When it comes to Harvard admissions, everyone is looking for shortcuts. But the unfortunate truth is there just aren’t any. The only way in is by working extremely hard and building an impressive portfolio. Dedication and perseverance are what get you to home plate. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re likely pedaling snake oil.
Harvard wants kids who are focused. Their objective is to build a class of freshmen who are all experts in something—an enclave of impressive young specialists who will go on to succeed in the next iteration of that specialty in the professional world, who will then win Nobel Prizes in said specialty, conduct research in said specialty, run for some kind of office with a platform that outlines policy in a specialized arena, and/or go onto donate a special amount of money to Harvard. In all honesty, we don’t know whether or not this is the recipe for fulfillment in life. But it is Harvard’s recipe for success, and if you want to be on the menu, then you have to get with the program.
Focus on 2-4 areas of interest
Start off by choosing 2-4 areas of interest that orbit one general subject. For example, say, you’re interested in government. Your areas of interest might include American politics, debate, and civics education. Once you’ve honed in on your areas of interest, commit to maxing them out. Don’t just join the debate club, become the president. Start an organization to bring after-school civics education programs to elementary schools in your community. Fulfill whatever the highest expression of involvement in that area looks like. A lot of parents will come to us saying, “my kid hasn’t cured cancer,” to which we tend to respond, “we know.” There’s a lot between curing cancer and just joining the soccer team. Aim towards the area of the spectrum where curing cancer lies, but be real. You don’t need to be Einstein. You just need to be a specialist.
A few more examples
One of our kids was interested in journalism. What most kids would do if they were our student is join the school paper. That’s not going to cut it for a kid who wants to get into Harvard. So, our student focused on becoming the editor of the newspaper. He also launched a lecture series that discussed media issues, recruiting local reporters, historians, and business leaders to discuss things like the future of business modeling in journalism for panel discussions that were open to the public. He also got an impressive internship at a local newspaper and got published in that paper. Another one of our students was interested in biochemical engineering. So, they started an engineering club at their high school, spent the summer doing research with a notable professor in the field, and took a university-level class on the topic.
We help our students start clubs, take extra classes, get really great summer internships, and go the extra 100 miles necessary to be competitive in the Ivy League. But the other reason we really like helping students dive deep into a passion of theirs is that we believe it’s good practice for life. Choosing a major is essentially picking an area of interest and going down the rabbit hole. Picking a profession follows the same logic. It can be deeply fulfilling to develop an area of expertise and to use your base of knowledge and developed skill-set to build something. Harvard likes to see their applicants build specialties, because it’s an indication of how someone thinks. Actions are the results of thinking. What you produce is a reflection of who you are.
Need some help landing an impressive internship where you’re not just getting coffee? Reach out to us. We help our students connect to professionals at the tops of their fields.