50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help You Get into the College of Your Choice [NOOK Book]


With talented applicants coming from the top high schools in the country as well as the pressure to succeed from family and friends, it’s no wonder that writing college application essays is one of the most stressful times for high schoolers like you. Add in how hard it is to get started or brag about your accomplishments or order your stories for maximum effect, and it becomes obvious why this is no easy task.

To help, this completely new ...
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50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked for Them Can Help You Get into the College of Your Choice

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With talented applicants coming from the top high schools in the country as well as the pressure to succeed from family and friends, it’s no wonder that writing college application essays is one of the most stressful times for high schoolers like you. Add in how hard it is to get started or brag about your accomplishments or order your stories for maximum effect, and it becomes obvious why this is no easy task.

To help, this completely new edition of 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays gives you the most inspiring approaches, both conventional and creative, that won over admissions officers at Harvard University, one of the nation’s top ranked colleges. From chronicling personal achievements to detailing unique talents, the topics covered with these essays will open you up to new possibilities and techniques for putting your best foot forward.

Each essay in this collection is from a Harvard student who made the cut and is followed by analysis by the staff of The Harvard Crimson where strengths and weakness are detailed to show you how you can approach your stories and ultimately write your own winning essay. It teaches you how to:

* Get started
* Stand out
* Structure the best possible essay
* Avoid common pitfalls

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays’ all-new examples and straightforward advice make it the first stop for applicants who are looking to craft a clear, passionate, and, above all else, persuasive application essays that’ll get you accepted to the school of your dreams.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466848344
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Fourth Edition, Revised
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 932,889
  • File size: 720 KB

Meet the Author

The Harvard Crimson has been the daily newspaper of Harvard University since 1873. It is the nation’s oldest continually operating daily college newspaper.
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Read an Excerpt



I have blond hair and pale skin. On the color wheel, my father is a rich mocha, my sister is a warm copper, and my mother is a perfectly tanned caramel; I am somewhere between cream and eggshell on the opposite end of the spectrum. Being stereotypically white can be difficult when you’re African American.

The beginning of high school was when I first began to feel that my fair complexion hid my true identity. When I entered ninth grade, I was delighted to find myself in the company of an entirely new group of friends. Upon meeting my parents for the first time, my friends smiled warmly at my mother and gaped at my father, their eyes widening as they flitted between him and myself. However, I was pleased to find that all of them were accepting of my family’s ethnic composition. As our group became closer, we often discussed our futures. During one conversation, we outlined our weddings, collapsing into fits of giggles upon hearing each other’s extravagant dreams. Once our laughter had subsided, one girl said more seriously, “One thing’s for sure, I could never marry a black guy. It would just be too difficult with the race thing.” I blinked, waiting for a reaction. None came. Why had no one jumped to my defense? Did people not see my white mother and my black father when they looked at me? It was then that I realized to my friends, I wasn’t black.

Incidents like this made me recognize that being biracial has inherently given me perspective that many people lack. When a friend told me that her parents would never allow her to date someone of a different race, I couldn’t understand why. When I revealed my biracial heritage to a black friend, she became noticeably warmer toward me and happily shared the news with her friends as we walked by them in the hall. My much darker sister does not share these experiences. We draw from the exact same gene pool, but my sister’s complexion allows her complete racial inheritance to shine while mine cloaks half of it.

My sister knows her race because her appearance reflects it. But do I? Is a girl still black if nobody sees it? Should it matter? Growing up pale, blond, and black has influenced me. I feel obligated to immediately tell people about my race because my looks do not convey it. Nevertheless, I know who I am. Though my friends joke about me skipping the “black gene,” I am just as connected to my father’s Louisiana roots as I am to my mother’s Alabaman ancestors. Racial identity is marked by more than arbitrary features like skin tone, and while we are unable to choose our exact coloring, we do choose who we are. My appearance and the responses it elicits have shaped me but do not control me. Beneath fair hair and light skin, I see a girl who is both black and white. I see me.


At first glance, Caden’s essay seems like a generic essay about “diversity”—a hot college-acceptance buzzword. Wrong. Caden takes the important topic of identity and weaves it into a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale, showing how her self-confidence and ability to overcome challenges grew. She writes in a playful tone that makes reading her essay an entertaining experience rather than a chore. By incorporating memories of conversations with friends in her freshman year in high school, she lets readers into her personal life, taking the edge off the serious undertones of her conflicts with “extravagant dreams [of weddings].” This combination of her racial identity issues and her youthful memories shows a maturity of thought and understanding of others as well as herself.

However, she does not forget to draw the attention back to the key point of her story—her firm acceptance of her character. After her first two sprightly paragraphs, her tone shifts and becomes authoritative. She employs short and straightforward sentences as the essay progresses, such as the declaration: “I know who I am” in the final paragraph. Caden writes with a powerful voice that distinctly proves she accepts her biracial identity, despite her appearance that leads others to make false assumptions. Although the final line, “I see me,” can be seen as a reach, it works for Caden. By that point in the essay, she has earned it. It caps off the confident tone of the last few paragraphs that express her comfort with her racial identity. All in all, Caden created a well-written story that displays both her writing prowess through smooth transitions between different voices and her ability to overcome the greatest challenge of being comfortable in one’s skin.

—Jiho Kang


Copyright © 2014 by The Harvard Crimson

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First Chapter

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays, Third Edition

What Worked for Them Can Help You Get into the College of Your Choice

St. Martin's Griffin

ISBN: 9780312624385

Writing a college admissions essay is an admittedly daunting task. Most likely, you have been repeatedly told that these five hundred painstakingly crafted words must complete the intimidating mission of distinguishing yourself from the legions of other college applicants, in order to leave your own personalized mark on the admissions officers. You’ve probably been reminded that your essay should strike a balance between being compelling and insightful, but not too contrived. You’ve likely heard varying accounts of how important the admissions essay actually is: from those who swear by their writing and predict that this little essay steered them clear of the rejection pile; to others who humbly say they were probably accepted in spite of their essay. With all the academic and extracurricular work that consumes what spare time you have outside of the application process, it’s almost certain that college essays aren’t what you’d like to be worrying about on your weekends.
At the same time, the admissions essay can be a boon to your application if approached carefully. Each year, college admissions rates plunge as the number of applicants grows, and the size of résumés and activities lists expands. For applicants to competitive universities and Ivy League schools, having a top grade point average (GPA) along with sporting and musical prowess may not guarantee admission. The personal statement, however, is a blank slate that allows you to share and emphasize the qualities that make you stand out. It permits you to make a creative, distinctive, and even emotional appeal directly to the admissions officers. In a process dominated by test scores and statistics, the admissions essay provides a much-needed human touch. But where do you even start to find ideas for the essay, let alone write?
That’s what we’re here to help you do: navigate the confusing advice and vague guidance that pervades the current essay-writing process. We’ve provided you ten tips for writing a standout admissions essay, and we’ve included fifty real essays written by students who were ultimately accepted to Harvard College—with the expectation that these will give you a clearer sense of what works and what doesn’t. As fellow students who have been through the college application process, we understand the questions and concerns that essay-writers often face, and in this book, we seek to provide straightforward and realistic advice that will help steer you toward success.
In the end, however, there is no single formula to writing a successful admissions essay—just as there is no single recipe for being a successful college applicant. In many cases, you’re given free rein to write what ever you wish. You’re the only one who can identify your greatest strengths and most debilitating weaknesses, and only you can weave that insight into a personal statement. Only you are able to articulate how different people and different experiences have molded you into the person you are today. The immense control that you have over your statement’s content and style is what makes the college admissions essay so challenging to write—and incredibly revealing.
The Harvard Crimson has compiled some tried-and-true guidelines that will be helpful for writing almost any college admissions essay. Here are ten tips for you to keep in mind as you embark on the writing process:
1. Start thinking about the essay early. We understand that it isn’t always feasible to start writing months in advance. Nevertheless, as you barrel through your senior fall, keep an eye out for potential essay topics. Read through some essays that have worked in the past to get an idea of what an admissions essay ought to look like. Consider what you’re passionate about and why. Think back through your years and identify experiences, people, places, or lessons that have shaped your character and personality. Finding an essay topic is arguably the most challenging part of the whole process, so give yourself plenty of time to think of something that you really care about. Don’t be afraid to scrap ideas, even late in the process, if you come across something better—you’ll find that if your topic is heartfelt, the writing will come naturally.
2. Think strategically. The admissions essay is your opportunity to set yourself apart, to elaborate on who you are beyond your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. Spend the necessary time to reflect on yourself and your experiences, and get to know your strengths and weaknesses. This will help guide you in searching for a good essay topic. When writing, don’t rehash what’s already evident in your résumé or application, and don’t take on too much—you only have five hundred words. It’s often better to delve deeply into a single experience, showing that you are an observant individual capable of honest self-reflection, than to provide a superficial exposition of interesting aspects of your life. Talk about your hobbies, play up your unusual talents or areas of expertise, or describe something formative from your past. The possibilities are endless—be creative and find something that will supplement the rest of your application well.
3. Realize that the topic isn’t everything. Sure, some ideas—such as winning the state soccer championship—have probably been written about many, many times before you came along, and you should try to avoid those topics unless you can add something unique to the tale. Remember that your topic doesn’t have to be grandiose or sweeping—sometimes, seemingly mundane experiences, such as that summer job you once had, can be the launching point into a colorful and telling insight. Not everyone has exotic experiences or prodigious talents to showcase, but certainly every applicant has a unique and interesting background to illuminate. Creativity, thoughtful analysis, and skilled writing can make even the most routine happenings exciting. Take the time to think about your topic from various angles and figure out the best way to couch the material; showing that you can explain the “how” and the “why” of your topic is often more important than simply stating the “what.”
4. Answer the question. If you’re given a specific essay prompt, make sure your essay addresses those questions. Don’t take an essay and stretch it to fit five completely different prompts; if your essay wasn’t intended to answer a specific question, it becomes awkward and unconvincing. If different schools ask you why you’d like to attend their college, do your research and think through your responses carefully. Simply drafting a universal response and filling in the blanks will not demonstrate to admissions officers that you have the ability to think critically and to understand nuance. Finally, try to show that you’ve put some genuine thought into the essay and the question at hand. As with any good essay, use evidence, supporting facts, and examples to prove your point.
5. Be careful with gimmicks. Some people have successfully written poems or drawn comics for their personal statements, but they are few and far between. If you’re confident that your creative efforts will turn out well, go for it. Just remember that, especially with this personal statement, execution is everything. A piece that is inauthentic most likely will not be distinctive in the way that you had hoped.
6. Know your thesis. As we suggested before, take the time to think through your essay topic and make sure that you know what points you’re trying to make. What is the purpose of your essay? Why will an admissions officer want to read and remember your essay? What message do you want people to take away from your essay? You’ll need to think through these questions in order to make sure that your message is on point and successfully delivered to the admissions officer. Knowing these answers ahead of time will also make your writing genuine, clear, and compelling. Avoid making clichéd statements and broad generalizations—everyone says they’ve learned from their mistakes and triumphed over adversity. Be tactful, try to write insightfully and critically, and, most of all, make sure that your message is clear.
7. Be yourself. The college admissions essay is a personal statement. Each person has his or her own writing style and tone, and essays should reflect that fluidity. It’s all right to include some humor and wit, but make sure it comes naturally and isn’t excessive or fabricated. While it’s a good idea to have a couple of knowledgeable individuals read over your essay and give suggestions for improvement, make sure that the end product is truly satisfactory for you. Don’t let too many people provide input, and don’t let even those people you trust manhandle the content and style of your essay. This is your chance to speak directly to admissions officers and to highlight what’s most distinctive about you, and you shouldn’t let that opportunity be diluted by the voices of others.
8. Be honest. Once you settle on an essay topic, don’t fall into the trap of exaggerating your experiences or the lessons you’ve learned. Instead, think critically about your topic, even if it seems mundane to you, and try to understand and articulate why that experience was valuable for you—not why it might be interesting to the admissions officer who’s reading your essay. Also, don’t use words you don’t know or wouldn’t ordinarily use—that’s what the SAT is supposed to test. There’s nothing quite as distracting in an essay as misused words. Don’t use a longer word if a shorter word captures the sentiment just as well. The admissions officers want to see that you’re a clean and capable writer, and they want to get a sense of who you are and why you’re distinctive. You can successfully achieve those ends without embellishing your writing or your experiences.
9. Revise and proofread. Write clearly and concisely, but make sure that your essay is engaging and colorful. Don’t overwhelm your readers with extraneous details, and make sure to stay on point. Do not make careless grammatical or spelling errors, and do not rely on your computer’s spellcheck application. Admissions officers have thousands of personal statements to read in a relatively short amount of time, so make sure your introduction is gripping. Is this an essay that you would find interesting and would want to read in your spare time? If not, keep thinking and revising. It’s also a good idea to have somebody else read your essay for clarity and correctness. Let your essay sit for a few days and come back to it—you’ll likely notice a lot of opportunities for editing that slipped past you the first time around. The college admissions essay is one part of your application that you have total control over, so make the most of this opportunity and keep working until you’re satisfied.
10. Relax. Approach essays one at a time and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Remember: The essay is only one part of your college application. Be a thoughtful and systematic writer, and when the time comes, don’t be afraid to put down the pen (or walk away from the keyboard). You’ve done the best that you can. Give yourself a pat on the back and take a break—after all, there’s more to senior year than just getting into college.
And now, on to the fun part. The Harvard Crimson has gathered together fifty successful Harvard admissions essays and organized them into four categories:
• The Survivor: Overcoming Challenges and Adversity
• One Among Many: Presenting a Unique Applicant
• Storyteller: Experiences that Illuminate Character
• Through Their Eyes: Finding Yourself in Others
Following each essay is a brief commentary written by a member of The Crimson’s staff. We hope that these examples and analysis pieces will guide and inform you as you think about your own experiences and craft your admissions essays.
Happy reading, and best of luck!
Excerpted from 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: Third Edition by Harvard Crimson.
Copyright  2010 by Harvard Crimson.
Published in 2010 by St. Martin's Griffin.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Excerpted from 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays, Third Edition by Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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