Harvard UK Outreach – School Visits Programme
Want to learn more about Harvard and American-style higher education? Then invite us to your school!
Each year the Harvard Outreach Team visits 25-30 schools across the UK to talk about what life is like at Harvard and what you need to do if you want to apply to an American university. Our talks are aimed at students in Years 11 and 12, their parents, teachers and university advisers. Our target institutions are state-funded schools and colleges that regularly send their students to Russell Group universities in the UK, but do not have a history of applying to US colleges. If this sounds like your school, please get in touch now as we are planning our schedule of visits for the Autumn Term 2018.
To request a visit, simply send an email to school visits co-ordinator Stuart Gordons.firstname.lastname@example.org giving the name and location of your school and roughly when you would like us to come. We welcome requests from both teachers and students, but if you are a student, the request must be made with the knowledge and approval of the appropriate member of staff (the Head of Sixth Form or the teacher in charge of university applications).
We look forward to seeing you, particularly if we have never been to your school or college before.
Harvard Commencement, 24th May 2018
Confusingly for a UK audience, Harvard’s graduation ceremony is called ‘Commencement’, because back in the 17th Century when it was a tiny college for Puritan Ministers, the passing out ceremony formally marked the beginning, or commencement, of the Minister’s career.
Graduation Day at Harvard is a gloriously over-the-top American style event – a delightful mixture of ceremony and good humour. Students from Harvard College (the undergraduate school) and Harvard’s 12 graduate schools all attend the same huge outdoor bonanza, when 28,000 chairs are set up in Harvard Yard.
Here is a picture of just a small section of the crowd:
The outgoing President of Harvard University, Drew Faust, and President Elect Larry Bacow (who starts his tenure on 1st July) shake hands with students as they lead the procession towards the platform at the beginning of the ceremony:
During the ceremony, students from each school in turn are asked to stand, and are then awarded their degrees en masse by the President of Harvard University. The students from the graduate schools often bring items with them relevant to their specialism which they wave in the air when their school is announced. Business School graduates usually wave dollar bills, and Law School graduates throw large inflatable sharks in the air.
The Graduate School of Design are a little more subtle – they had Lego bricks fixed to their mortar boards!
The Harvard Kennedy School (graduate school of government) is the most international of the schools, so each graduate carried an inflatable globe:
Students from the Graduate School of Education used to be very naughty and throw paper aeroplanes around. But now they have learned to behave themselves and wave children’s books:
After the ceremony, undergraduates go back to their houses for a barbeque with family and friends and to receive their degree certificates. This is Winthrop House.
Applying to US colleges – what should I be doing now?
If you will be applying to American universities this year or next year, or you have already been admitted, here is what you should be doing over the next few weeks.
Year 11 – If possible, spend two or more weeks in the summer doing some kind of community service, work experience, mini-research project, or developing an extracurricular activity that is of particular interest to you. Both US and UK universities like you to have done something constructive during your summer holidays, and some US colleges will specifically ask about your summer activity on their application forms. Such activity will enhance your extracurricular profile and make you of more interest to admissions officers when you eventually come to apply.
Year 12 – If you are still researching which US colleges you want to apply to in the autumn, make sure you have identified your final shortlist by 1st August when the Common Application Form goes live. You can apply to as many colleges as you like, but a shortlist of 5 – 8 colleges is typical. The August issue of the newsletter will contain a step by step guide of how to fill it in, and the July issue will preview the essay section, which most students find the most difficult part of their application. If you have a couple of weeks to spare, be sure to do some community service, work experience or extracurricular pursuit that will enhance your application.
Year 13 – If you have been admitted to a US college to start your undergraduate studies from September, you will no doubt be excited (and possibly a little daunted) at the prospect of leaving your family and friends behind and crossing the ocean for an extended period of study in a different country. To help you with your preparations, the Fulbright Commission has produced this pre-departure information, which contains many practical tips on preparing to go to the US, including obtaining a visa, travel, what to pack, living arrangements, campus life and American culture.