I'm interested in applying to Harvard, and here are some achievements I achieved while in high school and during my gap year


Won the school science award in 2019 and 2020.

Won first place in the Scientific quiz competition in 2021.

Won the national Olympiad in 2023.

Placed fourth in the National Hackathon in 2023.

Placed fifteenth in the Olympiad in 2023.

Placed second in the Mathematics Olympiad in 2023.

Received the highest award from the Association of Teachers of General Education

Placed fifth in the national Olympiad.

Won national programming contest with team, won national hacking contest with team 2022


Founded the informatics club at his school.

Founded the hacking club.

Mentored younger students in programming.
I have developed a cutting-edge school management system with a team for high school.


Declined to compete in the APIO and instead chose to participate in the Start-up 2023.

Founded a mobile game company and contributed with 5 companies.

Got investment for renewable technology AI from K-Village construction company.
Received a grant of from Mstar.

Currently competing in the Start-up Capital competition.


Received special gift from Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media for 2 times.

Received a medal from the Labor and Social Security.


Great for you. Apply to Harvard. Make sure you can afford it and that you have other choices in the likelihood that you are not admitted. But apply and see.

Hope you have great grades and a great test score too.


Are you among the very top students in your country?
How much can you afford to pay each year?
What is your intended major and post-graduation plans?


Why did you take a gap year? Did you apply to colleges last year also?


My standard advice to anyone interested in a specific school is to make sure to find and carefully study their version of a “What we look for” admission webpage (it could also be in an admission FAQ, spread over multiple pages, or so on). These can sometimes seem very similar at first look, but the more you really look at them in detail and compare, the more you get a specific vision of what a particular college is looking for in its applicants.

And here is Harvard’s:

A couple high level notes.

Like pretty much all “holistic review” colleges, Harvard is interested in more than just your academic credentials (although very good academic credentials are a given) and your individual achievements. They are also interested in what sort of person you are, and how specifically you as a person will fit into their school community.

Harvard in particular puts a lot of emphasis on how you will interact with your fellow students. Right at the top, they lead off with:

In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.

OK, so what they are saying here (and many other places) is they think how students interact with each other and in fact their professors is a critical part of their educational mission.

I’m going to emphasize a few more things on that track, just because I think these are the sorts of things applicants to Harvard often overlook. Harvard phrases all this as questions, so here are some key related questions:

  • What sort of human being are you now? What sort of human being will you be in the future?

  • How open are you to new ideas and people?

  • What about your maturity, character, leadership, self-confidence, sense of humor, energy, concern for others, and grace under pressure?

  • Would other students want to room with you, share a meal, be in a seminar together, be teammates, or collaborate in a closely-knit extracurricular group?

I note Harvard, like most “residential” colleges, offers a wide range of student activities, including club/intramural sports, debate, fine and performing arts, publications, student government, cultural organizations, charitable organizations, and on and on. And so when they talk about being a teammate or being in a closely-knit extracurricular group, they likely have in mind the range of specific activities at their school.

Indeed, when you look at their first-year supplemental application:

They actually have a specific list of 48 Harvard College sports and activities, of which you can choose two (including intended level of participation for sports). I note I think a lot of HS students think it would be most impressive if they founded their own club–that shows initiative, right? And I do think that can be OK, particularly if you can show how that club became a very valued part of your HS community. But otherwise, I think colleges like Harvard typically value more joining an activity that is already an important part of that HS community, developing within that organization, and eventually achieving a leadership position. Because that is the sort of thing that will likely have the most impact at Harvard too.

OK, so again at a high level–I think a lot of people see Harvard as a place for the smartest, most hard-working, most ambitious students. And for sure, those can be relevant factors for Harvard.

But Harvard gets way more such applicants than it can admit, and it actually isn’t particularly interested in trying to rank them strictly by academic qualifications/individual achievements, and then admit the top people by such a ranking. I encounter many people who believe Harvard SHOULD be doing that, but Harvard disagrees.

Instead, once Harvard has identified you as good enough in terms of academics (and to be sure, they have high standards for this, but not so high, such that many more applicants than they can admit will meet those standards), they really want you to ALSO be the type of person they are describing here, the type of person who will get involved in depth in college activities with their fellow students, and really be valued by their fellow students.

Again, I am emphasizing all this because I think a lot of people have a conception of what Harvard is looking for that doesn’t really match what Harvard is actually looking for. Or perhaps more precisely, it is incomplete, in that it does not place nearly enough emphasis on these personal factors, and specifically does not place nearly enough emphasis on participating in the sorts of “normal” student activities that are a large part of college life at Harvard.

So as you think about where you want to apply, including Harvard, I would suggest you reflect on whether you are the sort of person Harvard is looking for. And if you believe you are that sort of person, I would then think carefully about how to demonstrate it in your application.

Meaning at this point, your academics and achievements will largely take care of themselves. But how will you communicate effectively to Harvard that they can be very confident that other Harvard College students will want to room with you, share a meal with you, be in a seminar with you, be your teammate, or be your collaborator in a closely-knit activity? I think that is a harder challenge to meet than many realize, and yet a critical one if you want the best chance of admission.


This advice should be pinned somewhere. It is the most valuable I’ve read on CC (And, given how addicted I am, that’s saying a lot!)


And it doesn’t just apply to Harvard. All universities have a mission and vision statement. Some divisions and departments do as well. It’s one of the best places to check fit and to get ideas for the “why us” type essays.

You can also often find long term strategic plans, especially for public institutions, on line with a quick google search.



And as an additional two cents–I would really urge students to be open-minded when it comes to deciding which colleges are actually the best fit for them. Because as I noted before, once you really starting reading these sorts of materials carefully, it turns out they are not all exactly the same. Even among schools that people think of as close peers, there can be identifiable differences in emphasis, different lists of specific valued characteristics, and so on.

And I think ideally, you will end up identifying a list of colleges (all across your spectrum of reaches, targets, and likelies) that in these materials really seem to be talking about you, and not just any high-achiever. And then that in turn can help you write each application in a way that will maximize your chances.


Have back ups /safeties you would be happy to attend.


Paging @hebegebe who might have additional thoughts to share.

You have a mix of awards below, ranging from school level to national level. Obviously, the national ones will have the most impact, but it’s a bit difficult for me to interpret the national awards:

Which specific Olympiad(s) are you referring to? Math? Physics? Chemistry? Something else?

If you were a US applicant, being part of the US national team for the IMO or IPhO would likely result in multiple HYPSM acceptances. But for an international applicant, while awards like these certainly help, the bar for admittance is just higher. You certainly have a chance for admission, but you should go in realizing that a lot of very talented applicants do not get admitted.

1 Like

@hebegebe it looks like some of these were done during a gap year after high school. Does that matter?

Oh, I missed that somehow. But in any case, the US and international Olympiads can only be done while a student is in high school.

1 Like

The student is saying s/he is on a gap year but also won them this year. Could the timing be different internationally? I think some countries have school years that coincide with the calendar year.

1 Like

They could be, but it seems like a really bad idea. You could end up with national winners that are ineligible for the international competition.



When did you graduate from high school? Were the 2023 awards achieved after your high school graduation?

Yes, I applied and was accepted to the University of Chicago.

And you didn’t attend University of Chicago…because??

1 Like

In our country, there are only 3 terms, and 2 of them are written on the report card. The hardest part is that the school gives the report card at the end of June.

So some of these awards you have listed were done post high school graduation?

1 Like