Student Q Harvard University
1.what is your biggest challenge and growth during the past two years?
The greatest challenge I faced in the application process was writing the essays. You may not be able to imagine, I’m actually occasionally a procrastinator. It was made all the more difficult because I felt that my own life experiences weren’t enough, and my core unique qualities to be synthesized into a cohesive subject.
I eventually discovered a really great method that not only used scientifically proven methods to expedite my writing process, while also giving me inspiration and guidance in terms of composition and creativity.
For example, I would first write up an essay schedule before I begin writing the essay itself. This schedule was kind of like a commitment for me to make sure that I would stay on track with specified due dates and time frames for content. I finished most of my essay preparation work during the summer, and surprisingly, most of the process was stress-free. Sometimes there needs to be some external pressure to motivate people to stop being lazy – this is a basic principle.
As a result of the pandemic, my scheduled standardized tests were all canceled. By the time I could take the tests, I was already in the fall of my senior year, but before I took the tests I had already decided on which schools I would be applying to and also finished most of my essays. The end result was I was not set back by any amount. My advice is that setting up a robust timeline to work through and preparing early for applications is incredibly important.
2.What is the most memorable moment with us, and where did you receive the most help on?
Before the fall of my junior year, my family never considered the idea of working with a counselor, because I didn’t know that I would meet a teacher who can reach your heart with every sentence and analysis. After changing our minds, we learned a lot and really determined that TSAF was the best team to guide me. At this time, it was already winter at this time.
As a result, I had a lot less time to prepare my application materials compared to other people, and now my summer school application was also imminent. After several one-on-one phone calls, we quickly clarified and started planning. Based on my personal experience, interests and academic expectations, I applied for YYGS at Yale University, SSHI at Stanford University, and Medill Cherubs at Northwestern University, some programs that have great prestige.
The eleventh grade is the busiest time for my school activities and studies. Sometimes, I did homework until midnight. Balancing time spent on in-class studies and extra-curricular activities is definitely a challenge. As somewhat of a "procrastinator”, I might actually have applied a day before the deadline without prompt oversight and critical advice.
After writing each Common App essay, my consultant team would help me check it over. Oftentimes, there would be small mistakes that are found, such as spelling errors, an extra space between words, etc. that need to be improved. Details determine success or failure: although these are small points, they are also very important!
Compared to the typical high-performing applicant, I was very nervous about applying to Harvard University! Every small question is quite tangled, such as during the interview and what sets Harvard apart from other schools. If the interviewer does not reply how often to follow up, how to update the newly won awards to the information, and whether the wording of my email highlights my own advantages, etc.
In the end, when I was admitted to Harvard University, in addition to crying with joy, I was grateful for the diligence and care in every step along the way.
3.How did you plan your extracurricular activity and essay?
Looking back on my entire extracurricular experience, I realize that I never played sports, never practiced an instrument, never won a prestigious arts competition, never mastered a second language. Even though I studied many things, I didn’t have one talent that I had stuck with since I was young. When I was in the ninth grade, I was worried by this fact, and felt that I had nothing special to show. However, the end result shows me that it’s not too late to start expanding your extracurricular involvement in high school!
My extracurriculars included reporting for my school newspaper, female empowerment and Asian empowerment, photography, and others. In school, I am the leader of five clubs, which is something Harvard really values. The other Harvard students I’ve met also have lots of leadership experiences as well.
Outside of school activities, four other students and I created an online round table discussion space called “Break the Silence,” where we help talk about how to combat racism against international students. We encouraged everyone there to unite against racism towards Asians as a result of the pandemic, and discussed some common problems that Chinese international students in the United States often face in addition to potential solutions.
I also submitted a portfolio of my photographs to a prestigious competition, and I was eventually selected as the winner. This experience gave me more self-confidence in my photography skills, something I lacked when I was just starting out. I also submitted an informal portfolio along with my application materials, which helped with my applications. These professional accomplishments confirmed the results of my hard work over all these years.
4. Advice for future students:
1) Essays: essays must reflect your true self, connecting your activities and your feelings to move readers. At the same time, always remember this bit of advice: “Show, don’t tell.”
2) Standardized testing: standardized tests are gradually becoming less and less important; if you achieved a score that is high enough, you should spend more time on preparing application essays and on your activities.
3) Prepare early: when striving for top schools, you should do as much early preparation work as you can, like proactively researching colleges, understanding the key steps of the application process, and figuring out what types of professional help and other outside resources you need.