Ask questions about Harvard here

Hey guys, hope everyone is staying healthy! Given the corona situation and Ivy Day recently, I’ve found myself with some free time at home and happy to give application / resume / essay / interview / general college advice or any quick questions. Absolutely free of charge, but I’ll only take the cases that I feel like I can meaningfully help in my free time, so if I don’t respond please don’t feel bad.

For background, I graduated very recently from Harvard (and understand the landscape on campus very well), was deciding between HYPS, worked in the Admissions Office, have been an Alumni Interviewer the past year, and have worked at a few college admissions mentoring companies over the years, simply because I find it incredibly rewarding and fun to give back (I was in those shoes not too long ago!). I was a financial aid student and went to a public high school that rarely sends kids to Harvard. Please feel free to DM me if you had any questions on the college application process in mind! I know it’s an incredibly stressful process for all involved, and I’m sure COVID isn’t making it any easier.

MODERATOR’S NOTE: Anyone is free to ask or answer questions in this thread.

Hello! Firstly, I would like to thank you for offering help to prospective students!! Secondly, I would like to ask for some advice. I am currently a college sophomore going to my local state University. I am also a financial aid student and was told from a young age that only going to the local state school was my only choice so I never had big dreams for myself. Now that I am turning 20 in a couple of months and figuring out my life, I have a lot of regrets because I never even thought to apply to any Ivy League schools since it was never an option for me.

However, as I look back, I realize that you only automatically fail if you don’t try. As a first-gen student of color, I know I am navigating the fields by myself and I would like to shoot bigger for the future. That’s why I am thinking of Harvard as an option for Graduate school. I would like to know if there is anything in particular that the Admissions Offices look for in terms of the application. For clarification, I am majoring in Linguistics with a minor in public/international relations with hopes of Law School or seeking a Masters in Linguistics.

I would also like to ask if you know of any summer internships or programs that college students can do, whether it is with Harvard or any other schools you recommend. The reason I am asking is that while I’m doing my own research, I am also still trying to figure out any other opportunities beyond the scope of my own state, which I’ve never left.

I will be grateful for any help you provide. Stay safe in these troubling times!

Hey, thank you so much for taking the time to help us out.

I am so incredibly grateful Harvard put me on their waitlist. On the letter, it states that the waitlist is not “ranked.” How does the waitlist work in admitting applicants?

I also was wondering how I could improve my chances on the waitlist. I understand that Harvard has taken zero kids off the waitlist, and this number never surpasses 100 kids. With it being most likely that I don’t get off of it, I want to take solace in the fact that I did everything in my power to demonstrate interest.

Again, I appreciate your offering of advice. I hope you are staying well during these uncertain times!

@lizjohnson254 I don’t think there is anything you can do to improve your chances. I think it is almost easier for folks who don’t get on the waitlist, but they know they have to move on.

@nirvanaa going to your state university is fine for grad admissions and for many people the most practical way to do undergrad. By all means apply to Harvard for grad school (admission rate is different from undergrad and depends on dept., open spots etc.) but most of all find a department with the faculty, curriculum and philosophy that best suits you. Grad applications are very different and you would want to ask your current professors for advice on the best fit, research, and have a attitude that YOU are interviewing them as well as the other way around, when you interview.

Finances can be tough for grad school so you also want to check out that aspect. A combined MA and PhD can sometimes mean waived tuition and stipend (and health insurance). There may be some master’s degrees that also have funding but you will have to investigate.

Talk to peers as well as faculty where you are. Keep up the good work!

@lizjohnson254 Congrats on the waitlist! I know quite a few friends who were waitlisted and got off, many were notified over the summer, some got off the waitlist weeks or days before the start of school – it’s more common than I maybe thought and certainly possible. I’d recommend having some actionable updates for the final bit of senior year and plans for the summer. Any new awards won? Any exciting hobbies during corona quarantine? Anything that demonstrates to your regional admissions officer that they’re really missing out not taking you, or anything that would show that you are constantly learning, striving and bettering yourself. Update your admissions officer and remind them again of your interest in Harvard, how it’s your first choice, how you see yourself fitting in on campus, etc. I think beyond that, there’s not much else that one can do, so stay proactive. They don’t rank in order to keep these updates into consideration, so if you won a national award next month for example, it would still “count”. I don’t think there’s necessarily a number on it – they have a somewhat fixed number of beds in Harvard Yard for the incoming class, so it’s just a function of how many students decide Stanford or Yale over Harvard, and that’s usually a similar % year over year.

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@n1rvanaa Grad apps are a completely different animal that undergrad apps. The good news is that there will be less applicants for your niche field of interest once you get to the graduate level; the bad news is that it will be heavy on your grades, research, and how you have utilized your opportunities and professor relationships during college. I’m not at all the person to ask on linguistics grad apps, but in general, I would recommend excellent recommendations, GRE / grades, know which professors at Harvard you’d be super interested in working with, publications / theses or any pieces of work you have produced in your field.

@lizjohnson254 I would not do any updates unless something really significant has happened- though indicating continued interest is of course a good idea.

@dennypenny as you know there are freshman dorms outside of the Yard :slight_smile:

Is it really necessary for those accepting a place on Harvard’s waitlist to remind Harvard that it is one’s first choice school ?

If the applicant has been accepted to Stanford, Princeton, Yale, MIT or another first choice school, it seems as though it would not be necessary to remain on any waitlist–including Harvard’s waitlist. Otherwise, it seems reasonable to assume that Harvard is the waitlisted applicant’s first choice school.

As a sidenote: It would be interesting to see Harvard’s cross admit yield with schools such as Stanford, MIT, Princeton, & Yale.

I guess if a student doesn’t withdraw from the waitlist Harvard would assume they are still interested. It doesn’t hurt to tell them that, simply, without any effort to enhance chances unless something major has occurred.

not an admissions question - but what are some of the biggest things you’ve learned at Harvard while you were there? also, from an admission standpoint, Im currently a sophomore in pre-IB and go to a competitive hs in cali. I earned a C+ in precalc honors last semester because I was overwhelmed from working on my start-up and other EC initiatives. I definitely think I could have slept more before tests and used my time from EC to more for school but how bad of an effect do you see this bad grade having? I’m used to being a straight A student and this grade really made me question myself. thanks so much for taking the time to do this!!!

and also, what are some things I could do to cover up the bad grade? thanks!!

@compmom I appreciate the advice! I will be putting a deposit at one of the UC schools I was admitted to.

@dennypenny Your advice is so detailed and helpful. I now have a better idea of what I should discuss in my letter of continued interest. Since applying, I have become interested in grassroots organizing, public policy, and local government. I haven’t mentioned it in my application, and I think I could connect it to the points you bring up. Thank you, again, for offering your time and expertise!

I would not write a lot to Harvard admissions. They can assume you are interested still, or you can simply tell them that. If you tell them a whole lot more it risks annoying them honestly. You already did your application and a recent change in interests is not significant. If you won some kind of national award, by all means update them.

Linguistics advice:

  1. There are several linguistics summer schools. The one organized by the Linguistic Society of America is well-regarded, for example. There is also a much smaller one in the Netherlands, at Leiden University. Attending those may show your dedication to the field, and also give you some more detailed interests that will allow you to write your personal statement more compellingly. Apply early for their financial aid.
  2. Probably the top grad school for your combination of interests would be Georgetown Univ. Take sociolinguistics and/or language policy (and/or language revitalization?) classes at the LSA summer school, if you’re interested.
  3. Ask your professors what professional organizations you should join. I would say the LSA and/or maybe the AAAL.
  4. Apply for an NSF REU (National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program. There are usually one or two each summer related to linguistics, and they are usually designed to build pathways to grad school. They are pretty hard to get into though. But THEY pay YOU, unlike the summer schools.
  5. Read research journal articles regularly. Develop specific interests that you dig deeply into and practice talking about them with all kinds of other people.

Sorry I can’t help with law school or international relations.

Hello, thank you so much for your offer of help!

I am a year 12 student from the UK hoping to study at HYP for undergrad (I still have 1 year of schooling left). My school has no experiance with US admissions and I was wondering if you could tell me if there is anything else I could do to better my application?

My Profile:

GCSEs: 7 level 9s; 3 level 8s (equivelant to all A*s)

A levels (teacher predictions all A*s): Math, Further Math, Physics, English Literature

ECs: British Parliamentary debate (top 20 uk); Violin; house captain; host democracy events at school; Run music projects with students with difficulty in learning …

I’m planning to take the SAT in August. Is there anything else I can do to improve my application?

Thank you

You don’t say much about your music activities- violin or the projects- but those may be things to emphasize in your application. You can submit a music supplement with recording, music resume (including the work with students) and letters of recommendation from teachers relevant to music. Your level of playing and or the quality of your work in the projects should be sufficiently high to justify submission of a supplement. (You might also look at Tufts nearby, another great school with a good music dept.)

Why Harvard over Princeton?

The post says HYP. This is the Harvard forum so responses are for H.

How do you think the admission process for the next fall will be affected?
A lot of extracurriculars and tests are being cancelled…

Okay, thank you very much for your advice!