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Can I still attend Harvard if I take 3 years of Science or Foreign Language instead of 4?

wigflewwigflew 1 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
Harvard has listed some criteria for applicants on their website. It says it is IDEAL though, which I assume means that it's not required. The reason I'm asking is that I've signed up for a program that allows me to take a culinary course at my community college during half of the school day which means I'd have to sacrifice either AP Bio or Honors French 3. If I do the program I'd be able to raise my current GPA, but then I'd have to eliminate one of the two classes. I'm thinking if I should even take them at all, but since I'm a low-income student there aren't many activities or extra-curriculars I can participate in. What would your advice be?

Here is the link. https://college.harvard.edu/are-there-secondary-school-course-requirements-admission
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Replies to: Can I still attend Harvard if I take 3 years of Science or Foreign Language instead of 4?

  • HamurtleHamurtle 2532 replies33 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    No to the culinary course-that’s padding the GPA and won’t help with your course rigor.
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  • nomoodnomood 118 replies15 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Are you extremely interested in culinary? Are you part of a club regarding culinary? Have you shown dedication to culinary for at least two years? If not, then don't take a random culinary class. Take either the science or foreign language.
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  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I don’t think you should do things because you want to go to Harvard. Your admission odds (along with everyone eise’s) are very low.

    That said, most colleges that meet financial need (critical for a low income student) expect high course rigor. High course rigor, a strong GPA in academic courses, and strong test scores are more important than ECs. And to be honest, a culinary program at a CC will carry little weight as an EC for top schools (and likely would not be considered when they recalculate your GPA).

    I’d suggest maybe you ask for more help on brainstorming ways to improve your ECs without sacrificing course rigor. And if your GPA is soft, also in building a realistic list of schools.

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  • gibbygibby 10528 replies246 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited May 26
    Harvard has listed some criteria for applicants on their website.

    Many selective colleges such as Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, Williams, Amherst etc also list criteria on their websites. ALL OF THOSE COLLEGES suggest students take the most rigorous curriculum available to them at their high school -- and colleges judge the rigor of your curriculum by the rating your guidance counselor provides on their Secondary School Report.

    My guess is that your GC would think AP Bio or Honors French 3 to be MORE rigorous than taking a culinary course at your local community college. However, you should ask your GC specifically if they will rate the rigor of your curriculum as MOST DEMANDING if you take the culinary course over core curriculum courses -- and go with their advice!

    For example: https://admissions.yale.edu/advice-selecting-high-school-courses
    Yale does not have any specific entrance requirements (for example, there is no foreign language requirement for admission to Yale). But we do look for students who have taken a balanced set of the rigorous classes available to them. Generally speaking, you should try to take courses each year in English, science, math, the social sciences, and foreign language.
    Also see: https://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/selecting-high-school-courses/
    A student’s transcript is very significant. Among other things, it shows the two most important elements that determine whether a student is academically eligible for the college to which he or she is applying: the level of rigor in the school’s curriculum and the student’s performance within the context of that curriculum.

    You should also know that many colleges disregard non-academic courses such as Physical Education, Health, Art, Music, Drama etc when evaluating the rigor of a student's curriculum. My guess is they would also disregard a culinary course for the same reason, even though it was taken at a local community college. Speak with your GC!!!!
    edited May 26
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  • happy1happy1 22854 replies2248 threadsVerified Member Senior Member
    If you are aiming at top tier colleges I would not recommend replacing a core academic course with a culinary class. The impact on your course rigor be much more of a negative than any positive incremental GPA change.

    Keep in mind that Harvard had an acceptance rate well into the single digits and most applicants will have completed all of the recommended coursework. Your application will be at a disadvantage if you don't have the academic background the college recommends.
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  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls 5506 replies1 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You haven't told us enough information for us to know whether Harvard is a high reach, or is impossible. Regardless, the admissions rate at Harvard is so low that I think that it would be a mistake to plan your high school life around what might or might not influence your chances of being admitted there.

    "If I do the program I'd be able to raise my current GPA"

    Students who are realistically competitive for Harvard and similar schools have so many A's and A+'s and so few other grades that no one course can cause a significant improvement to their GPA.
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  • bjkmombjkmom 7941 replies158 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Why would Harvard accept kids who don’t meet their suggested courseload when they turn away thousands and thousands of kids who do??
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29422 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    There are scenarios where that culinary course would be a great addition to your resume, but unless you are a black swan of a candidate, it’s a bad idea
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39213 replies6997 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    Why would Harvard accept kids who don’t meet their suggested courseload when they turn away thousands and thousands of kids who do??
    They have in the past when there are valid reasons (examples of which I've given before and linked below). If there were a way to fit in the culinary class without sacrificing a core class, it would be fine. But to trade a core class for an elective? No.
    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/discussion/comment/22240285#Comment_22240285
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  • compmomcompmom 10762 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I disagree with this: "High course rigor, a strong GPA in academic courses, and strong test scores are more important than ECs." You need to meet the benchmark for these things but high grades and scores won't get you in, and a really interesting EC or talent will.

    I disagree with part of this: ":You should also know that many colleges disregard non-academic courses such as Physical Education, Health, Art, Music, Drama etc. when evaluating the rigor of a student's curriculum. " Harvard has increased its attention to the applied arts, and students who make music, art or drama a priority in their lives are respected. Harvard understands skipping a math class or not taking science in order to take a music theory class, for instance, due to scheduling problems- I know that for a fact. You have to write a note or the GC has to write a note and explain. Not sure it this would apply to culinary arts however :)

    "Why would Harvard accept kids who don’t meet their suggested course load when they turn away thousands and thousands of kids who do??" They do accept kids who don't meet their suggested course load if there is something else that is interesting about them.

    Harvard is trying to assemble an interesting class. If you are a serious culinary enthusiast, maybe the community college class would add to your resume. But don't take it to game your GPA. And maybe enter some state cooking contest or something! Or cook for a 5 star restaurant. Just kidding, but that is how Harvard is.

    All in all, the conventional advice to stick with the most rigorous course load is generally correct but there are exceptions.

    The real question is, how much do you want to fit yourself to Harvard or any school, and whether it is better to find a school to fit you. If you really WANT to take culinary arts, do it! It may or may not make you an attractive candidate at some school or other but following your interests will land you in the right place.


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  • Wje9164beWje9164be 1310 replies8 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My daughter's high school did not offer her language for four years. She applied to 20 colleges (which in hindsight was excessive) and in a few cases she was wait listed or rejected at schools where her grades and test scores seemed to indicate she had a pretty good shot at admittance. Based on our experience I would say that if Harvard "suggests" that you take four years of a foreign language you should do so. I don't think not having a suggested course is an auto-reject or anything but why position yourself poorly like this?
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9229 replies495 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Here is another idea: take what interests you and forget about Harvard and others like it.

    Or don’t worry about taking AP Bio, and take honors or regular bio instead. Most students don’t take four years of FL. And your chances of not getting into Harvard are very high.

    You are young, and there are plenty of colleges that don’t require four years of science and four years of FL. There are plenty of colleges that aren’t Harvard. Aim for some of those instead of building unrealistic goals.
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