Getting into the college of your dreams is something every student I have worked with strives for, especially when that college happens to be one of the most exclusive in the country. Figuring out how to get to Harvard is something thousands of students try to do every year; only, a handful make the cut. But that doesn’t deter students and I don't think it should. So after years of advising and researching, I have created this guide to show you how to get into Harvard.
Before We Begin
Over the years, I have lost count of how many students come to me asking how to get to Harvard and if I can make it happen for them. And I wish I could make it happen for every student who asks me. But the reality is much different. Harvard is one of the top schools in the country and competes with Yale and Princeton for the top ranking within the Ivy League itself.
Harvard’s acceptance rate recently dropped below 6%, keeping in line with the increasingly competitive college admissions bubble that has been growing over the years. And while many have predicted this bubble will burst for several years now, it doesn’t look like Harvard will be opening its doors to the masses any time soon. Which means you will have to continue competing with the kids who make overachievers look like slackers.
Please know that I am not telling you any of this to discourage you from applying to Harvard. My college consultants work with students like you every day to help them achieve their dreams of attending this particular Ivy. I am not here to stomp on your dreams. I want you to have all the information possible when you’re going into this so you know what the stakes are.
And I want you to remember that even if you do not get accepted by Harvard, plenty of equally amazing schools who will be banging on your door.
Okay. Let’s get started.
Some Ideas on How to Get to Harvard
Craft a Personal Narrative
Thinks of this as an elevator pitch for your college application and how you’re going to go present yourself to the admissions committee. It’s something that you repeat throughout your application and shows how you’re more interesting than the rest of the applications they will receive and how you want them to know you. A personal narrative contains three main points about yourself that an admissions officer can use to talk about you when they advocate for your acceptance into the college you’re applying to.
The danger of not being a well-rounded student, like high schools can pressure you into, is real. This becomes a problem, because even though you are extremely talented in many things, you need something that sets you apart and should pursue it to the max. For example, if your unique thing is writing then you could publish your works in magazines or as a book. If your thing is sports then you could work so hard at that sport that you participate in a competition at the national level.
Essentially, you need to show a deep and developed interest in your chosen activity and all the materials you assemble for your application must support this story. Think of it like writing a paper. Your narrative acts as your main idea and everything else serves as evidence.
A Strong Academic Background
Unique offerings aside, you still need to show you’re capable of handling the intense coursework Harvard will throw your way. This includes packing your schedule with AP and IB classes and performing well in the classes themselves and on the exams. This is especially important if your angle is on a specific academic area like the sciences or history.
But if you, for example, are not a strong math person and your thing is writing, don’t take AP Calculus and flunk it. There’s no reason to mess up your GPA for the sake of being well-rounded. Being well-rounded not only puts unnecessary stress on you, but it also means you have a harder time standing out from the rest of the well-rounded applicants. This doesn’t mean you can blow off all your others classes and not get good grades. If you’re struggling, I encourage you to work with a tutor so you can keep your GPA from taking a hit.
And if you feel any shame about doing that, remember Harvard. It’s worth it.
A Cohesive Application
I’m addressing this separately from the strong academic background, because this needs a section all to itself. Your standardized test scores still need to be top notch for your application to Harvard so be sure to work with someone who earned top scores before you let them tutor you. Be sure to utilize the 5 Whys technique to make the most of your test prep and get to the root cause of why you’re getting questions wrong on your practice tests.
Your extracurricular activities and letters of recommendation should all support your unique angle and directly relate to it. If they don’t, get rid of it. Everything you include in your application needs to tie back to and support this unique angle you’re presenting to college admissions boards. Remember all these materials need to support the main idea: you are unique for this reason and here’s all the proof to back it up.
Even if you follow all of my advice, there is no guarantee you will get into Harvard. That’s because Harvard has a specific student in mind and will compare you against the other students they’re considering accepting to make sure you fit in with the group. But by following these steps, you up your game not only in the Harvard realm, but with other competitive schools as well.
What do you think of our philosophy? Did you get into Harvard and what do you think got you there? Let us know in the comment section below.