In for the win: how to get into Harvard

Recorded Monday, November 22 at 09:30 PM

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About this livestream

School information

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Harvard is America’s oldest university, a top-tier institution with worldwide academic acclaim. At some point, you’ve probably wondered what if you have what it takes to get into this elite East Coast school.

Join Elias, a Harvard graduate, as he covers topics like the school's campus culture, academic requirements, extracurricular opportunities, housing options, and much more. He will also share admissions information and tips that will help you maximize your chances of an acceptance.

School information

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA
Your host

Undergrad College: Harvard University '17

Major: Music

Graduate College: University of Michigan, M.M.

Work Experience: Now in my fourth year at CollegeVine, I have helped dozens of students gain acceptance to their top-choice schools and have also advised and mentored thousands more through my livestreams. Apart from my work at CV, I am also a professional conductor and a multi-instrumentalist. I currently serve as the music director of the Apollo Ensemble of Boston, and I have led symphonic concerts and operatic productions throughout the United States.

My Admissions Story: Initially interested in pursuing a career as a performing cellist, I applied almost exclusively to music schools with dual and double degree options and ultimately enrolled in the Tufts University/New England Conservatory Dual Degree Program. Unhappy with the combined program and worried I'd never feel like I was fully a student at either school, I logged back into in October of my freshman year. I can't say I went about the transfer process in the smartest way (I only applied to two schools!), but Harvard miraculously accepted me (or 'excepted me' as I wrote in a celebratory Facebook post that day - no one ever let me live that one down), and the rest was history.

Audience questions

These are questions from the audience that we had time to answer during the live session. If you have any other questions, you can request an answer from Elias and other CollegeVine experts in an upcoming livestream or on the Q&A Forum anytime.
0:00@ngraf:Cool 😎
0:06@therafigh:will this stream be for all.(us and international)
0:08@Anthoine:Apart from academics & extracurriculars; What are some traits/patterns Harvard looks for in a student?
0:10@fahmad:how long will the livestream be?
0:39@ImHarry:Hi everyone, I'm a senior from Bosnia in Herzegovina applying to US colleges this year. I was wondering if you would point out something international students should be mindful of regarding the application process or writing the essays?
1:04@summerorbanwrites:Hi Elias!
1:14@Immy:Hey Am Immaculate
1:17@Joanne:Elias's story of transferring into Harvard is powerful. Another strategy: consider Harvard as your grad school goal (my story).
1:42@ac360:What should you do if you get deferred from Harvard in early action?
1:53@Seba:Hi! I'm from Chile
2:35@ShravaniDhawane:What does a competitive profile looks like for a Harvard Applicant?
3:08@ngraf:Does Harvard REA actually help your app if you aren't hooked?
3:22@jju1ce:hi! Im Jun from Sri Lanka
3:27@ShravaniDhawane:Perfect! Thank you
3:36@ArthurR786:Hi, I was wondering what tips you would give for students in High school to increase their chances into Harvard and other top schools.
3:38@berat:hi, i am from turkey!
3:54@gigu:Does Harvard prioritize applications coming from people of wealthier families?
4:52@Aashi:Hi!!I'm from India
4:54@ac360:@PriyaDesai thanks for the deferral page link! Does college vine have any resources on how to write a letter of continued interest?
5:24@jju1ce:my grades are pretty average, can i still get into harvard with good ecs and essays. im from sri lanka
5:51@Immy:Will there be a recording to this session?
6:27@HunterG:considering both, hoping I get to choose between them lol
6:31@soli:What if, because of covid, you were not able to do much ECs during your year?
8:00@berat:not taking sat, how this situation affect application
8:14@Param:Do you have a guide, pdf, or notes that go along with this presentation by any chance?
8:59@ngraf:So true LMAO
9:06@Janet:Hi I'm Jane a homeschool student are my chances of getting in lower than others?
10:11@wonwon52:Is it better to have a "spike" or a focus in your application or is it better to be more well-rounded?
10:19@Anthoine:Is there a big frat-culture at Harvard?
11:12@Anthoine:If I'm an overseas student; Should I add on my resume/essay, my results & progress regarding the local SAT/ACT- like tests from my country?
11:40@fahmad:Google says that Harvard students typically take around 8 APs, but due to the way my high school is, I don't think it's possible for me to take that many APs. That wouldn't give me a disadvantage in any way? (I attend a specialized hs in NYC)
13:00@ngraf:How are there even 149 NCAA Div 1 sports LOL
13:26@ngraf:REA gang for life 😎
13:58@Samuil:I there still a possibility to get an interview in the applicant applied REA and is from a country with limited interviews in Eastern Europe?
14:26@ngraf:ahhh makes sense
14:31@berat:Is it hard to study at harvard that not giving scholarship
17:03@jju1ce:thank you for doing this, as an international student it is greatly appreciated!
17:21@Janet:What is the Kenedy School?
17:22@soli:Does graduating early(like 14 or 15) look good?
17:32@HallowsYves:If I have straight A's and 17 Extracurricular activities would I have a good shot of being accepted into yale?
17:37@michelle.lopez:How would you pursue a finance major as an undergrad in Harvard?
18:42@khushi_n:What matters more for Harvard? GPA or SAT scores?
18:51@ArthurR786:Does Harvard offer a Medical School?
19:17@ngraf:@hallowsyves You can't even list more than 10 ECs on the common app lol
19:21@soli:What are the average ECs to get into Harvard? Do you have to be a national award winner, valedictorian, cure cancer?
19:43@berat:G Google said if you want to apply for financial aid, you will have a very difficult time getting admission from havard. Is it true?
20:09@ngraf:@berat No they're need blind
20:30@fahmad:My school has a major system for upperclassman (juniors and seniors only), so what would Harvard look for when looking at applications from my school and how would the system impact my application?
21:38@ShravaniDhawane:@Aashi Hello fellow Indian!
21:45@khushi_n:can u say something in mandarin for us?
21:57@soli:There is a month before the application deadlines. Is there anything to do before the deadlines to boost an application?
21:59@gigu:Does Harvard have a competitive culture? If so, did it ever feel suffocating at times?
22:09@HunterG:I watched that :)
22:12@soli:Does graduating early (14 or 15) affect my chances?
22:17@Samuil:Thanks for the quick and insightful answer @Priya!
22:21@jju1ce:does harvard have research on artificial intelligence
23:08@regiiiii_____:What if I could not do much ECS because of disease during my junior and senior years? Do you recommend explaining this on the section of Additional Information on the common app or what I could do?
23:44@HunterG:I think some people also took gap year to try to avoid pandemic learning
23:54@HunterG:took the words out of my mouth
23:58@khushi_n:In Chinese, say "Harvard is an amazing college, and I recommend you all apply!"
24:04@amandar:Would you say that the impacts of COVID-19 have made Harvard's application standards higher, lower, or about the same?
25:10@christina.:Which is more important to getting in Harvard, PSAT or SAT?
25:48@Samuil:What are the undergrad opportunities like?
26:37@jju1ce:can a strong ACT cover up a low gpa?
26:53@khushi_n:Does Harvard give full rides to non-athletes?
27:35@ngraf:Just run the net price calculator
28:17@sanjanakota8:is a 5.1 weighted gpa good?
29:28@jayne:What is a good GPA for colleges
29:36@ImHarry:I got a score of 1510 on the SAT, should I go test-optional if the rest of my application is good?
29:39@jayne:Will colleges look at gym grades
29:41@Param:How accurate is the chance calculator?
30:18@ava89:Does Harvard offer full rides to international applicants?
30:48@khushi_n:So I tried the chancing software, and I got 11%. What exactly does that mean for me?
31:43@soli:Does applying at 14 or 15 years old boost or lower my chances at acceptance?
32:32@soli:Is a 24% chance a decent shot at acceptance?
33:53@ShravaniDhawane:The chancing engine shows a need for improvement in my coursework, however my school does not have any AP, IB, or Honours classes. How should I proceed? That being my said, rest everything is top notch and I have a 4.0 unweighted GPA.
34:33@HunterG:Is it perceived as a negative if I score decently within the math score, but a little below the english?
35:02@Param:How do you suggest you can get in if you have a single c+ in an ap subject you were not interested, was very difficult, and required to take in your school? How likely is it to get in and how can you explain that in your application...assuming the rest of your grades are really good
35:55@ngraf:@khushi yes
36:00@berat:if we don't take sat or act, (because it is optinal now) do we take high our intent and refernce letter)
36:30@berat:is it a big risk that not take sat or act as a international student
37:06@khushi_n:Will they immediately reject your application if you have below a 3.8?
38:15@soli:What if I could only take 3 APs because of my age and the coronavirus. I could only take one AP as a freshman and I only took 2 as a sophmore.
38:17@sam.msy:so, i've seen a lot of info about unweighted gpas and weighted gpas but it still confuses me... i have a 4.26 weighted, and that is like the highest gpa you can get with my school's classes. but that translates to a 3.4 unweighted... that seems really low?
38:17@ac360:I think the bottom of the slides are cut off
38:22@jju1ce:can a strong ACT and really good rec letters cover up a low gpa??
38:35@ShravaniDhawane:That’s will be good. In which part of the application do I explain this? Will taking online certification or credit courses from a university that requires application count?
38:38@junsid0224:What extracurriculars were you involved in that you believed helped you get accepted?
38:43@jayne:Will it affect my chances if i didnt do good last year during covid because of online learning
38:53@junsid0224:Would skipping precalc be worth it?
38:54@soli:Is applying at 14/15 with a 1500 SAT Score, a 4.06 Gpa as a minority(African American and female) give me a decent chance? Also a Poli Sci major but an application with a basis of art.
38:58@jju1ce:can a strong ACT and really good rec letters cover up a low gpa??
39:06@TinaZhang:if I apply for economic in Harvard, but I don't have any activities about economic, will I have a lower chance to get in
39:10@wonwon52:Could "helping people" be considered a spike? I volunteer a lot and want to major in a medicine-related field but I'm worried that not all of my ECs are necessarily medicine-oriented.
39:22@ngraf:What is this cutoff and how do we know where we lie?
39:25@jju1ce:my grades are pretty bad, because i was kinda lazy haha. but my teacher reccomendations are very good, saying that i can handle the harvard rigor and im one of the smartest people they have taught. will they pass me
39:30@soli:Is a 1500 sat good enough? Do they account for minority?
39:36@Janet:Do high test scores cover up low GPA's?
39:38@soli:What is the most important part of a Harvard Application?
39:42@Anthoine:Regarding International students, does Harvard have preferences regarding regions of origin?
39:44@junsid0224:All good now
39:46@junsid0224:It’s find
39:50@ac360:Yes thanks
39:58@regiiiii_____:How does Admission officers will feel about quirky topics on essays?
40:14@sanjanakota8:so is a spike better or being well rounded?
41:03@junsid0224:Will it hurt more than help my chances if I have leadership positions in clubs that I have no interest in?
41:08@soli:Is an essay about racism on-brand with a poli sci major?
41:45@therafigh:is it okay if i have 3.6 gpa and it is highest in my class because our grading system is harder.
42:11@soli:oh, sorry.
42:13@soli:like a an essay about hair that transitions to racism.
42:43@sam.msy:@therafigh i'm in the same boat, i have a 3.4 unweighted but that is the highest one can get at my school
42:47@ac360:Is this discard pile the same people who get rejected from Harvard in early action? as opposed to accepted or deferred
47:41@wonwon52:Is STEAM too broad to be a spike?
48:02@soli:Is a spike in art consistent with a Political Science major(the make change major)?
48:20@Anthoine:Do all of the aspects You've just mentioned Inspire Interest from Harvard at the same weight?
48:40@summerorbanwrites:Saw that video!
48:44@ImHarry:Would a medal in an international science olympiad be a good spike
49:09@Anonymous8:What might be some leadership positions?
49:51@soli:What if you are getting your spike(applying for Scholastic Awards and other county competitions) now because of covid?
49:53@jju1ce:i have alot of professional experience in the computer science aspect, will this benefit me? i think not alot of teens get this much of professional experience
50:00@ngraf:If I have a 3.75 due to struggling in math over virtual learning, am I screwed for Harvard? For context, the rest of my app is very very strong, recs, ECs, essays, test scores, top competitive school. But am I just tossed because I don't pass AI?
50:24@junsid0224:(Because of COVID) Supposing I’m on the middle of sophomore year, have not taken any AP courses yet, have not been involved in any extracurriculars because of COVID at all so far, is there enough time for me to improve myself in the fields we have talked about?
50:26@HunterG:Do you think that playing video games professionally would be considered a positive or negative as it is very niche, but it has a negative stigma associated with it
50:29@dev8:Probably a silly question- is 6 tier 1, 3 tier 2, and 1 tier 3 activities sufficient for Harvard or any peer institution?
50:31@jju1ce:i have alot of professional experience in the computer science aspect, will this benefit me? i think not alot of teens get this much of professional experience
51:09@Adedoyin22:How would it look good or bad? No one in my (tiny) school has ever gotten in. One person in past applied and was rejected.
51:19@Gosho:Is an internship for 2 years in my desired major a good EC spike?
51:23@wonwon52:If you move up in a club would that be beneficial to an application? For example, I have been a member of my school's science club since 9th grade but I am now the president in 12th grade.
51:27@soli:I linked racism/making a change in society throughout my essays. Is that good?
52:17@epsi:Is the school’s zip code or your personal zip code counted?
52:46@jju1ce:i have alot of professional experience in the computer science aspect, will this benefit me? i think not alot of teens get this much of professional experience
53:22@soli:Does gender play a role in admissions?
54:22@jju1ce:do you think extremly unique and good ecs can cover up average gpa?
54:31@junsid0224:Will parents that are both doctors hurt?
55:12@regiiiii_____:Does having a physical disability play a role in admissions?
55:39@TinaZhang:in my school, if a boy has similar activities and test score as me, (a girl), who has a greater chance?
55:43@wonwon52:No one from my high school has been accepted to an Ivy League school in the past 20 years. Does this already put me at a disadvantage then?
55:55@khushi_n:Does Harvard frown upon writing essays about medical issues?
56:04@soli:What if you participated in competitions but did not win? Is that bad.
56:29@jayne:I didn't get the best grades last year during covid will that affect my chances
57:00@junsid0224:@PriyaDesai, sorry I’m on mobile so the layout is weird. What would cause me to not be able to clear the Academic index?
57:49@Anthoine:If I had a tutor for several years, can I ask THEM for a rec. letter? Will it be taken the same as one from my school professors?
57:59@jju1ce:would you say writing about sensitive topics puts me at a disadvantage? thinks like helping kids iwth porn addiction
58:27@Joseph_Ponce:I’m in the YSP program that grants me a scholarship at OSU! Will Harvard like to see that?
58:30@fahmad:What if I don't know what major I want to apply to?
58:58@wonwon52:I have 500+ followers on my art Instagram account. It has nothing to do with my intended major/area of study/"spike", but it is something that I really enjoy and contribute a lot of time to. Should I include this in my application?
59:12@soli:Is a 1400 a bad score for Harvard?
59:42@Param:what are some exceptional extracurriculars you suggest for science/biology? do you know any suggestions other than research
61:07@ac360:Why does Harvard have such few supplemental essays, and why do they focus on more academic/extracurricular achievements than personal reflections?
62:50@ac360:Thanks, Priya. But is there a reason why they focus so much on achievements? Many other schools have more personal prompts
63:20@Adedoyin22:If our grades slightly dip senior year could we be rescinded?
63:51@soli:sorry, 100+ books in a year during covid.
63:57@Isaaacsaadi:If you have a project in your activities list but want to go further in-depth can you write this essay?
64:12@regiiiii_____:Do You think is a good idea if I write in the essay of intellectual life about creating a fictional political campaign that came popular along my community?
69:19@ac360:Shosty 10 >>>
69:41@Samuil:Expressionist Gang
69:51@Anthoine:In case I'm from overseas and I ask my professors for a rec. letter, is there going to be any problem if I translate it?
70:55@Anthoine:Can bodybuilding during my Junior and Senior year of HS. count as an EC activity?
71:39@michelle.lopez:Is it good to write in your essay about considering to start a non-profit in the future (during college or after)?
72:01@soli:When is your next random essay review?
73:03@ArthurR786:Is a gpa improvement from freshman year to senior year a good sign for Harvard and other top schools?
73:15@Joseph_Ponce:I’m in the YSP program that grants me a scholarship at OSU! Will Harvard like to see that? Is it to late for me to apply for Harvard as a junior in high school?
73:46@regiiiii_____:Will You have more essay reviews after the one that is on Thursday?
74:15@ngraf:@joseph Bro you apply to colleges as a senior LOL
74:24@Param:is it advantageous if you've done generally well in a difficult magnet stem prep public school?
74:35@Qwerty4567:Does a B is one class have an affect on your chances, even if it is an honors class.
75:15@Param:a c?
76:00@summerorbanwrites:Yeah you're good!
78:56@Qwerty4567:Do you have any study tips for tests, sometimes when I feel prepared, some questions end up being confusing.
80:34@Anthoine:Do REA's have priority to get an online Interview?
81:45@Param:where can we sign up for a free personal consultation/advice meeting if possible?
82:33@ac360:I applied REA but have another letter of rec I would like to submit. Can I have my recommender email that directly to the application portal staff?
83:20@berat:my some teacher dont want to write rec. letter how can i do
83:29@HunterG:In terms of extracurriculars, would professional gaming be considered a negative due to the stigma or would it be a good including due to the "spike" that it offers?
83:49@ImHarry:Priya the MVP
84:09@summerorbanwrites:Go Priya!
84:13@ac360:I already applied REA but have another letter of rec I would like to submit. Can I have my recommender email that directly to the applicant portal staff?
84:29@Anthoine:TYSM Priya!
84:31@summerorbanwrites:What was your favorite Harvard tradition?
84:53@fahmad:Is there a livestream on how to get into Columbia?
85:46@Param:how can you minimize the effect of a bad grade? what can you do to maximize your chances?
86:46@summerorbanwrites:If you're currently a senior and have a lot of tier 2 activities, what can you do or is it too late to bump those up to tier 1?
87:01@ArthurR786:Is there a livestream on how to get into Brown?
87:07@bliu:what would you say is the personality of harvard, compared to other schools in the ivy league?
87:46@regiiiii_____:How is the food at Harvard?
87:58@liyamadd:i moved the summer before my senior year from a small town to a bigger city. would harvard take both environments into account or just the city i currently live in?
88:01@Param:if you go to a feeder school and you've done well, do you know you're getting in?
88:36@summerorbanwrites:Oh wait I remember you talked about that in one of your Harvard Campus guide videos!
88:46@fahmad:I’m currently in the bio science major in my school. For juniors, the required class in the major (in addition to other classes) is ap bio, which I am currently taking. For senior year (next year), the required classes are human anatomy, genetics, and ap psychology. If I apply to o the bio science major, what are the chances that the classes would be similar or it would help me in some way by taking the classes early on? Would it look better in some way?
90:13@regiiiii_____:What if my junior grades are a lot of B and C because of a disease, but now that it is in control, all my grades are A on my senior year?
90:18@Param:how could you minimize the effect of a c or b?
90:19@epsi:What’s Greek life
90:30@liyamadd:i moved the summer before my senior year from a small town to a bigger city. would harvard take both environments into account or just the city i currently live in?
90:30@berat:what if last year i applied but university dii'nt accept me ,now i am again apliying. is it risk?
90:57@fahmad:I’m currently in the bio science major in my school. For juniors, the required class in the major (in addition to other classes) is ap bio, which I am currently taking. For senior year (next year), the required classes are human anatomy, genetics, and ap psychology. If I apply to o the bio science major, what are the chances that the classes would be similar or it would help me in some way by taking the classes early on? Would it look better in some way?
91:06@michelle.lopez:Is it good to include in your essay about considering to start a non-profit in the future?
91:56@soli:Are the essays more important than the ECs?
91:59@regiiiii_____:It will boost my chances if I write the ECs essay about participating in a debate that was organized by Harvard students and on behalf of some faculty professors?
92:08@IsabelZ:Should I not submit SAT of 1500, compared to my ACT score of 35 (rounded up from 34.5). I looked up on collegevine, the recommendation is to use SAT, by a slight edge. I also heard that top colleges prefer SAT over ACT - they somehow they SAT is more to test intelligence, while ACT is more on knowledge. TIA!
92:11@soli:Is graduating really early(14/15) an unusual circumstance?
92:13@24alsta01:would it be a good idea to write about meaningful personal experiences in your extracurriculars that shaped you?
94:30@berat:I didn't sat and ths year i will apply for i have to hold strong rec. letter and intent letter
95:04@HunterG:why not submit both @isabelZ?
95:22@regiiiii_____:When I signed up for the essay review it appears that is On Thursday 25
95:59@wonwon52:Would it look bad if you don't include one of the optional essays?
96:05@epsi:Are any achievements in middle school counted
96:10@summerorbanwrites:What was your favorite academic year at Harvard and why?
96:14@Qwerty4567:If you get a B in one class, but it is honors, does that hurt your chances of getting accepted.
96:19@Param:@Priya thank you for the link!
97:31@ngraf:Similar question as Param, how do they take into context meh grades but at a competitive rigorous magnet stem school?
97:33@ngraf:Meh as in mid 3.7
97:37@Anthoine:Can I add a Depressive episode to compliment on GPA Increase from Freshman to Senior year?
97:40@Isaaacsaadi:My parent has a professional degree from a theological seminary in a foreign country but comes from a ($40-50k) background. I also have a scholarship at an expensive private school. How will I be perceived?
97:43@HunterG:In terms of extracurriculars, would professional gaming be considered a negative due to the stigma or would it be a good including due to the "spike" that it offers?
97:51@soli:Will Harvard look if your spike in your application also has to do with the classes you are taking? Like, taking Chorus and Drama, doing artsy ECs and having a spike in art?
97:59@Param:if you have one c+ but 3.86 gpa is that fine?
98:02@Adedoyin22:I sent both my ACT scores (33 and 32) because my superscore was 34. Is this good or should I still send my SATs (1490 and 1480 - 1500 superscore)?
98:05@regiiiii_____:It is a good idea to submit a letter rec from another person as an other recommender? for ex. a nurse that knows me from the last 2 years and can talk about me aside my academic life
98:09@therafigh:does applying undecided or to some major makes admission chance lower.
98:12@24alsta01:Would being adopted be a good topic?
98:33@vrnallapati:@vrnallapati :Harvard is need blind? does low financial profile will be disadvantageous for admission
99:24@ImHarry:How to deal with the waiting period for the admission decisions?
102:40@HunterG:to what tier does an activity have to be done to be considered a spike. I have a few activities that have been done on a national level, but not to a high tier on the national level.
103:01@JosephPonce:I have a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a 4.6 weighted GPA. I still feel that Harvard won't consider my application at all. What do you recommend for me to do to avoid these negative thoughts.
104:13@vrnallapati:foreign parent with low income professional and student went to private school with scholarship how it affects admission
104:14@Qwerty4567:How do u know weighted and unweighted
105:41@HunterG:less CPU usage = less cpu errors = less lag
106:12@JosephPonce:Ms. Priya can I get the link that will evaluate my chances in getting into Harvard?
106:27@summerorbanwrites:Bye Elias!
106:30@berat:Is it a risk that send my sat and toefl scores after regular decision(approxsimetarly sendind begging marc)
107:51@HunterG:thank you everyone!
107:53@Qwerty4567:What site do u use to check gpa
108:22@berat: thank you so much for answering question and for the conversaion good night from turkey:)
108:35@JosephPonce:Thank you


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