Rising sophomore at Harvard - AMA about the application process, life at Harvard, and working at the Harvard Crimson!

Hi everyone! I’m a rising sophomore at Harvard, but I still remember the college admissions process all too well :slight_smile: For a bit of background, I’m currently a classics concentrator and part of the Harvard Crimson, the university’s official student newspaper. We recently published our 2021 edition of 10 Successful Harvard Essays, and for anyone who’s looking for a bit of guidance with the essay process, it’s a great resource to check out.

If you have any questions about my personal experience applying to Harvard (especially as an early action school), or what it’s like being a student here, drop them below! Otherwise, ASK ME ANYTHING!


Hi! Just clarifying that the Harvard Crimson’s Business Board, which was responsible for the content in the publication, is partnering with College Confidential to increase transparency in the college essay writing process. While the publication does feature sponsorships from college consulting services, the 10 Successful Harvard essays are a valuable resource genuinely meant to give prospective students inspiration/strategies to apply in their own writing.

Like the rest of the Business Board, I’m a current Harvard student, and would love to answer any questions regarding not only the application process but life at Harvard–beyond any kind of advertising motivations, I’ve loved my experience here, and am willing to share tips/insights with anyone who’s curious :slight_smile: apologies for the confusion!

Hi everyone - we’re doing some collaborating with the Crimson and this is a unique opportunity to have an AMA with someone who has gone through the process and attends Harvard! Feel free to post your questions here. I’ll start:

What did you find surprising about Harvard once you started attending classes?

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hi! current rising senior looking to apply to Harvard this fall, but not sure during which cycle, is there an advantage in applying early? any disadvantages? thanks

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How important are the creative portfolios?

Also, how does Harvard view having a personal website for more info? If there is one, how can we supplement it to the application?

Hi! I am applying to Harvard this year and am really worried about my essays. I’m wondering how you approached the personal statement and how you chose/narrowed down your topic! Thank you!

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Hey, hope you’re having a good day, and thank you for providing the opportunity! I have a few questions about the admissions process:

  1. Looking back, how important were your extracurriculars in the overall application process? (And, if they were a key aspect, how exactly should I make my extracurriculars stand out?)

  2. Does applying earlier in the admissions cycle (i.e., ED, REA, etc.) truly benefit your chances of admissions (Doesn’t apply just to Harvard, but would be very interesting to know)

  3. What would you recommend doing over the summer in order to “boost” your chances of admissions?

  4. How did you balance time when applying to college? (Friends, family, extracurriculars, GPA, classes, standardized tests, essays, etc.)

Thank you for your time!

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Hi! Did you apply as a Classics major? If so, what kinds of things/activities in your application did you highlight to show your strength in that area (I’m also interested in Classics)? Also, what is it like being a Classics concentrator at Harvard? What are some activities/courses/research you’re involved in?

What extracurriculars were you involved in in high school? Do you have any idea what pushed your application into the “yes” pile?

What’s hilarious about this post is that the essays from many students at lower-tier schools are just as interesting as those from students who got into Harvard. In other words, kids get into Harvard more because of activities, teacher recommendations, and perhaps the interview than because of essays. Or, come to think of it, because their parents went to Harvard.

Obviously, a lousy essay will keep you out, but this post is a fairly transparent attempt to sell the larger book of Harvard application essays. Trust me, imitating the approach of some of the essays in that book will lead to some nasty admissions surprises when you choose the mediocre essay written by one of the 36% of Harvard students who were admitted in part because they were legacy students I say this as someone who has read all the essays in one of the editions of the book.

“But noooooo. It’s just a public service!”

Uh huh.

BTW, I’m not dumping on the non-legacy Harvard students, who are often a pretty impressive bunch. But any talk about “How to write an essay that will get you into Harvard!” has to be taken with some skepticism, awareness of the wide variety of students admitted to Harvard, and a sense of the big picture of what the college is looking for.


How do you find the Classics department? What are its strengths? Is it moving in Princeton’s direction as respects Latin and Ancient Greek, to make them non-required for concentrators? Or is there continuing support for the study of the languages as a required part of the concentration?

About what percentage of the students are collaborative vs competitive? Authentically interested and interesting vs trophy-seekers/collectors?

Is OP still participating?


OP is likely getting ready to move into Cambridge sometime during the next three days. Could be traveling or preparing to travel.

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They are! @hebegebe is likely right - they’ll be back around to answer all the questions I’m sure. In the meantime, keep the questions coming!

yes, going through these now! thanks for the great questions, everyone :slight_smile:

hi Mike, appreciate you kicking it off! What surprised me the most, even with virtual classes, was how genuine and accessible my professors were outside of lectures–many had regular office hours where they were willing to not only answer course content questions, but also casually chat and offer advice. I’d come to Harvard with the slight impression that professors would be more focused on their own research than undergraduate teaching, which hasn’t been true at all.

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hi @trackfield! From a numbers perspective, there would seem to be an advantage–in my year, Harvard accepted 13.9% of early applicants, compared to the overall 4.92%. Of course, the higher number is also somewhat misleading, since special cases (ex. recruited athletes) are often part of the early group. It really depends on where you’re at in your personal application process–if you have grades you’re proud of, polished essays, AND Harvard is your top-choice school in time for the Nov. 1 deadline, apply early!! The only real disadvantage I can think of is Harvard’s REA restriction, which means you won’t be able to apply to any other U.S. private schools simultaneously during the early round, so definitely do your research :slight_smile:

hi @clgbnd1! I actually submitted a studio art portfolio as part of my application, because it was a significant time commitment for me in high school. That being said, while I was interested in taking a few studio art classes, it definitely wasn’t my intended concentration or secondary going in. I’d say that if you have a strong body of work in your creative discipline, it’s an amazing way to add a sense of dimension to your application and show proof of genuine dedication in that field. However, if it’s really more of a hobby for you, you might be better off exploring it in an essay, instead of being compared with prospective students whose work is at a professional level :slight_smile:

I’m not too sure on the personal website question–if you think if it offers valuable information about you that can’t be found elsewhere in your application, I’m sure you can add the link in the additional information section on the Common App. Hope that helps!