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    How to Ace the 23/24 Harvard Supplemental Essays

    By Cece Gilmore

    Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: July 11th, 2024
    How to Ace the 23/24 Harvard Supplemental Essays

    Chances are, you have heard of Harvard University, a private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Known as the oldest university in the United States, Harvard attracts students from all over the world. With an acceptance rate of around 4%, your application needs to stand out. One of the best ways to show who you are is through your very own writing. Keep reading our guide for how to ace the Harvard supplemental essay questions! 

    Before answering the essay questions 

    All Harvard University applicants are required to respond to five 200 word supplemental Harvard essay questions. 

    All of the Harvard supplemental essay questions have a 200 word limit. Remember, 200 words is not a lot of words to express yourself. Therefore, you will need to be short, sweet, and direct with your answers. The goal is to share your unique personality on the page–do not drag on or use filler words! Just remember to be yourself in your response. 

    Essay question #1

    “Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?” (200 words max) 

    Ultimately, this question wants to hear about what makes you unique and diverse. Try to brainstorm main aspects of your identity that you want to be highlighted to Harvard. Some examples could include your ethnicity, your hometown, a club you are a part of and more. Most importantly, you should be thinking about life experiences you have had that have shaped you. 

    For example, if your Asian heritage is an important part of your identity you should detail a time in which you attended an Asian festival as a child and realized how proud you are to be Asian. Telling a narrative and life experience you have had rather than just stating a piece of your identity will give you a leg up on the competition. 

    Once you have told a story about the life experience you have chosen to talk about, now you have to detail how you will contribute to Harvard. Remember, Harvard prides itself on having a diverse student body, so use this to your advantage! Discuss how this important part of your identity and life experience can be brought to the Harvard community. Perhaps you want to join or even start a club on campus or you hope to do something in your dorm related to your identity. Whatever you hope to bring to the Harvard community, make sure you are discussing it in this response! Make sure that it connects back to the life experience you wrote about earlier in the essay. 

    Questions to consider

    • What is an important part of your identity? 
    • What experiences have you had that have shaped you? 
    • How will you help contribute to the Harvard community? What hopes do you have for attending Harvard? 

    Essay question #2

    “Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.” (200 words max) 

    Harvard wants to admit applicants that are intellectually curious and driven. These engagements do not need to fit into any structure. For example, you can write about an online French class you took, an art camp you attended, or a research project you worked on. All are relevant as long as you write about what has special meaning to you.

    Ultimately, in your response you should be revealing to the Harvard admissions officers how you critically think. Begin by detailing a narrative about this intellectual experience, make sure you are describing rather than just simply stating. Next, you should reflect on this experience. What did you learn from this experience? Would you do anything differently next time? Then, you should connect back to Harvard. Discuss what characteristics you now possess from this experience that would make you a great addition to the Harvard community. 

    Questions to consider

    • What is an intellectual experience you have had? 
    • How does this experience make you prepared for Harvard? 
    • What reflections do you have regarding this intellectual experience? 

    Essay question #3 

    “Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.” (200 words max) 

    This is such a great place to expand on the activities you described on your Common App activity list. Once you’ve picked an extracurricular activity or a few that you are heavily involved in, be sure to then mention specifics.

    Be sure to provide context and valuable information regarding your extracurricular activities/work experience. Whoever is reading your response should gain a better understanding of the activities and work experience you have. 

    Lastly, connect to how these experiences have shaped who you are today. Think about any life lessons or characteristics you have gained from these activities. 

    Questions to consider:  

    • What do you do during your involvement? 
    • What is your role in this activity or place of work?
    • Why did you choose to participate in this activity or work? 

    Essay question #4

    “How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?” (200 words max)

    This is your opportunity to describe your long-term goals! Make sure you are not only describing your future goals but also how Harvard will help you reach them. 

    To begin, describe any future aspirations you may have. This could include your intended major, career and life goals. In fact, both small and large goals can be described in this response. However, you should be extremely specific about these goals as something like “I want world peace” may cause your Harvard essay to become muddied. 

    Then, connect back to Harvard! What specific student organizations, classes, professors and extracurricular activities that Harvard offers will help you achieve your goals? You need to be emphasizing how Harvard will be able to help you better reach your goals than any other education offered. 

    Questions to consider: 

    • What life goals do you have for yourself? 
    • How will Harvard help you achieve your goals? 
    • Why do you want a degree from Harvard? 

    Essay question #5

    “Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you.” (200 words max) 

    This last prompt is a lighter response! It’s a chance for you to take a more casual approach on a Harvard essay. 

    To begin you should brainstorm some ideas! Try to think about hobbies, music taste, extracurriculars, siblings or any fun facts you may have! You can also discuss your living habits and maybe some unique things about your bedtime routine. 

    Whatever three things you choose, make sure your list has some variety to it! It should not be 3 things you do every morning after you wake up but rather an assortment of fun facts about yourself. 

    Additionally, you can play around with the formatting of this essay! Since it is asking you to list the top three things your roommates might like to know about you, you can make a bulleted list. Or, you can even format it as a text or letter to your future roommate. Whatever format you choose, just be creative and authentic! 

    Questions to consider

    • What are some unique fun facts about yourself? 
    • How are you as a roommate? 
    • What activities would you like to do with your roommate? 

    Next steps after applying to Harvard University

    Congratulations! It is time to submit your perfect application to Harvard. Take a breather and acknowledge all the hard work you just completed! Continue to show interest in Harvard so they know you are committed and prioritizing their school. 

    This can be done by:

    Additional resources

    For students applying to colleges, there are an abundance of things to consider during the process. The most important thing is understanding what colleges to apply for to ensure you have good options to choose from. Check out our guides on how to find safety, reach, and match schools.

    In addition, check out our guide on whether to send test scores to test-optional schools. Make sure that you are putting your best “you” on the page! 

    Lastly, funding college can be a challenge. So, check out our to help fund your education! 

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