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June 3, 2024


Achieving Ivy League Dreams: Insights from a Harvard Student

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Navigating the college admissions process is a daunting journey filled with anticipation, anxiety, and hope. To shed light on this intricate path, we explore the inspiring story of a Harvard junior. From childhood aspirations to strategic application decisions, her experience provides invaluable insights for prospective students aiming for Ivy League schools.

Background and Inspiration

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, she has just finished her junior year at Harvard. She has been most inspired by the people around her, aiming to make their lives easier, which has driven much of her work and achievements. Jump to YouTube section

The Decision to Aim for Harvard

Her dream of attending Harvard began at age ten during a family trip to Boston. Standing on the Harvard campus, her mother mentioned that it was the best university in the country. This moment stayed with her, and she didn't consider it seriously until high school. In her first year, she told her guidance counselor about her goal. Despite coming from a large public school where Ivy League aspirations were not typical, she was determined. Jump to YouTube section

College Applications and Acceptances

She applied early to Harvard and was accepted, which influenced how many other schools she applied to. Besides Harvard, she applied to Yale, Princeton, Brown, Stanford, and Vanderbilt. Interestingly, only Vanderbilt accepted her besides Harvard, and she received the Cornelius Vanderbilt scholarship. This experience highlighted the unpredictability of college admissions. Jump to YouTube section

Selection Criteria and Information Gathering

Harvard was her dream school, so she applied there early. She considers all Ivies to be reach schools, regardless of one's qualifications. After being accepted to Harvard, she focused only on reach schools, discarding her target and safety schools.

Due to the pandemic, visiting campuses was not an option, so she relied heavily on online resources. She used Reddit and YouTube to get a sense of the student life at these institutions. Real student experiences helped her understand what life might be like at these colleges.

Strategy for Early Action and Decision

Applying early to Harvard was a significant decision. It felt like a long shot, but she didn't want to live with the regret of not trying. Even though it was a risk, she wanted to take that chance without fear.

Choosing Recommenders

Choosing recommenders was a strategic process. She selected teachers who could best articulate her strengths and personality. For example, she chose an English teacher known for her expressive writing and a math teacher who could discuss her perseverance in a challenging class. Jump to YouTube section

SAT Scores and Class Rank

She had a 4.0 unweighted GPA and a 4.6 weighted, reflecting her AP coursework. She first scored 1510 on the SAT and improved to 1550 on her second attempt. Her school didn't have a class rank, but she was among the top five in her class. Jump to YouTube section

Advice for SAT Preparation

Practice is vital to improving SAT scores. She took many practice tests, which helped her understand the exam structure and question types. She also recommends considering which standardized test suits you best, whether the SAT or ACT and focusing preparation accordingly.

Essay Topic Selection and Writing Process

It was challenging to get a 4.0 GPA, and colleges try to understand the nuances behind a GPA. They use standardized tests to level the playing field across different schools, which helps them see the fundamental differences in student performance. Her approach was to choose a topic that represented who she was beyond just grades.

She began by listing unique aspects of herself. She wrote about her name and how it didn't fit into standard forms, much like how she sees herself not fitting into standard categories. This personal anecdote allowed her to explore her identity in depth, discuss her family background, and relate it to broader themes of diversity and personal growth. Jump to YouTube section

The Importance of Awards and Recognitions

Awards and recognitions are significant as they signal to admissions officers that you're among the best in certain areas. However, it's not just about the accolades. Admissions committees look for well-rounded individuals who are passionate about their interests and can bring joy and diversity to their community. It's about showing that you are engaged and genuine in your pursuits. Jump to YouTube section

Interviews and Preparation

She was invited to interview for Harvard and other schools. She prepared by outlining topics she wanted to discuss but also aimed to be conversational and genuine. The goal is to show that you're personable and someone they'd like as part of their community. Jump to YouTube section

Traits and Experiences Valued by Harvard

Harvard values diversity of thought and experiences. They look for curious, engaging students with a sense of self. It’s less about fitting a particular mold and more about showing how you can contribute uniquely to the campus community. Jump to YouTube section

Experiences at Harvard

The networking opportunities and the diversity of people she has met have been invaluable. Each person brings something unique to the table, which enriches the learning and social environment. It’s been an incredible experience that has broadened her perspective in countless ways. Jump to YouTube section

Balancing Commitments

Balancing commitments and maintaining health is challenging, especially with Harvard's demands. Prioritizing health and maintaining a supportive circle of friends has been crucial. She avoids overcommitting to ensure that she can give her best to each activity she participates in. Jump to YouTube section

Final Thoughts on the College Application Process

The college application process is complex and often stressful, but it's also about finding the right fit for you. Focus on what makes you happy and how you can contribute rather than trying to fit a specific profile. Jump to YouTube section

Insights on GoodGoblin

GoodGoblin provides an essential platform for sharing experiences and advice, offering valuable perspectives to current applicants. It helps demystify the process and supports students through their journeys. Jump to YouTube section


This Harvard junior's journey is a testament to the power of determination, strategic planning, and leveraging available resources. Her story underscores the importance of authenticity, resilience, and a growth mindset in achieving academic goals. As students embark on college application journeys, insights from individuals like her can provide invaluable guidance and inspiration.