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Secondary School Program students flocked to Science Center B on Wednesday to hear Harvard’s Senior Admissions Officer Dwight D. Miller gave a presentation on what it takes to be a successful applicant to Harvard College.
Miller said that the annual goal of the admissions committee is to “create a mosaic” of students, as Harvard attempts to build a diverse undergraduate community with students of all different geographic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Many factors contribute to the success of our applicants,” Miller said. “There is no formula to get into Harvard.”
But he did explain that there are several key areas that students should focus on in order to be seriously considered.
“Academic credentials are most important,” said Miller, who emphasized that students should take rigorous courses in high school, while also doing well on required tests.
But due to a large number of well-qualified applicants, the College also places high importance on an applicant’s extracurricular activities.
“We want students who will get a lot out of Harvard,” Miller said, explaining that Harvard has many extracurricular activities, including 41 varsity sports teams and 250 student organizations.
Miler was realistic in explaining the challenge of earning acceptance to Harvard. Every year the College receives approximately 19,000 applications—about 6,000 for early action and 13,000 for regular decision—for the 1,650 freshman beds available.
With so many applicants, Miller said students have to stress their strengths in their application, whether they be academic, athletic or in other extracurricular areas so that they stand out.
“We look for reasons to admit,” Miller said. “This is not a time to be modest.”
Miller recommended that an applicant should focus most on what they care about since that tells the admissions office most about each individual.
Miller also explained the basic requirments for the application process, such as submitting letters of recommendation and essays. These are used to “get to know” the applicant on a more personal level, while “reinforc[ing] what others are saying about you,” Miller explained.
At the end of the session, Miller was asked to give the students one piece of advice about how to approach their senior year before applying to college.
“Do something quality over quantity,” he responded, explaining that colleges look for students who get the most out of what they do, not those who become involved for the sake of being involved.
For those prospective students who attended Wednesday’s presentation, Miller encouraged them to stop by the admissions office to gather more information, and to attend one of the office’s daily information session about the College.
Many students found the presentation helpful. Angela Wade, an SSP student who is looking to apply to Harvard College in two years, said she was pleased with the speaker’s “willingness to convey information about the admissions process.”
SSP student Rob Lewis said he also found the presentation useful, saying that Miller did a good job of helping students understand the admissions process.
“The speaker was very much committed to his audience throughout the presentation,” Lewis said.
SSP student Jennifer Schaefar, who recently visited Yale on a trip organized by the Summer School, agreed with Lewis’ assesment of the quality of the presentation.
“It was better than the Yale information session,” Schaefar said.
—Jonathan M. Schleder contributed to the reporting of this article.
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