Deadline for accepting offers to US Colleges: 1st May
Many congratulations to those of you in Year 13 who have recently received offers of admission to US colleges. You have until 1st May to accept, decline or defer any offers you have received. A question students sometimes ask at this time of year is:
I have been placed on the waitlist for my first choice college but have also been given a firm offer from another college that is lower in my list of preferences. What should I do?
You should accept the offer from the lower preference college before the 1st May deadline. Then, if you are subsequently offered a place at your first choice college you should accept it, and withdraw from the other college. It is perfectly acceptable to do this as your withdrawal from the other college will provide a vacancy for someone on their waitlist. But if you don’t get an offer from your first choice college, your place at the other college will be secure. Always keep your options open for as long as possible.
The Harvard Admissions Office will let students on the waitlist know about their status as early in May as possible, and at the latest by the end of June (by US college agreement). Some colleges occasionally offer students the opportunity to defer to the following year if not enough slots become available, allowing the student to take a gap year to undertake travel, work experience and community service in the knowledge that a firm place awaits them at the end. The number of waitlisted students offered admission varies somewhat from year to year, as it depends on how many admitted students take up their places, and how many waitlisted students take up firm offers elsewhere.
Record numbers of applicants for Harvard Class of 2023
Last year’s record of 42,749 applicants for the Class of 2022 has been beaten yet again by the Class of 2023. This year, 43,330 candidates applied to Harvard College, of whom 1,950 were admitted. First generation students (those who are the first in their family to go to university) make up 16.4% of the class. International citizens (from outside the United States) make up 12.3% of the class, and they come from 89 different countries. Applications from the UK remained steady at just over 500, and offers of admission were sent to 31 UK applicants. Acceptance rates at the eight Ivy League schools plus MIT ranged from under 5% to around 10%.
Top US colleges are statistically more difficult to get in to than Russell Group universities in the UK, although direct comparisons can be misleading because of the way in which the applications are submitted. The US has a completely free market system where anyone, of any age, may submit applications directly to as many universities as they wish. This generates a certain proportion of unsuitable applications that would get filtered out under the British system, where UCAS applications are submitted via students’ schools, not directly by the students themselves, and therefore are subject to vetting before submission.
As top US colleges become ever more competitive for admission, our message to UK students thinking of applying next year remains the same: apply broadly to a range of competitive and less competitive universities in both the US and the UK to give yourself the greatest chance of success.
SAT and ACT test dates are fast approaching
Many students in Year 12 will be taking the SAT/ACT on the final test dates of this academic year, which are:
- ACT: 8 June 2019
- SAT: 4 May 2019; 1 June 2019
You should plan your practice so that you are at peak performance just before the test date. Students normally find that their scores in the actual test are slightly below their best scores in practice. This is perfectly normal, but it means that you should aim to achieve higher than your target score in your final practice sessions before the test.
Spring or summer is a good time to take the tests because if you do not get as good a score as you hoped, you have the option of re-taking them in the autumn and still meeting the deadline for submitting the scores to your chosen colleges. But an even better plan is to achieve good scores at your first attempt!
Test Day Checklist
A basic checklist for both the SAT and ACT is:
- Photo ID (passport is best)
- Admission ticket
- Two or three sharpened HB pencils (equivalent to US no. 2 pencils)
- Soft pencil eraser
- An approved calculator (click here for SAT calculator policy; click here for ACT calculator policy)
- Watch (without an audible alarm)
- Snack and small bottle of water (can only be consumed during break time)
- Eat breakfast before you set out
- Make sure you know where the Test Centre is located and can find the entrance
- Leave home early in case your journey is delayed
- Check train times in case of weekend engineering works or strikes
Further details of what to bring, and (importantly) what not to bring, can be found on these websites:
Link to SAT test day checklist
Link to ACT test day checklist
Choosing between the SAT and ACT
If you are in Year 11, and will be taking the SAT or ACT next year, you may be wondering how to choose which of the two tests to take, given that US colleges accept them both equally. Students capable of getting top grades at GCSE and A Level will perform well in both tests, but they are structured differently, so it ultimately boils down to which style of exam you prefer. Our suggestions about how to maximise your scores are as follows:
- Take a free online practice test for both the SAT and ACT and go with whichever one gives you the better score.
- A good score is one that fits the profile of the colleges you have selected.
- Consider test dates, locations of test centres, and availability of places and PLAN AHEAD.
- Familiarity with the test is the best way to boost your score, so schedule a regular practice session of 2-3 hours per week in the weeks leading up to the exam.
- For the SAT, use the free online practice tools provided by the Khan Academy.
- For the ACT, use the free online practice tools provided by the ACT Academy.
If your test scores don’t reflect your potential, consider one of the test flexible or optional schools. Click here for a full list of test optional schools.
Harvard Housing Day 2019
Harvard is very keen on creating a vibrant campus community, and for this reason all students are guaranteed housing on campus for all four years. First year students are housed in dorms on Harvard Yard, right in the hub of the university. Then, in years 2, 3 and 4, they move into one of 12 Harvard Houses, each containing about 400 students. Each house has its own dining hall, library and gym, and organises its own social activities over and above the university wide clubs and societies.
On a particular day every March, lists are released by the Dean’s office showing which first year students have been allocated to which houses for the following three years. In a ceremony completely unknown in the UK, students from the 12 Houses dress up and wait in Harvard Yard for the lists to be released. As soon as they have the list of students who will be joining them, they tour the first year dorms to escort their new cohort of students to a big welcoming ceremony at their new House.
Here are some photos from Housing Day 2019.