In this issue:
- How to register for Virtual USA College Day, Saturday 25 September
- The most frequently asked questions at the Harvard stand about these topics:
- academic program
- differences between Harvard and UK universities
- what Harvard looks for in its applicants
- application timeline
- application components
- financial aid
- life outside the classroom
‘It feels like a university again’ – first year students arrive on campus for the first in-person semester since March 2020
Virtual USA College Day, Saturday 25 September 2021, 1.00 – 5.00pm
USA College Day is the largest US university fair in Europe, where prospective undergraduates, parents and teachers can speak to representatives of over 150 US colleges. Hosted by the US-UK Fulbright Commission and Education USA, the 44th annual College Day will take place remotely again this year using the ‘Hopin’ virtual conferencing platform.
Harvard participates in USA College Day every year, and below is a screenshot from last year’s virtual event. The Harvard ‘booth’ consists of:
- A live chat room where students can ask questions to representatives of Harvard College
- A written chat facility (side bar on the right of the screen) where visitors can ask written questions at any time.
- An information video (accessed from the link pinned to the top of the side bar) providing the answers to the most frequently asked questions at previous USA College Days.
Anne De Luca (top middle) Associate Dean, Admissions and Financial Aid, Harvard College, and Vicky Leung (top left) Co-Chair of Events, Member of Schools & Scholarships Committee, Harvard Club of the UK, answer questions from students in the Harvard chat room at USA College Day, 26 September 2020
The 2019 College Day was the last time it was run as a live event:
Crowds at the Harvard table at USA College Day, 27/28 September 2019.
Hopefully, the live event will return in 2022.
Date and time of virtual USA College Day
Date: Saturday 25 September 2021
Time: 1.00pm – 5.00pm BST
Location: Online (details to be sent to registered attendees by email ahead of the event)
Cost: Attendance is free, but you must register in advance by 24 September
Register for USA College Day 2021
Students, parents and school advisers can register for USA College Day by clicking the link above.
How can I prepare for College Day?
- Make sure you refer to the university search on the College Day website so that you can plan your time at the fair according to the universities you would like to visit. An event schedule will be made available in mid-September to help you plan.
- Beat the crowds at the start of the event by joining later on in the day. You can join and rejoin the fair at anytime between 1.00 and 5.00pm.
- Register as soon as possible, as last year’s event sold out in record time and registration will close 24 hours before the event!
- If you have any questions, please keep an eye out on the College Day website as more information will be posted about what to expect as the event draws closer.
You may also wish to read through the answers to the most frequently asked questions at the Harvard stand over the last five years (see below). For each topic, you will find a link to one or more slides that illustrate the answer to the question.
Frequently asked questions at the Harvard stand
“Anyone who is thinking of the next four years as a series of stepping stones to a predetermined outcome – be it an award, a concentration, a job, a specific career, or anything else – is a person who will miss the point of this place.”
Question: I’m interested in studying [name of subject] in the USA. What is Harvard like for the study of this subject?
Answer: (see slides 1-4)
- Harvard is a world class institution for studying most subjects across the arts and sciences.
- When you apply to Harvard College, you don’t apply for a particular subject, you just apply to get in, and for the first 18 months, you can study whatever you like except for a small core curriculum that takes up 25% of your time. For the other 75% you can choose from 3,700 different courses across the arts and sciences.
- The idea is that you get to try out lots of different things before making a final decision about what will be your main study area, or ‘concentration’.
- When you choose your concentration (which other US colleges often call a ‘major’) there are 50 areas to choose from, including a ‘Special Concentration’ where you can create your own combination of courses.
Differences between Harvard and UK universities
Question: I understand the main difference between Harvard and UK universities is a broad liberal arts & sciences degree (Harvard) versus a specialist degree (UK). But what are the other differences?
Answer: (see slides 5-6)
Compared with UK universities, Harvard differs in the following ways:
- The broad curriculum means that it takes 4 years to complete your bachelor’s degree, rather than 3 years.
- Financial aid is available to all admitted students who need it, and the amount you receive is means tested against your family’s income.
- There is more contact time with teachers and a greater emphasis on classroom teaching and discussion than the UK.
- There is more emphasis on continuous assessment, rather than end of year exams.
- Extracurricular activity is strongly encouraged, and there is an expectation that you will become fully engaged in the life of the College.
- Housing is guaranteed on campus for all 4 years.
- Admission based on a ‘whole person’ review, not just academic ability.
- Professional degrees such as medicine and law are studied at post-graduate level in the US, although you can prepare for going on to medical school or law school while still an undergraduate.
What Harvard looks for in its applicants
Question: What is Harvard looking for in prospective students?
Answer: (see slides 7-8)
- Admissions decisions are made through a ‘whole person’ review – we look at everything about you, not only your exam grades.
- Your extracurricular activities and personal qualities are just as important to us as high academic achievement.
- Admission to Harvard is not a reward for what you have done in the past – it is our investment in what we believe you are capable of doing in the future.
Question: When is the best time to apply?
Answer: (see slide 9)
- Applying to US universities is a marathon, not a sprint, but is perfectly manageable provided you plan in advance and start early.
- Refer to slide 9 for the specific tasks you need to undertake in each school year.
- If you intend to take a gap year, the best time to apply is while you are still at school and have the support of your teachers and advisers. If you are then offered a place at a US college, you can defer your entry and start your degree the following year.
Questions: How do I go about applying to Harvard? What application materials do I need to submit?
Answer: (see slide 10)
- Although there are different types of application form, UK students will almost certainly use the Common Application Form (or ‘Common App’ as it is usually known), as it is accepted by the largest number of US colleges. It is an online form that goes live each year on 1st August, and UK students should complete as much of it as possible during the summer holidays at the end of Year 12 (England and Wales), S5 (Scotland), or Year 13 (Northern Ireland).
- The Common App includes a Student Essay, which is the American equivalent of the UCAS Personal Statement. But the style of the Student Essay is very different from the type of essay an applicant would write for UCAS, as it is all about the student as a person, not about the subjects he or she might study. So applicants should always read through the sample essays on our website before starting to draft their own.
- If you are particularly talented in music, dance, art or writing, it is fine to include videos of your performances, art portfolios and publications as part of your application.
- Standardised tests: applicants can take either the SAT or the ACT if they wish, but note that these tests are now optional at Harvard and many other US colleges. (Note also that the old SAT Subject Tests have been discontinued).
- Teachers who are asked by students to provide references should look at the sample teacher references provided on the Harvard UK Admissions website. The references need to be different in style and content to the type of reference you would write for a UK university.
- Because an applicant’s personal qualities are an important part of the admissions process, most UK applicants are offered an interview with a volunteer who already holds a degree from Harvard. In the 2021/22 application cycle, all our interviews will be undertaken remotely by Zoom, WhatsApp or phone. It is more of a wide ranging conversation than an interview, and allows students to talk about their interests, ambitions and challenges, and to find out more about what life is like at Harvard.
Questions: How much does it cost to go to Harvard?
Answer: (see slides 11-12)
- Harvard has a generous financial aid program, and international students are treated in the same way as US citizens. All admitted students have access to financial aid if they need it, and the amount of money each student is offered is means-tested against family income.
- For family incomes of £50,000 per year or less, the student will almost certainly pay nothing. The university will pay for tuition fees, food, housing, and also provide a book allowance and travel allowance. Students on full financial aid will also receive a $2,000 cash grant as soon as they arrive to buy the equipment they will need to start their degree. Additional funds are available for studying abroad in the summer holidays.
- For family incomes of between £50,000 and £120,000, the family will be expected to pay between 0% and 10% of their income towards university costs, depending on their other assets.
- Financial aid is given in the form of grants, not loans, so students do not have to pay them back after they graduate.
Question: Where will I live if I go to Harvard?
Answer: (see slides 13-15)
- All students are guaranteed housing on campus for all four years. Harvard is very keen on creating a thriving campus community.
- First year students all live in dorms on Harvard Yard – right in the hub of the university.
- In years 2, 3 and 4, students move to one of 12 residential houses. Each house has its own library, dining hall, gym, and social activities, and all of them are within walking distance of Harvard Yard.
Life outside the classroom
Question: What is Harvard like for extracurricular activity?
Answer: (see slide 16)
- Students are expected to become fully involved in the life of the university, and there is a vast range of activities to choose from, including over 450 university recognised student clubs, 42 premier league sports teams, 60 student productions a year in drama and dance, a daily student newspaper (Harvard Crimson) and 80+ community service groups.
We look forward to seeing you at virtual USA College Day on 25 September!
Harvard students are back on campus for the first fully in-person semester since March 2020. The return was staggered over a couple of weeks, with the new first year intake arriving at the end of August.
“I missed running into students and talking to them. It feels like a university again,” said President Larry Bacow, who had just come downstairs after helping carry one student’s gear. “I’m looking forward to getting to know them over something other than Zoom. There’s a level of excitement in part because no one took this for granted — it’s actually happening, we’re here.”
Bacow was joined by his wife Adele, along with Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Katherine O’Dair, Dean of Students, Nekesa Straker, Senior Assistant Dean of Residential Life and First-Year Students, Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, and others. The deans looked just as delighted as the first-years and their families at the joyous, if somewhat chaotic, spectacle of move-in, particularly after the past stretch of more restrictive pandemic limits since March of 2020.
“It’s wonderful,” Dean Gay said. “To see this campus coming reanimated and return to its natural state, which is alive with people and all the emotion of in-person interaction and all the ambient energy that comes with that. It feels tremendous. It feels like it gives us the fuel we need to carry us through the whole next year.”
For the full story and more photos, see this issue of the Harvard Gazette.