Why Harvard

<p>If an interviewer asks you "Why Harvard?", what are you going to say?</p>

<p>With tongue-in-cheek, I would answer "because it's not Yale!" </p>

<p>The best way to answer that question is to think about courses offered at Harvard that cannot be found elsewhere: think Michael Sandel (Justice), David J. Malan (CS50) etc.</p>

<p>A friend who interviews for Harvard told me that the most common answer she hears is "because it's Harvard", which annoys her.</p>

<p>I think the best answer would be to be honest. I mean, if you don't really know why you applied, beyond "because it's Harvard," I'm not really sure why you did apply.</p>

<p>Well, my reasons are the normal ones - great education, in a city/east coast, opportunities -research, clubs, different types of classes, alumni network for jobs.</p>

<p>Can I just say these?</p>

<p>^^ Those reasons are not specific to Harvard. Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton and 50 other schools have everything you mentioned. What can Harvard offer you that you cannot find at another school?</p>

<p>I don't think there's anything wrong with being fairly general like that. I'm not sure I could name all that many specific reasons I like Harvard more than I would, say, Princeton. I actually do like Princeton better on paper, just something about visiting--it's been two years and I still can't put my finger on exactly what--gave me the heebie-jeebies. Not every student can answer the "Why Harvard" question with something unusual like "BECAUSE IT HAS A FOLK AND MYTH MAJOR".</p>

<p>^^ That's why I suggested the OP look at classes that s/he would be interested in taking at Harvard. That makes the answer specific to Harvard.</p>

<p>Good point. I could've talked really excitedly about the East Asian Studies field at Columbia--had I gone there, I might be doing that. Whereas at Harvard I would be excited about the IOP (Institute of Politics) or whatever. For specific examples in my life.</p>

<p>The fact of the matter is, as an undergrad, most concentrations and majors are going to be fairly similar, especially at peer schools. Even at the graduate level, there's rarely a topic SO obscure that you can't find at least one or two other places where people are doing research on it. With that said, Harvard does offer some rather unique elements: its housing system for one, is really only matched by a few other places, the most obvious being Yale (which isn't entirely the same; at Yale you're sorted into a college at random before freshman year begins). Places like the Ivys generally encourage students to remain on campus for their entire career, and having that sort of community was something really important for me. It's much easier to make new friends and meet new people as an upperclassman in such an environment. </p>

<p>You can always find good academic reasons to want to go to Harvard. If you're interested in a specific professor's work, you can always say you're interested in taking a class with so and so.</p>

<p>^Same reasons here for me. </p>

<p>
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great education, in a city/east coast, opportunities -research, clubs, different types of classes, alumni network for jobs.

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<p>Those are all great reasons, IMO. Even better if you can follow up the statement with specific examples.</p>

<p>I don't interview any longer, but I have become less and less convinced of the value of that question.</p>

<p>I did not like "Because it's Harvard," but let's be honest, that's the reason why most applicants apply. My own reason, all those years ago, was not much better: "My mother really wants me to."</p>

<p>As a former interviewer, I think "Because it's Harvard" either is too glib, or reflects that the applicant has really not thought the matter through at all. On the other hand, I don't think an applicant needs to formulate an answer that makes it seem Harvard is the only institution on the planet that would suit him or her. If you said, for example, "Obviously, it has first-rate scholars and first-rate students, across the board, and I like that. Beyond that, I want to be in an eastern city, and I really like the House system. And these are the reasons why I'm applying to Yale and Penn, too," I wouldn't be bothered by that.</p>

<p>For what it's worth, my son who is currently attending Yale (and who has a sister at Harvard) wrote the following for his "Why Yale" essay:</p>

<p>"From the whimsical admissions video, to the creatively festooned hats worn on Class Day, humor abounds at Yale – and I want to be part of that tradition! In addition, Yale's residential college system is a big attraction, as I would like to participate in intramural sports my freshman year. Most importantly though, Yale will allow me to explore a wide variety of academic interests, from computer science to physics to economics; each department has incredibly stimulating courses that I would like to take."</p>

<p>In interviews, he was able to back-up that statement with specific courses that he wanted to take. My suggestion for the OP is to do the same for Harvard.</p>

<p>It is one of four Four-year co-ed colleges in an Urban setting in either California, Massachusetts or New York that has strong departments in Economics and Classics, but also offers Choral Groups and a Symphony Orchestra and that guaranteed four-year housing, study abroad programs and that is not religiously affiliated. </p>

<p>There is a specific professor that I want to study under and there is a strong Jewish community, such as an active Hillel that offers frequent prayer services and kosher meals.</p>

<p>^^ Thank you; those are very specific reasons. </p>

<p>(BTW: Hillel provides opportunities for Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities, so Hillel is not really specific to Harvard.)</p>

<p>Well, yes, but not all Hillels are the same. </p>

<p>BC has a Hillel, and so has Harvard. At BC, they have Shabbat dinner on Friday nights. At Harvard Hillel, they have Shabbat dinners on Friday nights, plus Orthodox, Conservative/Egalitarian and Reform Shabbat services, plus Orthodox and Conservative Shabbat services Saturday morning (back in the day, we had a pretty good Reform minyan on Saturday mornings, too, but I guess that has fizzled), plus a kosher meal after that, plus.... Harvard Hillel is positively thriving. And Harvard Hillel is specific to Harvard.</p>

<p>And, yes, I'm aware of the irony that I just posted all this on Friday night.</p>

<p>
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On the other hand, I don't think an applicant needs to formulate an answer that makes it seem Harvard is the only institution on the planet that would suit him or her.

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<p>Like telling a girl that she is the only one on earth that he could fall in love with. </p>

<p>In stead of "Why Harvard" a related question may be "Where else are you applying".</p>

<p>
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In stead of "Why Harvard" a related question may be "Where else are you applying".

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<p>I never asked that one. I considered it taboo, not because I thought it should never be discussed, but because I was afraid it would freak the applicants out to be asked.</p>

<p>I came close once, though. I interviewed a really impressive young woman who wanted to study the ancient Near East--Mesopotamia and Assyria and Babylonia and ancient Israel and all that. I did say to her, "I guess that means you'll have to learn to read a lot of obscure dead languages. You do realize that kind of limits your college options, right? And many of the options that you will have are fancy, expensive colleges."</p>

<p>Well, I just had my interview today. I kinda gave the answer I said, but tailored it a little bit. I didn't mention the housing system or specific classes/professors. It really is one of many very good schools I'm applying to, and all of which I would be delighted to go to, such as Columbia and Yale. She later said I seemed really passionate about going to Harvard, so I guess my answer was fine.</p>

<p>One thing is that the interviewer, or at least mine, didn't see Harvard as just the place everyone wants to go to. She was just kinda like, this is my alma mater, it's awesome, I hope you like it too, and my reasons were kinda fine.</p>

<p>For the interviewer who said her main answer was "Because my mom wanted me to apply", what do you suggest candidates say, other than I want to study with such-and-such professor</p>

<p>I suggest that candidates say why they are interested in going to Harvard. If we could tell them what they should answer, we wouldn't have to ask.</p>

<p>As I said, I don't think there's a lot of value in the question. I have asked it; I have rarely learned a lot from the answer. I do believe it sometimes gave me a sense that a candidate was really just applying to Harvard on a lark, but I don't believe I ever got that sense from an applicant who was otherwise blowing me away.</p>