I am currently an 8th grader and I want to get into Harvard

Hi everyone! It is my first time posting here. But that’s beside the point. I am currently an 8th grader in California whose dream is to get into the Harvard or Stanford pre-med program. Some of the hardest classes that I am currently taking, are U.S History, Advanced Spanish, and Algebra 1. Like I said before it has always been my dream to become a doctor and get into an amazing college (maybe then my parents will acknowledge me lol). Any advice on what classes I should start taking as a 9th grader and maybe a 10th grader? Everything and anything is appreciated.

First of all, you have to want to do these things for yourself, not so that your parents will acknowledge you. Know that you are a worthwhile person, deserving of respect and consideration, whether or not anyone gives you the kudos you expect from them.

If what you want is to go to med school, an extremely selective, expensive private school probably won’t be your best route. Point is, you can go to a third rate college, get fantastic grades, and get into medical school. And your flagship state U is probably going to be your best, cheapest option.

But none of this answers your question of how does one get into highly selective colleges. Here’s how: First of all, if at all possible, take the most rigorous classes that are offered at your high school. Choose honors and AP classes whenever possible. Study hard, get the best grades you can.

Develop an interest where you can really shine, achieve on at least a statewide, if not national, level. It has to be something that you love doing, so that you’ll enjoy all the time you spend on it. It can be an academic interest (math or science or literature - really, anything), where you can enter competitions and win awards. It can be arts, music, dance, sports, anything where you can compete at the highest level. Extremely competitive schools like to see someone who has found something that they are “passionate” about, that they have put a lot of time into, at which they really excel. It doesn’t have to be something that you will necessarily do at college, but if it contributes to the college community, that can only help.

Consider a year abroad in 10th grade, to an unusual country where you learn the language, especially a language that would be useful, but really, any non-English speaking country would be fine. It’s just that defense-sensitive languages or valuable trade languages would be more useful. This would show the college that you are an independent person, who is a go-getter, who is a citizen of the world. If the country that you go to is exotic, it certainly would make your application stand out. If you’re brave enough to do it in 9th grade, even better. The reason not to do it in 11th or fall of 12th grade is that there is too much going on academically here in the US that is necessary for college applications (11th grade GPA, standardized tests, college applications in 12th). On that theme, if you are good at learning languages, consider starting this summer with the Startalk programs. STARTALK A college will most definitely do a double take on a student who sought out and independently began learning a defense-sensitive foreign language at an early age.

Another route to go is the recruited athlete route. Do you have access to a sport that the Ivies love, that others would find difficult to do? Rowing and sailing come to mind. If you’re amazing at tennis, volleyball, whatever, that’s fine, too. It’s hard to be so good at basketball and football that you wind up being a recruited athlete for that, but not that many people have a chance to do crew (which is valued by Ivies) or sailing. Hence, it’s less competitive to become a recruited athlete for those sports.

The entire theme here is that in addition to excellent grades and high test scores, you need to do something that makes you stand out from all the other applicants. That is the sort of thing that you can start thinking about, planning for, right now.


Those two ideas are not always compatible.

An amazing college is the one where you can get amazing grades so that you are in the best position to get into med school. If you can’t get straight A’s at Stanford, you are better off going to Podunk State U. Then you need a very high MCAT score.

Med school is incredibly expensive. Can you or your parents afford four years at a (currently) $80k a year followed by $250,000 worth of medschool? You might need to go to the cheapest undergrad institution in order to even contemplate med school.

You are so young. Do your best in classes, but make time for fun. Pursue activities that interest you. Worrying about college now, at the age of 12 or 13, isn’t going to do you any favors.


Actually some of these medical schools will easily be $100,000 a year by the time this 8th grader gets to medical school….if he does. So that is a good question…are these colleges affordable? Medical school will be loans, loans and more loans should you get there.

But to the question…please please keep an open mind regarding your career as an adult. You are what…13 years old? So much could change between now and when you apply to college (I’m leaving medical school out of this).

I don’t have the link for it, but there is a great NPR Podcast where students are either Harvard or Yale are asked why they were accepted there. Most replied that they had NO idea why they were accepted. See if you can find that…or maybe someone else here has it.

Now…what can you do? Well…you need to take a strong courseload in high school AND get excellent grades. And get great SAT or ACT scores. But these schools are not looking just for academics academic and more academics. The are looking for interesting people to fill their classes. So make sure you have some extracurricular activity that you really enjoy and do well. And feel good about.

My free advice…you need to build your list from the bottom up. So after 10th grade when you actually have a HS GPA, start thinking about affordable colleges where you are likely to be admitted and that you would like. Get two of those and then build up. If Stanford and Harvard are at the top of your list, fine. They are reaches for every applicant…no sure thing applicants there.

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I think it’s misleading to say stuff like this when Harvard is cheaper than your state flagship for 90% of American families.


I think it’s misleading to say Harvard or Stanford is $80k/year when most American families would qualify for significant financial aid.

Source for this please? Plus….there is the challenge of getting accepted to Harvard. Their generous need based aid doesn’t do you a bit of good unless you are accepted…and qualify for this aid.

ETA…I see you edited your post. I stand with mine…getting accepted is the first hurdle, and most students from families in this country will not gain acceptance to Harvard or Stanford…which have 5% or so acceptance rates.

Except Harvard has a sub 5% acceptance rate which makes it unobtainable for the vast majority of students.


45% of students at Harvard pay full price. That could easily apply to this student. Maybe that’s misleading to you, but in general, no. Financial Aid Fact Sheet | Harvard.

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Your obviously a smart, mature and self aware 8th grader. So I suspect you were thoughtful in what you posted.

Has it always been your dream to be a Doctor, has it been your dream to get into an amazing college, or is it your dream to get your parents to acknowledge you?

I ask this because I would hate to see you put a ton of pressure on yourself thinking all three need to be interconnected given how uncertain and challenging being a doctor and getting into an “amazing” college are. I think you should start with a conversation with your parents about your ambitions and their support.

You also only mention “getting into” an amazing school as a specific goal. Your real goal should be to get into a school where you thrive academically and are happy. That should be your criteria for what constitutes an amazing school.

I am not suggesting you shouldn’t have goals or that your current goals aren’t attainable. I am however suggesting you consider how important happiness, fit and your parents support sooner then later will be to your fulfillment down the road. I am sure your parents are proud of you and want what’s best for you. Talk to them if possible.


I go to a school slightly less financially generous than Harvard, and even with an above-average household income, I pay the same as I would to my state school.

I see you edited your post. I stand with mine…getting accepted is the first hurdle, and most students from families in this country will not gain acceptance to Harvard or Stanford

Oh absolutely. Trying to plan your HS career around an Ivy acceptance is never something I’d recommend.


It says on Affordability | Harvard

that for 90% of American families, Harvard is cheaper than a state school. I go to a school slightly less financially generous than Harvard and even with an above-average HHI, I pay the same as I would to my state flagship.

Yes, I agree with the larger point that trying to plan the 4 years of HS for a Harvard or Stanford acceptance is a recipe doomed to fail.

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Question: why do you want to attend Harvard and Stanford? Is it due to the societal norm that they’re the two “best” schools and household names? Or is it because your parents want you to go there? I know that you’re young and you don’t have experience, but you gotta know why you want to attend these schools and not just for the name (“wow! You want to go to Harvard and Stanford? You’re super smart!”)


90% of American families aren’t applying to Harvard. Let’s move on please.


Hi! I’m a senior in the middle of college applications, reflecting on my high school experience, so I thought I’d give you some advice.

First off, although you might want to go to Harvard or Stanford right now, I can definitely say that since 8th grade, many of my opinions on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go to college changed. And this applies to nearly everyone I know!
So, though you can work towards your goal, know that in the next 4-5 years, your goals and interests will likely change.

In 8th grade, try out different extracurricular activities (and sports if you’re interested). If you desire, you can start on a ‘less popular’ sport like golf, sailing, pole vaulting, etc. (as another person mentioned, it’s easier to get to the national level, which would stand out to such competitive schools).
Also, you might be interested in doing a junior EMT program if you want to go into the medical field (one of my friends has been doing this and it’s been a great experience for her- I’d encourage you to look into it).

In 9th grade, take the most advanced classes your school offers (for me, this was mainly honors classes, and AP US Gov). Make sure you’re on top of your grades- but try to have fun too, as this is will be your easiest year of high school.

In 10th grade, try to do well on your PSAT (no big deal if you don’t though, your SAT score will likely be much better). Continue pursuing extracurricular activities, and really go in-depth with the one/s you enjoy (colleges like to see more quality and depth over quantity in ECs). Again, take the most rigorous courses your school offers, and any classes that would help with pre-med (honors/AP bio, chem, physics, advanced math, etc.).

Lastly, Harvard and Stanford are far, far reaches for pretty much anyone, and extremely qualified applicants are often turned down just because there are so many of them. Don’t plan your high school career around what would make your parents proud of you, especially if it’s over a school like Harvard or Stanford, which are insanely hard to get into, and instead, focus on what makes you feel excited and inspired.

I hope this was helpful!


I am going to address this part.

Becoming a doctor is a very reasonable goal. Perhaps the bad news here is that of the students who intend to become doctors, most don’t become doctors and instead find other good careers to pursue. The good news is that what you should do now to become a doctor is pretty much the same thing that you should do to succeed in a wide range of other very good careers.

Being a doctor is going to require doing very well in your classes. You want to always pay attention in class, and keep ahead in your work. In math, do not just memorize, you want to understand the concepts. In languages, you should try to get an opportunity to use the language outside of class. You can probably find opportunities to either watch TV shows in Spanish or to talk with others in Spanish. For US History, you will need to do quite a bit of reading, and try to understand the series of events and how one event leads to the next one while remembering quite a few details.

I did get to attend highly ranked universities (MIT for undergrad, Stanford for my masters). What I did in 8th and 9th grade for the purpose of getting accepted to MIT can be summarized in one word: Nothing. I took the classes that made sense for me. I did well in them because I was taking the classes that made sense for me. I participated in the extracurricular activities (ECs) that made sense for me. I think that you should do the same. Do well in your classes and do well in your activities. Do not try to guess what classes Harvard or Stanford want you to take. The top schools in general expect you to do well at whatever you chose to do.

When the time come, keep an open mind regarding universities. Harvard and Stanford are excellent universities. A relatively high percent of Harvard and Stanford students do get accepted to medical school. However, a lot of this is because of the students who start at Harvard and Stanford in the first place. Most of these students would have done very well regardless of where they went to university (within reason, let’s assume a “top 200” university). There are a very large number of other very good colleges and universities to consider. California has quite a good very good universities. However, you do not need to think about which ones are likely to be a good fit for your for several years.

Others above have talked about budget issues. Medical school is indeed expensive. However, this is again something that you do not need to worry about for several years.

Right now I think that the key is just to do very well in school, and understand that there are many very good careers and many very good universities that will help you get to a great career.

I was a math major so I will focus on math. In general I think that you should be cautious about jumping ahead. What you will learn next year in math is going to depend a lot on what you are learning right now. Algebra is in particular the basis for a LOT of things in math. When you get to calculus (several years in the future) it is going to depend a great deal on algebra, trigonometry, and precalculus. You are going to want to understand each of these areas very well before you get to calculus. It is worth taking the time to understand the basics very well.


Agreed on this. What I will say, though, is that we see a fair number of high-achieving kids who are on track to take Calculus in their senior year of high school (as you are), but who are feeling “behind” other students in their grade who took Geometry in 8th grade and are a year “ahead” of them. (It depends on the school, whether this is common or not.) Then they post questions about whether they should try to take Algebra II or Precalc over the summer, and most people who respond tell them that trying to cram those classes into an accelerated summer format risks sacrificing the strong mastery that they will need to do well in Calculus. Sooo… if you’re going to be that person in a few years, consider taking Geometry next summer. It’s really the last math class that is just fine to fit into a summer session. I hope I’m being clear that the “track” you are on is truly fine with respect to college admissions. But don’t wait two more years and then ask how you can accelerate your math sequence. If you’re going to do it at all (and again it’s 100% fine not to!), do it with Geometry.

That said, you only get so many summers, and there are lots of amazing things you can spend them doing. Geometry need not top the list. Even if you do want to do something academic, there’s a case to be made for doing things that you can’t do during the school year - like language immersion, for example. Plus, there’s summer employment, volunteering, sports, outdoor recreation, etc. etc. etc. - tons of reasons why a math class might not be the best choice, unless it’s truly your passion. (And there are probably better careers than medicine for a person who loves math that much!)


In addition to all the good advice you’ve already gotten, let me say that the earlier and the more determined someone is to attend any super-highly selective school, the stronger I would like them make a conscious effort in the years till then to find other places you could enjoy.

It’s perfectly fine to reach for the stars - so by all means, do keep your goal of Harvard (or Stanford) in mind, but most importantly realize that if you actually were to succeed in being consistently among the very few “all A’s” in every subject, and among the top students, in every single semester at your high school, you’d still have a >90% likelihood of being rejected, together with all other top students throughout the country who will apply, including many who might even outperform you.

Therefore it’s crucial for you to actively seek out a list of three or four alternatives that you’ll can also be happy with, if/because your #1 choice(s) are quite likely not going to work out (for you, or for anyone – there simply are many more high-achieving students than available spots.)


I would love to TRY and get into these schools not only because of the standards that they are two of the best schools but also because they had AMAZING pre-med programs and med schools. And if I have a higher education, then I will be given more opportunities in the future. But maybe also because of society’s standards. I’ll give you that.