Things William R. Fitzsimmons the dean of Harvard College and Financial Aid looks for
There are various formulas for getting into Harvard University. Regretfully, even for exceptionally qualified students, there are no guarantees. Students with a 4.0 GPA (unweighted), 1600 SAT or 36 ACT scores, and 5’s on 9 AP exams don’t always get accepted to Harvard. Wow!! What does that mean? How can perfect students not get into Harvard? Because Harvard is not just looking for the best test takers. They look for the “best” overall students, individuals that fit into a larger framework of excellence, diversity, collaboration, scholarship, innovation, service and entrepreneurial spirit, among other things.
If one looks at a scatter gram of students that get accepted to Harvard and those that get rejected, there is not much difference in regard to GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Thus, when students with straight A’s and perfect SAT scores receive deferrals and denial letters from Harvard, what is the reason? Basically, Harvard and other elite programs do not have the space to accept every qualified applicant. Secondly, like every individual, every family and every college, Harvard University has needs. Fill that “institutional” need and present yourself in a compelling and extremely interesting way, you increase your chances of acceptance. Make the strong argument that you are a “great fit” for Harvard and you are well on your way to having a chance at a Harvard acceptance letter. In other words, prove why both you, Harvard and society benefit from your attending Harvard and you have a chance, a small chance.
The key then is to determine:
Let’s take a look at the views of someone who should know what it takes to be a competitive applicant to Harvard, William R. Fitzsimmons ’67, the dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard College.
Harvard first and foremost looks for students, faculty and staff that strive for and attain excellence in everything they do, academically, personally and professionally. Paraphrasing their mission statement, Harvard College states that it “educates the citizens and citizen leaders of our society. We do this through our commitment to the transformative power of a liberal arts and science education, and diversity. Having done this, students understand their gifts and talents, determine their values and interests, and learn how they can best serve the world.”
Harvard essentially has four questions that they want to know about you:
Answer these questions compellingly and you have a chance. The main idea here is that one must be realistic at the long odds of a Harvard acceptance no matter what your qualifications; and that there are many fine schools that are a “great fit” for you.
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