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Disbelief and Ecstasy Greet Admitted Students

By William S. Flanagan and Michael E. Xie, Crimson Staff Writers

Catherine Wang, a senior at Lexington High School in Lexington, Mass., wasn’t expecting much to happen on March 30. Though she had applied to Harvard, she wasn’t too sure of her chances—after all, she had only begun writing her application essay, on “naked mole rats,” two hours before it was due.

As her Science Bowl practice wound down, Wang sat cross-legged on a table and decided to check her online Harvard applicant portal. As the website loaded a letter inviting her to join the Class of 2021, she registered what had happened and “forgot that keeping balance was a thing,” she recounted.

“I just kind of fell over,” Wang said. “It’s just really embarrassing because I just fell over.”

Wang is one of the lucky 2,056 high school students admitted on to the Class of 2021, representing 5.2 percent of the total applicant pool. Joining 938 students notified of their acceptances last December in the early admissions cycle, Wang and 1,117 others received the good news at 5 p.m. on Thursday.

The “thick packets” from 86 Brattle Street will arrive at the students’ homes in the coming days, filled with Visitas invitations and laptop stickers. But as of Thursday, the long wait for the decision was already over.

Over 200 miles away from Lexington, Tina Lu—a senior at Whippany Park High School in N. J.—was in the car with her father, eagerly waiting to hear from Harvard. As Lu read the message off of her cell phone, she shouted and shoved the phone into her father’s face.

“He started laughing and hugging me, and it was a great moment,” Lu said. “It was amazing.”

Though Wang and Lu’s acceptance stories occurred only minutes apart, some stories of elation took place months ago.

On Dec. 14, with early admissions decisions scheduled to come out that day, Jocelyn Tolpin—a senior at Newark Academy in N. J.—took off early from school, bought herself some sushi, and watched a vampire film in bed. She turned her phone off—“I didn’t want to be stressed out and counting down the seconds,” she said.

As the movie ended and the clock struck 5:02 p.m., Tolpin rushed to open the portal—and promptly “blacked out.”

“Next thing I remember, I was on the floor outside my room and I’m absolutely crying and screaming at the top of my lungs,” Tolpin said. “It was an amazing experience and it's still kind of very surreal.“

The accepted high school students have been invited to attend Visitas from April 22-24, and will be given until May 1 to decide where they plan to matriculate. Some students are currently weighing several offers of admission from peer institutions. Wang, who was also accepted early action to Stanford, will be faced with the decision of deciding between the East and West Coasts.

“I am excited for California,” Wang said, “but I definitely am seriously considering Harvard.”

—Staff writer William S. Flanagan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @willflan21.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.

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