Admissions officers can't do it alone.
Except for the allure of the famous name, Harvard's admissions shtick is no different from other top colleges: same glossy brochures, same polished pitches.
Instead, it's the efforts of current students that make Harvard stand out for many applicants.
Admissions officials explain that while they encourage interested high schoolers to seek the college that is the best "match" for the individual, they understand that it can be difficult to distinguish between Harvard and other selective schools. To fill the gap, an assortment of student organizations works to help applicants learn about Harvard.
"People already know it's a great institution, but they're looking for details, vignettes, credible examples of success. They've read the information books, they've read the articles and a lot of the information blurs. They're really looking for people who can speak from their own experience with both their heads and their hearts," says Roger Banks, senior admissions officer.
According to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67, the assistance is essential to admissions work.
"Students have the most credibility of anybody in dealing with prospective applicants," Fitzsimmons says.
Fortunately for Fitzsimmons and his staff, hundreds of current students working for a variety of organizations participate by visiting, calling, writing or hosting the tens of thousands of applicants Harvard receives every year.
As UAC Co-chair Diarra K. Lamar '01 explains, the organization's role is to serve as a proactive resource.
"You can't get into Harvard unless you throw your hat into the ring, and that's our job: to get prospective applicants to throw in their hat," Lamar says.
For starters, the UAC runs a 'greeter' program that schedules current students to accompany admissions officers in their daily information sessions at Byerly Hall.
Lamar explains that these sessions are a great opportunity for prospective applicants and their families to "interrogate" the information they hear and read.
"One of the goals of these sessions is to dispel the myths about Harvard: that all classes are taught by TFs; that advising at Harvard is poor; that it's really competitive and only rich, snobby people come here," Lamar says. "We just want to tell applicants what it's really like now."
According to Lamar, greeters are regularly asked to share their experiences on a wide range of issues from advising to weather to workload.
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