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Op-Eds

The Admissions Office Needs Your Help—Now and in the Future!

By Sarah C. Donahue, William R. Fitzsimmons, and Marlyn E. McGrath

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you received the news that you had been admitted to Harvard?  Many alumni carry this memory with them for the rest of their lives.  On March 30, 2158 students from a record applicant pool of nearly 35,000 received this news.  You can help them think through this pivotal decision in their lives.

We hope you will join many of your classmates in working with us and the faculty to congratulate our admitted students on all they have accomplished and welcome them into our community.  Time and again over the years, we have heard from students that coming in April to Visitas (the weekend devoted to admitted students), or conversing with undergraduates and faculty over the telephone, or via email, blogs or message boards was a critical factor in their decision to choose Harvard.

It is all too easy in busy lives filled with midterms, meetings, athletic practices, senior theses, and other obligations to neglect to take time to reflect.  No matter where you are in your Harvard career—from those of you celebrating your new House assignment and looking forward to leaving Harvard Yard next year to those of you who will return to Harvard Yard in commencement regalia in the coming weeks—we hope you’ll stop to remember where you were when you received that letter and think about how you’ve changed since then.  Think about the risks you’ve taken, the professors who have inspired you, the lessons you’ve learned through all of the failures and victories, and above all the relationships you’ve built and friendships that you will carry with you well beyond your undergraduate years. And if, when you take the time to reflect, you feel a sense of gratitude to this community, we hope you might consider giving back, in honor Harvard’s investment in you.

There are many ways for current students to contribute now and in the future: Our admissions process relies heavily on the volunteer efforts of students and alumni who devote their time and energy to Harvard.  This coming month we need your help with several projects. You can assist the Undergraduate Admissions Council, the Undergraduate Minority Recruiting Program, and the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative in reaching out to students during April and throughout the year.  You can help extracurricular organizations plan their events, open houses, and performances for Visitas. These activities showcase the amazing talent, diversity, and vitality of our students.  They capture the inclusive spirit of Harvard and reassure the newly admitted class that everyone has a place here.  Lastly, you can help this month by offering a friendly and welcoming face to newly admitted students whenever and wherever you encounter them.

During the rest of the year, you can join the many classmates who work with the UAC, UMRP, and HFAI hosting visiting students and contacting prospective students to interest them in applying to Harvard—especially those who might not normally consider Harvard a possibility.  You can take part in our Return to High School Program.  This is especially important over the next few months as we prepare to return to Early Action next year and encourage students from all backgrounds to apply early.  We hope more of you will be able to visit high schools when you return home this spring, before you return to Harvard in August, or on breaks throughout the year. You can also join our corps of student greeters and tour guides, who speak during our Cambridge information sessions and tours for the many students and parents who visit Harvard.

For those of you graduating this spring, we hope you will consider becoming an alumni interviewer for our applicants.  We are grateful to the 12,000 alumni who volunteer their time as interviewers throughout the world, and we hope many of you will join their ranks wherever you go.  As the numbers of applicants continue to grow, the need for enthusiastic interviewers is greater than ever.

These are merely a few of the ways that you can contribute to the admissions process.  We are enormously grateful to all the students and alumni who already participate.  Join us in shaping the future Harvard!

William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 is Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. Sarah C. Donahue is a Director of Financial Aid. Marlyn E. McGrath ’70-73 is a Director of Admissions.

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