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What to prepare in order to go to Harvard

bsherewegobsherewego Posts: 8 Harvard Champion
edited May 2013 in Harvard University
Hello everyone. My daughter will be entering one of the Ten Schools Admissions Organization this year as 9th grade boarding student. It is my daughter's dream to attend Harvard or MIT after graduating from high school and I wanted to get inputs from all you parents who worked so hard to have your children to get accepted at Harvard. It would be great if you can provide your insight to what your children did to get into Harvard. My daughter is thinking about either majoring in business (with ultimate goal of working as private equity manager) or in engineering/med school. Thank you all!
Post edited by bsherewego on

Replies to: What to prepare in order to go to Harvard

  • gibbygibby Posts: 27
    edited May 2013
    First off, Harvard does not offer an undergraduate business degree. Secondly, it's the kids who work hard to get into Harvard, NOT the parents. Lastly, please read this thread in its entirety, as it will answer most of your questions: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/harvard-university/1420290-chance-threads-please-read-before-posting-one.html
  • T26E4T26E4 Posts: 88
    edited May 2013
    My honest advice to you would be to sway her from being name-obsessed. Admittance to H or M is a combination of hard work and achievement and serendipity.

    She can control the first 2 and has no control over the 3rd (unless you, as a parent can slip in a $50Milliion donation check in a few years! LOL).

    As a thoughtful parent, encourage her to explore herself, challenge herself and to positively influence those around her. These traits will serve her well regardless of what college eventually confers a diploma to her.

    Here's my observation after attending an Ivy and recruiting for it for 23 years: most of what gets a person in is who that person is and not what they do. And the 4000 or so people who got admitted to H and M this year? There were another identical 10000 that were virtually indistinguishable from those lucky 4000. But those 10000 were rejected. What does that tell you?
  • SikorskySikorsky Posts: 137
    edited May 2013
    There is nothing, really, that a student can do, let alone her parent, to get into Harvard or MIT. As T26E4 just said (we cross-posted), the numbers are simply stacked against even the most accomplished applicants. These universities are not just being nice when they say in their rejection letters that they had many, many more well qualified applicants than they could accommodate.

    So the single most important thing for both your daughter and her parents is to broaden her thinking. There dozens of great universities in this country that could serve her as well as MIT or Harvard (especially since, as gibby said, neither of them has an undergraduate program in business). If I had the power to eradicate certain phrases and ideas from College Confidential, right after I eliminated "prestige" and "chance me," I would get rid of both the phrase and the very idea of a "dream school." (And then my next target would be "upward trend," followed by "community service hours.")

    All that your daughter, or any talented student, can do is to keep herself competitive for admission to Harvard, MIT and their peers. As for how to do that, I still believe in advice I gave in this post: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/15654379-post30.html. In fact, you might find it useful to read that whole thread, which can be found in its entirety here: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/1476082-asian-male-legacy-harvard-advice-parent.html.
  • bsherewegobsherewego Posts: 8 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    Thank you everyone for your feedback. Perhaps my statement was not clear enough. My question was what your children did to be a competitive applicants to Harvard or MIT (and not their parents). I, myself, usually do not interfere with my daughter to influence her decision but I thought that give a good guidance is always good thing to do as a parents.

    For example, what kind of advance placement classes should she take? What kind of SAT II test should she take? What kind of EC activities standout at Harvard and MIT? Should she apply for early decision or as a common application?

    We just wanted to find out what your children did to be accepted at these schools so we have a good reference point to help provide parental advice to my daughter if she asks

    Thank you
  • JHSJHS Posts: 36
    edited May 2013
    There are all sorts of facetious, but accurate, answers people can give to your question. The following would pretty much guarantee your daughter's admission to Harvard (if not MIT): You are a movie star, an elected politician in high office (Governor, US Senate, President), or a billionaire. She is a world-renowned professional artist of some sort, or an Olympic-level athlete in a team sport in which Harvard maintains a varsity team, and has a GPA of not much less than 4.0 (unweighted) in a challenging curriculum and SATs over 2250. If, on top of that, she's a nice person and is a principal author of a paper in Nature, she will probably get into MIT as well (and they won't care as much about what you do).

    If that isn't going to happen, there's only one approach to take: She should do what makes her the best, smartest, most effective, most engaged, happiest person she can be. As it happens, that will make her as attractive as possible to colleges like Harvard and MIT. But the real point is that whatever happens in the Harvard-MIT (and Yale, Stanford, Princeton, etc.) lottery, she will still be smart, effective, engaged, and happy, and she'll carry that with her and it will ensure her success wherever she goes.

    That said, there are a few things you should keep an eye on, because not having them is a problem, and sometimes a disqualification:

    -- If she can handle it, take the most challenging curriculum possible. If it looks like there's a tradeoff between class level and grade -- she can't take the most challenging class and still get an A -- stop thinking in terms of Harvard. (I am NOT saying that one B will keep her out. I AM saying that if your child can't generally be a top performer taking the toughest classes, Harvard isn't where she will be going to college, unless she's the sort of athlete or artist described above.)

    -- Take at least three years, and preferably four, of the same foreign language.

    -- Take a lot of math, at least one math course/year.

    -- Take at least a couple of SAT IIs at the end of 11th grade.

    -- Take AP tests in 11th grade and get 5s on them. She doesn't have to take a dozen (unless that's what the most challenging curriculum in her school means), but she should take some, if she is prepared. IB tests are OK, too.

    -- Don't load up on extracurricular activities that aren't meaningful, even if they have titles and offices attached to them. Do concentrate on a few things that she feels strongly about and where she can accomplish something.

    -- Look for ways to show third-party validation of her achievements outside her school: regional or national competitions, dual-enrollment classes at a local university, publications, recognition by national organizations.
  • statlantastatlanta Posts: 3
    edited May 2013
    Your daughter has no idea where she wants to go in the 9th grade. I think YOU have the idea.
  • bsherewegobsherewego Posts: 8 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    JHS- very useful info. Thank you for your help!
  • SikorskySikorsky Posts: 137
    edited May 2013
    To be fair, I think a lot of ninth-graders have ideas of where they want to go to college.

    It's just that most of the time, the ideas just aren't based on much of anything besides romantic notions, sports loyalties or perceived prestige.
  • sally305sally305 Posts: 72
    edited May 2013
    She is in eighth grade...sad.

    I hope she has time to be a kid for the next four years.
  • mythreesons1144mythreesons1144 Posts: 8 College Search & Selection Champion
    edited May 2013
    Agree with Sikorsky. Not all ninth graders are the same.

    I have one son who knew exactly what he wanted in ninth grade and is still on track in 11th grade to achieve that same goal.

    I have a rising ninth grader who has absolutely no clue where he wants to go to college or what career path he wants to follow. It could one of a number of things. And that's okay!
  • angelakkangelakk Posts: 1 Harvard Champion
    edited May 2013
    For MIT, almost all students that were admitted this year from S's school participated in one or some combination of USA*O. Kids we know from other public schools did summer intern jobs (like Microsoft's high school intern program) or attended math or science research summer camps. I also noticed that most of them have excellent GPAs. I met parents of two girls who went to Woman's Technology Program (WTP) at MIT's admit weekend and parents told me that their daughters loved the summer program so much they only applied to MIT. In fact, all three summer camps hosted at MIT are great programs for students who are interested in STEM. Summer Programs | MIT Admissions

    It used to be girls who have continuously participated in math competitions all fours years (like AIME qualifiers) and had good/excellent GPAs/SATs from S's school would be admitted to MIT, but it is no longer true this year. BTW, MIT's application forms (also Yale's and Caltech's) have designated areas for applicants to fill in their AMC and AIME scores.
  • PizzagirlPizzagirl Posts: 153
    edited May 2013
    Your primary job as the parent now is not to let her get sucked into some dream of attending only Harvard or MIT, but to let her know that there are quite a few excellent schools out there, and then re-read the second paragraph of JHS' post and follow it.

    You will do her no favors if you structure her next four years with her thinking that the goal is Harvard or MIT. And who are you kidding, what 9th grader wants to be a "private equity manager"? A 9th grader may want to be rich someday, but that's different from knowing she wants to be a "private equity manager."
  • sally305sally305 Posts: 72
    edited May 2013
    I am sure most graduating seniors at my kids' high school, let alone eighth graders, would not know anything about private equity firms except via what they might have heard about the Occupy movement or some of the themes that came up in the last election. However, this child has been admitted to a prestigious east coast boarding school for ninth grade where it's likely more families have Wall Street connections.
  • gadadgadad Super Moderator Posts: 8
    edited May 2013
    Ironically, I think that one of the key admissions factors for our two Ds was having strong credentials and ECs, while coming from a lower-achieving HS in a lower socioeconomic zip code.
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