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The #1 thing students did wrong when I interviewed them for Harvard

As a proud alumnus of Harvard University, I had the privilege of interviewing 25 prospective students who were applying to Harvard during the 2022-2023 admission cycle. These interviews provided a unique window into the application process, and one common theme stood out: the importance of providing sufficient detail in your responses to questions. In this blog post, I'll share the valuable lessons learned from these interviews, emphasizing the #1 mistake students tend to make when applying to Harvard.

The Crucial Role of Detail in Your Application

One of the most common pitfalls observed during the interviews was the lack of depth and detail in students' responses. Admissions officers at top-tier universities, such as Harvard, are not just looking for a list of accomplishments but also a deep understanding of the "why" behind them. When answering interview questions, it's crucial to provide the interviewer with a clear narrative that explains your motivations, aspirations, and the impact of your experiences.

The Power of Personal Stories

The applicants who truly stood out were those who weaved compelling personal stories into their interview. They didn't just list their extracurricular activities or academic achievements; they delved into their experiences, highlighting moments that shaped their character and aspirations. By sharing personal anecdotes, these students made a stronger emotional connection with me as the interviewer, and I was able to communicate this to the admissions committee, helping them get to know the applicant beyond their transcripts.

The Art of Self-Reflection

To avoid the mistake of insufficient detail, start with self-reflection. Ask yourself why you pursued certain activities, courses, or volunteer work. What did you learn from these experiences, and how did they influence your future goals? By addressing these questions in your application and interview, you can showcase your growth, resilience, and passion.

Tailoring Your Responses to the College

Every college has its unique values and qualities. One of the things I commonly heard at Harvard was how people applying to Yale and Princeton got rejected but were accepted to Harvard. It turns out that Harvard looks for different things than Yale and Princeton. Tailoring your application to align with the college's mission and culture is essential. Highlight how your background, experiences, and aspirations are a perfect match for what the college represents. Make it clear why you believe that specific college is the ideal place for you to learn, grow, and contribute.

The Importance of Guidance

Applying to college can be daunting, and it's completely normal to seek guidance. Whether you engage with a college admissions consultant or utilize online resources, having expert insights and feedback can help you craft an application that stands out.