Once upon a time I told my parents that I wanted to study at Harvard University. To say that they were displeased would be an understatement. True, I still had two years until graduation from high school, and my parents were convinced that this was just a phase and it would soon pass. But that only made me try harder. Going to Harvard was neither a whim nor a phase, it was a dream that I hoped to achieve and to do so I had to work hard.

When to start preparing for Harvard?

Now that I am already studying at Harvard, I can say that I should have started preparing way sooner: at least three years before the start of studies. However, if you give all your effort to reach your goal, you will certainly achieve a result. Unfortunately, I was only able to enroll a year after graduating from high school.
Of course, I was a little frightened by stories about how quite successful people (bankers and entrepreneurs) were not admitted into Harvard: the competition is about fourteen people per seat. Therefore, I began to carefully study other people's mistakes, so as to not make one myself. I decided to enter the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, after which I wanted to receive an academic degree of a Bachelor of Science with a specialization in computer network security.

Requirements for admission to Harvard


The fact is that to enter Harvard University you need to not only be an excellent student. The admissions committee (it consists of two people who work independently of each other) is very meticulous about the applicant's documents. First, you only need to have excellent grades in all subjects for the last two years of study.
Secondly, you need to meet the minimum requirements. When I entered, they were as follows:

  • Pass the SAT General, gaining at least 2100 points;
  • Pass two SAT Subject tests, as well as SAT Writing, gaining at least 720 points;
  • Become one of the top 5% graduates of high school;
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from school teachers;
  • Show the qualities of a leader, be the head of any youth organization or club for at least several years (if the organization is small, within the school, then two are better);
  • Have any achievements in sports or art, and better significant ones, marked with diplomas and certificates;
  • Volunteer.
In terms of extracurricular activities, I was fine. To give you an idea of ​​what I wrote in my resume and motivation letter, I will describe my achievements (not advertising). Since childhood, I was fond of singing, was a soloist in a school ensemble, and in high school I began to lead it. I wrote many of the lyrics myself. Our ensemble had always won first places in various city competitions.

As for volunteer work, I created a school organization that took over the orphanage. Our help was not limited to visits or gifts: our members led various circles. For example, I led an in-depth study of the English language: it is useful for both children and I vitally needed language practice. At the same time, correcting someone else's pronunciation or grammatical mistakes, I myself improved my skill.

My friends and I also opened sewing courses for girls from the boarding school. Our classmates began to teach orphan boys the simplest skills: handling a hammer, making simple repairs to an electrical appliance, while observing safety rules. Now, when I am far from home, the organization I created still exists and does good deeds.

The cost of studying at Harvard

My parents were against my attempts to enter Harvard for two reasons: firstly, for financial reasons (tuition costs about 42,000 USD a year), and secondly, because it is possible to enter Harvard for a bachelor's degree only if you do not yet have a bachelor's degree from some other university. That is, if I had been defeated, I would have wasted a whole year. However, I carefully planned all stages of admission, prepared for possible questions and believed in victory. In terms of finance, there are many programs to support low-income students at Harvard University, and I was counting on one of them.

When and what exams to take?

After graduating from high school, I registered at www.collegeboard.com and successfully passed the SAT I and SAT II tests. Upon admission to Harvard, the TOEFL test is replaced by SAT Writing and the verbal part of SAT I. From the SAT II tests, I chose mathematics and physics. You need to take the tests as soon as possible in order to send an application to the Harvard admissions office in July-August. Test results are sent automatically (Harvard College code — 3434).

The process of admission to Harvard

In parallel, I created a profile (registered) on the Harvard website, for which I paid 65 USD (without this, the application will not be considered), and filled out an application for admission. To the application and payment receipt I attached recommendations from school teachers (including an English teacher) and school certificates for the last two years of study (in terms). Additionally, as a proof of my musical abilities, I submitted three audio recordings of my songs to the admission committee. By the way, advice to applicants: proof of musical, sports and other talents will not only help you to enter the university, but also will be a huge plus when you are considered for a scholarship. All documents were sent in two versions — original and translated, to the address of Harvard University: Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, 86 Brattle Street, Cambridge.

Terms of consideration of an application at Harvard

About a month and a half later, I received a confirmation that my documents were accepted for consideration. The review of applications starts on December 1. The deadline for submitting applications is January 1. (Be careful as the dates may change for your year of admission).

Should you count on a Harvard scholarship?

In February, I learned that I was accepted to Harvard University. To say that I was overjoyed would be an understatement, but I needed a scholarship: my family could not sponsor my education and a somewhat tolerable existence in America. An application for a scholarship had to be submitted before March 1st. In my application to Harvard Student Aid, I indicated that my parents' annual income was much less than 60,000 USD: this is a condition under which students are allocated the maximum scholarship that fully covers the costs of study and living. Given my excellent grades, musical achievements, and essays, I was awarded a scholarship and given the opportunity to work part-time on campus.

What visa do I need to study in the USA?

I entered the United States with an F-1 student visa, so during my first year I was not eligible to work off campus. In order to get a job, I filled out Form I-9, received a personal Social Security Number, as well as a permission from a university employee who works with international students. After that, I was given an official job in a cafe for 20 hours a week (full-time during vacation).

Interesting facts about Harvard

Harvard is a city within a city. There are a huge number of different gyms, clubs, three libraries intended for bachelors. The official color of the university is burgundy, and many students are happily wearing T-shirts with this color. So far, I'm in my third year. Many of my peers, after mastering the general subjects that were taught to us during the first two years, changed their specializations. However, I still want to become an information security professional. I really hope that I will finish my bachelor's degree with honors and be able to continue my studies here.
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