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How to Respond to the Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts
Chances are you have heard of Harvard University, a private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard is an Ivy League institution which means the acceptance rate is around 5%. To be admitted to Harvard, applicants will need to complete one long Harvard supplemental essay question (no word count) and two 150 word supplemental Harvard essay questions.
Here’s our guide for how to ace the Harvard supplemental essay questions!
Before answering the essay questions
Before answering the Harvard supplemental essays, figure out whether Harvard is the right fit for you. Spend some time researching. This will help you breeze through their application due to your extensive knowledge of Harvard and all the programs and opportunities offered. Once you’ve decided that Harvard is the school for you, it’s time to dig into Harvard’s supplemental essay questions.!
All Harvard University applicants have to respond to two 150 word supplemental Harvard essay questions. In addition, they will have the opportunity to complete an optional essay. This essay is able to be written about a topic of your choice or to answer a provided list of prompts.
The first two Harvard supplemental essay questions have a 150 word limit. 150 words is not a lot. Therefore, be short, sweet, and direct with your answers. Make sure that you are getting your personality on the page–do not drag on or use filler words! Just remember to be yourself in your response.
The optional essay does not have an explicit word count. Therefore, write until your point is made! You do not want to make your response too short or too long! Nobody wants to read a 10-page essay.
Essay question #1
“Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)”
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 then be sure to then mention specifics. What do you do during it? What is your role? Why did you choose to participate in this activity?
Be sure to provide context and valuable information regarding your extracurricular activities. Someone reading your response should gain a better understanding of the activities and work experience you have.
Essay question #2
“Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words)”
Harvard wants 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 as long as what you write about has special meaning to you.
Remember that it is specifically asking for applicants to list activities that you have not detailed elsewhere in your application. So make sure not to repeat! It may be helpful to write an outline of what activities you will use for what Harvard supplemental essay prompt.
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You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics: (2000 word max)
- Unusual circumstances in your life
- Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities
- What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
- An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you
- How you hope to use your college education
- A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
- The Harvard College Honor code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
- The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
- Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
- Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.
Although this essay response is optional, you should always respond to an optional essay question for a college application. If they give you the opportunity to reveal new personality traits and information about yourself you should jump on it!
There is a long list of potential prompts and freedom with this prompt. Therefore, take some time to brainstorm and figure out what you have not mentioned on your application yet. Once you choose a prompt, make sure your response makes clear which one you selected. It should be very obvious to someone who is reading your application which prompt you selected.
In your response, be sure to make your personality stand out on the page! Again, this is your chance to mention something that you haven’t included on your application thus far. Be authentic!
Next steps after applying to Harvard University
So that’s what you should know about the Harvard University supplemental essays! Now that the hard part is over, and your application is flawless and submitted – take a deep breath! Congratulations, you did it! The hard part is now over!
Continue to show demonstrated interest in Harvard so they know you are committed and prioritizing their school (even if you have a few other top choices.)
You can do this by:
- following their social media accounts
- reaching out to admissions officers
- scheduling an in-person or virtual tour
- reading up on what you want to get involved in on campus
Essentially, showing interest and staying connected will allow you to get that extra foot in the door and make your name known. Exploring your interest in Harvard will also help solidify if it is the best university for you. We hope this guide has helped you through every step of the Harvard supplemental essays!
As a student working on college applications, you’ve got a lot on your plate. There are many decisions to make along every step of the way – fortunately, we can help you through them. Check out our guides on how many schools to apply to and how to find safety, reach, and match schools.
If you’re wondering whether to send test scores to test-optional schools, we’ve got a guide for that as well. And once you start hearing back, we can help you create a college comparison spreadsheet to make your college choice. Finally, check out our free scholarship search tool to help fund your education and keep all of your college options open. Good luck! You got this!