How to Write the Harvard University Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Recorded Thursday, October 8 at 11:30 PM

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About this livestream

School information

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Learn how to write an awesome essay for your Harvard application.

Elias Miller, a recent graduate of Harvard College, will provide an in-depth breakdown of each of the Harvard essay prompts, discussing how to write a great essay in response to each one. He'll also share his take on the essays and topics you shouldn't write about for each prompt.

Finally, he'll open up the floor for a Q&A session, where he'll answer any and all questions about the Harvard essays.

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.
2:48@anonymous:How long is this going to be?
4:06@anonymous:Will the recording be available?
26:15@anonymous:Will there be a Cornell one?
26:34@anonymous:Is there a different way to write for either school?
26:43@anonymous:Did you create a hook for your extracurricular supplemental or just dive right into answering the prompt? How do we make our extracurricular supplemental sound unique when many people talk about similar ecs?
28:14@anonymous:Should I submit AP score of 4 when it's in my major?
28:52@anonymous:Do SAT Subject tests matter for this year?
29:21@anonymous:How to compensate for low SAT score?
31:08@anonymous:big big question about this slide: should you use contractions to eliminate words?
31:25@anonymous:Will a REPLAY of THIS LIVE be available?
32:07@anonymous:What if you've only gotten 3's?
32:27@anonymous:is using contractions a no-no for eliminating extra words?
32:31@anonymous:Where do we submit the essays? When is the deadline to submit the essays? (for essay review)
32:57@anonymous:Is it manageable to start essays not if I haven't gotten started yet? now
33:50@Nath:If I don't have a good SAT, can I just not send it ? Will it be bad?
34:17@anonymous:Easier to apply as a transfer student or Freshman?
36:00@anonymous:How serious is to provide SAT score this year? We could not get a single SAT test in our area in California. School testing sites have been cancelled since COVID pandemic in March.
36:42@Pelu1231:Can we send you our essays?
39:45@Samad_Farhat:Will explicit examples of quintessential supplemental essays be discussed, for the means of grasping how to effectively compose a supplemental essay?
40:03@anonymous:Do admissions officers make exceptions for those who don't have the educational profile but are able to demonstrate the grit and excel in other areas?
40:58@anonymous:is it better to have more extra curricular activities?
43:41@anonymous:Is 5 extracurriculars too much?
44:01@anonymous:should I focus my common app and supplemental essays around my spike?
44:59@priyac:I took a summer course at a college and wrote that I had attended a college, but the Common App doesn't specify the course. Should I talk about that here?
52:26@anonymous:If you have an experience eg. Work experience with someone you find inspirational etc, would it be ok to talk about that here and perhaps link it to the impact on further career path?
53:42@Nath:And if Im'm international, am not able to work but took like an important role in a school activity, can I write about that?
54:11@Jescobar:Should you write an extracurricular essay on outside academics?
54:34@svm24:what if I wrote about one activity in depth? would that disadvantage me?
55:49@anonymous:can we talk about one specific event that was involved in our activity?
56:00@svm24:So if I did write about my instrument should I list that as an extracurricular in my common app?
80:56@Owenry4n:In college essays I’ve typically been told to not repeat myself between essays. I’m now questioning what exactly this means as it appears (athough I may be wrong) that your essays have a common focus on music. Is it a bad idea to write multiple responses about facets of a topic I’m passionate about or should I still just limit one activity to one response?
80:58@priyac:I would consider myself an intellectual, but I love the bachelor. I'm worried that saying this might send the wrong message, but I watch it all the time. Should I include it?
81:01@anonymous:For the Unusual Circumstances prompt should we focus on our story or should we also mention how the school will be the best for us as well?
82:15@svm24:I am writing my optional essay on a research experience but how do I avoid it sounding too impersonal and intellectual?
85:28@Pelu1231:How would you define “intellectual” in regards to how it should be interpreted when writing
86:54@anonymous:elias how is your day going today :)
87:00@anonymous:For the intellectual experience prompt, I'm thinking of writing about a book. Do you think it's a disadvantage if the the Admissions officer does not know the book? And is quoting from the book ok?
99:32@anonymous:You said to limit to 650 words max, but an especially academic student can read up to 100 books a year which, including a commentary, is A LOT more words. Any advice?
100:04@anonymous:I considered making the topic of my essay "no reason" to set myself a part and to explain that I believe life has too many beautiful reasons to choose just one. Does this seem like a loss of focus?
100:58@Owenf:It's a part of the Harvard Supplementary application but it's separate from prompt one
101:08@Owenf:how important is the optional "supplementary materials" section? Is it something I should avoid if I don't have a super strong example of individual research or a recording of a performance?
102:56@anonymous:so you're saying don't write a 650 word essay about why spindrift sparking water is superior to la croix in every way?
103:20@anonymous:For unusual circumstances in your life prompt can I talk about my struggle with a heart condition throughout my sports career and school
103:34@anonymous:If I wrote one of my essays about lock picking would that be ok or would that be too risky
104:07@anonymous:I want to write about being an ESL student (English is my second language) and creating my own program teaching English but not sure which prompt this would fall under.
105:45@svm24:If art is something I do as an extracurricular but not something I want to major in, does it disadvantage me to send my art pieces as supplementary materials in the common app?
106:25@svm24:Is there anyway to share my Harvard supplements to a non-peer review service and to a college student or college essay tutor on collegevine?
106:59@anonymous:I wrote my prompt 3 about getting a 1140 on the SAT? Should I keep it?
108:50@anonymous:For Prompt 5, is "college education" referring to classes or can you focus on research opportunities at Harvard?
109:17@anonymous:What is residential life like at Harvard?
111:51@anonymous:will there be a penn review session
111:55@anonymous:is it taboo to talk about love/passion for something?
112:13@anonymous:Should I write about learning italian by myself? I don't have anything impressive with it but it is something that I've developed a love for
112:31@anonymous:Would it be better to write about something that is more impressive or something you have more passion about?
112:46@anonymous:Does Harvard have music practice rooms in all of the residential houses?
115:18@anonymous:Can I still get into an Ivy League with a 4.3 GPA even though I scored a 28 on my ACT
116:45@anonymous:What would Harvard think if I elaborated on my main EC in the additional info section? I also put two opportunities I lost due to COVID in the additional info section, is that fine?
118:34@anonymous:Does Harvard have any Bocce ball courts?
118:38@Nath:For the first prompt, what if I only have one intellectual experience that is significant? But I want to talk about it... can I do a short list and do a deeper comment on it?
118:43@anonymous:What's one of the best college essays you've ever read? Can you just take us through what it was about and how it was structured?


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