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Dear all Harvard forumers, would you like to do a case study of why this kid is deferred?

TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member

Academics: Full IB diploma, 3.983/4.0 GPA, 2400 SAT(one sitting, 2nd try), 780 SAT Bio(M), 780 SAT Math II

Sports: Black belt in Shotokan Karate

1. Gold medal: 2016 Oregon State Karate Championships and National Qualifier
2. Qualified and competed at 2016 USA National Karate Championships and Team Trials
3. Bronze medal: 2016 AAU National Karate Junior Olympics
4. Gold medal: 28th Annual Tournament, Funakoshi Shotokan Karate Association
5. 2016 AAU Outstanding Athlete in Martial Arts
6. Member, USA National Karate-Do Federation

Music: Multiple (4 times) performances at Carnegie Hall and Paris

1. Second place: 2015 Crescendo International Piano Competition
2. Semi-finalist: 2015 Seattle Int’l Piano Competition
3. Gold medal: 2015 Northwest Chopin Festival
4. Third place: 2015 Washington State Outstanding Artist Competition
5. Second place: 2015 American Protégé Romantic Music Competition
6. First place: 2016 Crescendo International Piano Competition

Leadership, Volunteering, and Community Service

1. Founded his high school film club in tenth grade
2. Volunteered to teach youth Karate for two years
3. Rehearsal pianist for school musical “Pippin” and “Mary Poppin” in 9th and 10th grade
4. Performed regularly at local retirement homes and fundraising concerts


1. Creative Writing: Wrote and published a novel on Wattpad
2. Film making: Wrote, directed, and produced short films since freshman year
3. Music Composing: Published on SoundCloud since freshman year
4. Piano: Studied classical music for 11 years
5. Karate: Trained since age 5
6. Soccer: Played for a local Premier Soccer Club since sophomore year


You might have guessed, this is an Asian kid. Ask me if you need to know more about him.

Thank you!
52 replies
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Replies to: Dear all Harvard forumers, would you like to do a case study of why this kid is deferred?

  • compmomcompmom 11886 replies82 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2016
    Anyone can "publish" music on Sound Cloud. American Protégé is not a prestigious award, and possiblyCrescendo isn't either (disclaimer: I don't know anything about the latter): some of these organizations offer a Carnegie Hall performance for winners (for the price of applying) so the Carnegie Hall performances listed above aren't that impressive either. The karate looks impressive to me but I don't know much about it. Does Harvard have a karate team? :)

    Who knows why this student was deferred. Could be letters of recommendation, could be too many areas of focus, who knows. A novel, music published, films made, karate champ, a lot of different areas, can be a good thing. The karate and music certainly were done with some depth.
    edited December 2016
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  • allyphoeallyphoe 2556 replies61 threads Senior Member
    Anyone can "publish" music on Sound Cloud.

    Ditto for Wattpad. It's a fine activity (one my own child engages in!), but I personally consider it the equivalent of a notebook you pass around to your friends.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member
    Thanks @compmom, agreed that not ALL the listed piano competitions are the most competitive, but the kids who won top prices are ALL elite pianists.

    I have my concerns too about the letters of recommendations too, the kid is not a very outgoing person, I worried that the teachers might not know him well.
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  • AboutTheSameAboutTheSame 3187 replies48 threads Senior Member
    And one has no idea what his essays looked like.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member
    I am the dad @TomSrOfBoston Thanks for the laughs!
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  • T26E4T26E4 23243 replies1031 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2016
    TUJ: unless you'd be so unwise as to post the essays (please DO NOT), this is a fruitless exercise.

    As a Yale interviewer, I've sat on similar exercises. However, each time, a summation of the essays is included. At the end of all those exercises, we reach the same conclusion -- it's difficult and there's lots of grey area with each participant imparting his/her judgment.

    Elite school admissions is not a science- -- it's a very subjective pursuit. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say while impressive mostly, nothing in your son's essay or LORs really grabbed the committee enough to pass him to "accepted". As you can ascertain, it's certainly not a lack of academics or ECs.
    edited December 2016
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  • sherpasherpa 4917 replies98 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2016
    The kid is apparently qualified, but many others are too. The fact is that there are more qualified applicants than there are spots, so some of those kids get deferred. No need for a case study.

    I'll give you another case study. A student I know was valedictorian of a class of 330, with an unweighted 4.0 in the most rigorous course load his school had ever seen. He had a 35 ACT, ST scores of 780,790, and 800, was a National AP Scholar after junior year, and after senior year was awarded his state's State AP Scholar award, meaning he had the most and highest AP scores in his state (seventeen 5's and one 4, if I recall correctly). He was also an accomplished musician. On top of that, his junior year he was flown to Washington DC to be honored as his state's top youth volunteer in recognition of a unique nonprofit he founded.

    Was this enough to ensure acceptances to HYP, etc.?

    I highly doubt it but ultimately it's unknowable. That's because he was able to rely on a "hook" that made admission to his top choice school a sure thing.

    The truth is there are lots of kids with impressive credentials and, unless they're "hooked", there are no guarantees.
    edited December 2016
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  • wisteria100wisteria100 4541 replies50 threads Senior Member
    For starters, Harvard accepts about 15% of applicants at EA. So 85% are getting deferred or straight up rejected. 85%. The better question would be why did those 15% get in?
    That being said, your son's stats put him in the this kid is bright enough to be at Harvard pile. After that, the holistic thing comes into play. Did his essay stand out? Was it exceptionally well written? Did it show (not tell) admissions another side of him? I bet his recs were good. But you'll probably never know if they were read between the lines really mind blowingly awesome, or read between the lines, just another very bright kid applying.
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  • sherpasherpa 4917 replies98 threads Senior Member
    Or have other attributes that meet Harvard's institutional needs. :-h
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member
    @gibby I am sorry if you get that impression from my post, I will blame my English! I came to the states at age 25, so no matter how hard I try, I can never grasp the subtlety of the language.

    The kid is meek, as most real karate-do are, they got every ounce of their bravado beaten out of them in the training.

    The kid is a fine musician, not a protege at any rate. He enjoys music as a hobby, he has no intention of going to a conservatory.

    Thanks for commenting.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member
    edited December 2016
    @sherpa I think you may have nailed it on the head. I suspect that the kid may not fit well at the school. He is a quiet and unassuming young man who are not socially very involved, unlike his classmates who also applied Harvard SCEA.
    edited December 2016
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  • compmomcompmom 11886 replies82 threads Senior Member
    I think it helps to remember that it is all about the mix of talents and interests in the class, and how the individual contributes. So it is in a way not about the individual applicant, but about the class.

    I do a lot of Tai Chi and am impressed by his karate and hope he keeps it up!
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  • bluenette23bluenette23 43 replies4 threads Junior Member
    It might be a lack of leadership? A lot of schools want kids who are super-leaders.
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  • snarlatronsnarlatron 1595 replies45 threads Senior Member
    Maybe the LORs. Maybe they have good piano players coming out of their ears. Maybe just that they have to pass on lots and lots of good kids.
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  • collegec123collegec123 71 replies7 threads Junior Member
    Sounds like a great kid and there is nothing wrong with not being a "fit" for Harvard. I would tend to think lack of leadership positions and LOR's not promoting him as one who is a leader in the classroom are possible negatives. His essays may not have been compelling. You didn't mention class rank which could also be a factor. Lots of positives but nothing to make them want him over other candidates at this point.
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  • TimeUpJuniorTimeUpJunior 184 replies27 threads Junior Member
    @collegec123 Thanks for commenting.

    He is in top 5% of his class of about 500. His IB English teacher said that his essay was a piece of great writing. He wrote about what he learned in the process of writing his first novel.

    I agree with you that his possible lackluster LORs and his lack of leadership may have some negative impact.
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