & Team Trials
    6. Will compete in 2016 AAU National Junior Olympics
    Again, this is a neutral. Although Harvard competes in 41 Division I teams (http://www.gocrimson.com/landing/index), Karate is NOT one of them. In addition, Harvard doesn't offer a Karate club team, although they do offer Kendo and Jiu Jitsu: http://recreation.gocrimson.com/recreation/club_sports/active_clubsports

    Bottom Line . . .
    founder of his high school film club that produces short films for competition and for their own entertainment. He is also an avid writer. He has just published his novel on Wattled.
    In actuality, THESE incidental things might kick you over the fence. I would highlight them in your application including any links to film competitions that you have won.

    Best of luck to you in the applications process!
    edited July 2016
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Thanks @gibby always for the insights!
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    He composes music for fun. He is the founder of his high school film club. He is also an avid writer. He has just published his novel on Wattpad.

    One more tip: NEVER use "he." Always use "I," "We," "me," "us," "my," "mine," "our," and "ours." Writing in the first-person will give your essay a more personal touch and allow Admissions Officers a glimpse into your soul. Writing in the third person could torpedo an application (even with your GPA and test scores) as the phrasing doesn't allow an Admissions Officer to make a personal connection to your story: http://www.gradesaver.com/writing-help/essay-writing-first-person-and-third-person-points-of-view
    edited July 2016
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Thanks @gibby for the tips. I am the dad, forgive me for my sloppy English, it is my second language. Junior is too busy to hang around here. I will definitely let him read your comments. I hope he would say, "Hey, dad, I know."
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  • prof2dadprof2dad 683 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 694 Member
    TimeUpJunior, you have done quite a lot of ECs. I think it can be beneficial for you to be able to articulate what some of these ECs mean to you as a young person so that universities can better assess you as an applicant.

    My son has a profile very similar to yours, particularly in the area of piano performance. His essays mostly focus on what kind of things he has done with his music, his views of music as a subject of humanities, and what kind of musician he is, etc. Among those universities accepted him, Yale and Columbia's admission officers specifically mentioned liking his way of doing piano music.

    Yes, there are way too many pianists; if you play french horn well, that will surely help you much more for college application. :) Good luck on your application.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Excellent point @prof2dad about articulating what music means to him. Yes there are too many pianists out there, hopefully, he has set himself apart by achieving at the level he does.

    Congratulation to your son! May I ask where he end up going?
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  • prof2dadprof2dad 683 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 694 Member
    Yale.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    Yale has one of the best piano program. We have a piano teacher who graduated from Yale, his students win all the top prizes in competitions. He charges $200 an hour and he won't take anyone who can pay, he picks the cream of the crops!
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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,774 Senior Member
    edited July 2016
    @prof2dad: Boola Boola! May your son have as wonderful an experience at Yale as my son did (not a music major or a pianist)! Best of luck to him and you!
    edited July 2016
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  • collegedad13collegedad13 735 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 741 Member
    The problem is piano and karate is not necessarily related to class work. It may not be something Harvard is looking for. On the other hand I do know H has a current student who gets a couple of thousand dollars when he plays the piano at performances. Harvard looks for leaders more than anything else.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 37913 replies6565 discussionsSuper Moderator Posts: 44,478 Super Moderator
    edited July 2016
    The problem is piano and karate is not necessarily related to class work.
    Nor do they need to be related to class work. Many, if not most, EC's are not related to class work. None (zip/zero/zilch/nada) of my EC's were academic in nature and I think I did quite well in the admissions process.
    edited July 2016
    Post edited by skieurope on
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 162 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 188 Junior Member
    I would have to agree with @skieurope on this one. I have seen so many kids here who have devoted too much of their time and effort in such a young age in all things "related to class work", Math Olympiad, Intel science competition, cancer research, .... Those are the things you do in college. I've tried to encourage my kids to cultivate the fundamental skills such as writing, martial arts, and music performance. These are the skills that will benefit them for life.
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  • prof2dadprof2dad 683 replies11 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 694 Member
    gibby, thanks. I also wish to note that I have found your suggestions and comments on this forum to be very useful and helpful for my son's college application. Really appreciate!
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  • JHSJHS 18300 replies70 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 18,370 Senior Member
    I'm glad @gibby said what he did, because I was planning to say something similar.

    There's no question the OP's son is a great candidate for any college, but I think the presentation has the wrong emphasis.

    Piano: I can't tell what those awards really mean, but I am reasonably certain that unless the kid is applying to the joint program with Harvard and the New England Conservatory, (a) he has peaked as a pianist, and (b) he is unlikely to be better than, say, the fifth (or tenth) best pianist at Harvard. Which means that he will get plenty of credit for the discipline, focus, art appreciation, and life experience he has gotten from his piano studies, but Harvard doesn't "need" him as a pianist.

    Karate: Something similar. Unless the application makes clear he has a program to train for the 2020 Olympics, and a reasonable prospect of getting there, it will be saying that he has peaked at karate, too, and that his karate prowess will not really contribute anything to Harvard's luster. So, again, it shows discipline, fitness, and ability to set goals and achieve them, all of which are great, but it doesn't show any type of accomplishment Harvard needs.

    On the other hand, his music composition, his filmmaking, his writing -- those are areas he has clearly chosen for himself. (Sorry, but very few kids actually choose the things they start when they are 5 or 6.) And those are activities in which he certainly hasn't peaked at all yet. If he has actual talent in any of them, that's what will really add excitement to his application. They aren't "oh, by the way" extras; they are probably the main event. If he has the goods.
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  • collegedad13collegedad13 735 replies6 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 741 Member
    @jhs said what I was trying to say except much more eloquently. Someone who had potential to be a great filmmaker or composer would be looked at closely by Harvard.
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