The following essay examples were written by several different authors who were admitted to Harvard University and are intended to provide examples of successful Harvard University application essays. All names have been redacted for anonymity. Please note that Bullseye Admissions has shared these essays with admissions officers at Harvard University in order to deter potential plagiarism.
For more help with your Harvard supplemental essays, check out our 2020-2021 Harvard University Essay Guide! For more guidance on personal essays and the college application process in general, sign up for a monthly plan to work with an admissions coach 1-on-1.
Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (50-150 words)
Feet moving, eyes up, every shot back, chants the silent mantra in my head. The ball becomes a beacon of neon green as I dart forward and backward, shuffling from corner to far corner of the court, determined not to let a single point escape me. With bated breath, I swing my racquet upwards and outwards and it catches the ball just in time to propel it, spinning, over the net. My heart soars as my grinning teammates cheer from the sidelines.
While I greatly value the endurance, tenacity, and persistence that I have developed while playing tennis throughout the last four years, I will always most cherish the bonds that I have created and maintained each year with my team.
Why this Harvard essay worked: From an ex-admissions officer
When responding to short essays or supplements, it can be difficult to know which info to include or omit. In this essay, the writer wastes no time and immediately captivates the reader. Not only are the descriptions vivid and compelling, but the second portion highlights what the writer gained from this activity. As an admissions officer, I learned about the student’s level of commitment, leadership abilities, resiliency, ability to cooperate with others, and writing abilities in 150 words.
I founded Teen Court at [High School Name Redacted] with my older brother in 2016. Teen Court is a unique collaboration with the Los Angeles Superior Court and Probation Department, trying real first-time juvenile offenders from all over Los Angeles in a courtroom setting with teen jurors. Teen Court’s foundational principle is restorative justice: we seek to rehabilitate at-risk minors rather than simply punish them. My work provides my peers the opportunity to learn about the justice system. I put in over fifty hours just as Secretary logging court attendance, and now as President, I mentor Teen Court attendees. My goal is to improve their empathy and courage in public speaking, and to expand their world view. People routinely tell me their experience with Teen Court has inspired them to explore law, and I know the effort I devoted bringing this club to [High School Name Redacted] was well worth it.
Why this Harvard essay worked: From an ex-admissions officer
This writer discussed a passion project with a long-lasting impact. As admissions officers, we realize that post-secondary education will likely change the trajectory of your life. We hope that your education will also inspire you to change the trajectory of someone else’s life as well. This writer developed an organization that will have far-reaching impacts for both the juvenile offenders and the attendees. They saw the need for this service and initiated a program to improve their community.
Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: Books Read During the Last Twelve Months
Reading Frankenstein in ninth grade changed my relationship to classic literature. In Frankenstein, I found characters and issues that resonate in a modern context, and I began to explore the literary canon outside of the classroom. During tenth grade, I picked up Jane Eyre and fell in love with the novel’s non-traditional heroine whose agency and cleverness far surpassed anything that I would have imagined coming from the 19th century. I have read the books listed below in the past year.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus*
- Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger*
- Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
- Aphra Behn, The Fair Jilt ♰
- Mongo Beti, Mission Terminée* (in French)
- Kate Chopin, The Awakening
- Arthur Conan-Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
- Kamel Daoud, Meursault, contre-enquête* (in French)
- Roddy Doyle, A Star Called Henry*
- Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane*
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying*
- Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
- E. M. Forster, Maurice
- E. M. Forster, A Passage to India
- E. M. Forster, Where Angels Fear to Tread
- Eliza Haywood, The City Jilt ♰
- Homer, The Iliad
- Christopher Isherwood, All The Conspirators
- Christopher Isherwood, A Meeting by the River
- Christopher Isherwood, Sally Bowles
- Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man
- Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
- Franz Kafka, The Trial
- Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies*
- Morrissey, Autobiography
- Rudolph Otto, The Idea of the Holy*
- Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago
- Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, Herland
- Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way
- Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove
- Mary Renault, Fire From Heaven
- Mary Renault, The Friendly Young Ladies
- Mary Renault, The King Must Die
- Mary Renault, The Persian Boy
- J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des hommes* (in French)
- Shakespeare, Hamlet*
- Mary Shelley, The Last Man
- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead*
- Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
- Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan
- Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
- Evelyn Waugh, Scoop
- Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies
- Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
- Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction ♰
- Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman ♰
- Virginia Woolf, A Haunted House and Other Stories
- * indicates assigned reading
- ♰ indicates independent study reading
Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: What would you want your future college roommate to know about you? (No word limit)
You probably have noticed that I put four exclamation points. Yes, I am that excited to meet you, roomie!
Also, I don’t believe in the Rule of Three. It’s completely unfair that three is always the most commonly used number. Am I biased in my feelings because four is my favorite number? Perhaps. However, you have to admit that our reason for the Rule of Three is kinda arbitrary. The Rule of Three states that a trio of events is more effective and satisfying than any other numbers. Still, the human psyche is easily manipulated through socially constructed perceptions such as beauty standards and gender roles. Is having three of everything actually influential or is it only influential because society says so? Hmm, it’s interesting to think about it, isn’t it?
But if you’re an avid follower of the Rule of three, don’t worry, I won’t judge. In fact, if there’s one thing I can promise you I will never do, it’s being judgmental. Life is too short to go around judging people. Besides, judgments are always based on socially constructed beliefs. With so many backgrounds present on campus, it really would be unfair if we start going around judging people based on our own limited beliefs. My personal philosophy is “Mind your own business and let people be,” So, if you have a quirk that you’re worrying is too “weird” and are afraid your roommate might be too judgy, rest assured, I won’t be.
In fact, thanks to my non-judginess, I am an excellent listener. If you ever need to rant with someone about stressful classes, harsh gradings, or the new ridiculous plot twists of your favorite TV show (*cough* Riverdale), I am always available.
Now, I know what you are thinking. A non-judgmental and open-minded roommate? This sounds too good to be true. This girl’s probably a secret villain waiting to hear all my deepest and darkest secrets and blackmail me with them!
Well, I promise you. I am not a secret villain. I am just someone who knows how important it is to be listened to and understood.
I grew up under the communist regime of Vietnam, where freedom of speech and thought was heavily suppressed. Since childhood, I was taught to keep my opinion to myself, especially if it is contradictory to the government’s. No matter how strongly I felt about an issue, I could never voice my true opinion nor do anything about it. Or else, my family and I would face oppression from the Vietnamese government.
After immigrating to America, I have made it my mission to fight for human rights and justice. Back in Vietnam, I have let fear keep me from doing the right thing. Now, in the land of freedom, I won’t use that excuse anymore. I can finally be myself and fight for what I believe in. However, I can still remember how suffocating it was to keep my beliefs bottled up and to be silenced. Trust me, a conversation may not seem much, but it can do wonders. So, if you ever need a listener, know that I am right here.
See, I just shared with you a deep secret of mine. What secret villain would do that?
See ya soon!!!!!
[Name redacted] : )
P/S: I really love writing postscripts. So, I hope you won’t find it weird when I always end my emails, letters, and even texts with a P/S. Bye for real this time!!!!!
Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: Unusual circumstances in your life
I would like the Harvard Admissions Committee to know that my life circumstances are far from typical. I was born at twenty-four weeks gestation, which eighteen years ago was on the cusp of viability. Even if I was born today, under those same circumstances, my prospects for leading a normal life would be grim. Eighteen years ago, those odds were worse, and I was given a less than 5% chance of survival without suffering major cognitive and physical deficits.
The first six months of my life were spent in a large neonatal ICU in Canada. I spent most of that time in an incubator, kept breathing by a ventilator. When I was finally discharged home, it was with a feeding tube and oxygen, and it would be several more months before I was able to survive without the extra tubes connected to me. At the age of two, I was still unable to walk. I engaged in every conventional and non-conventional therapy available to me, including physical and speech therapy, massage therapy, gymnastics, and several nutritional plans, to try to remedy this. Slowly, I began to make progress in what would be a long and arduous journey towards recovery.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of repeated, often unsuccessful attempts to grip a large-diameter crayon since I was unable to hold a regular pencil. I would attempt to scrawl out letters on a page to form words, fueled by either determination or outright stubbornness, persevering until I improved. I spent countless hours trying to control my gait, eventually learning to walk normally and proving the doctors wrong about their diagnoses. I also had to learn how to swallow without aspirating because the frequent intubations I had experienced as an infant left me with a uncoordinated swallow reflex. Perhaps most prominently, I remember becoming very winded as I tried to keep up with my elementary school peers on the playground and the frustration I experienced when I failed.
Little by little, my body’s tolerance for physical exertion grew, and my coordination improved. I enrolled in martial arts to learn how to keep my balance and to develop muscle coordination and an awareness of where my limbs were at any given time. I also became immersed in competition among my elementary school peers to determine which one of us could become the most accomplished on the recorder. For each piece of music played correctly, a “belt” was awarded in the form of a brightly colored piece of yarn tied around the bottom of our recorders- meant as symbols of our achievement. Despite the challenges I had in generating and controlling enough air, I practiced relentlessly, often going in before school or during my lunch hour to obtain the next increasingly difficult musical piece. By the time the competition concluded, I had broken the school record of how far an elementary school child could advance; in doing so, my love of instrumental music and my appreciation for the value of hard work and determination was born.
Throughout my middle and high school years, I have succeeded at the very highest level both academically and musically. I was even able to find a sport that I excelled at and would later be able to use as an avenue for helping others, volunteering as an assistant coach once I entered high school. I have mentored dozens of my high school peers in developing trumpet skills, teaching them how to control one’s breathing during musical phrases and how to develop effective fingering techniques in order to perform challenging passages. I believe that my positive attitude and hard work has allowed for not only my own success, but for the growth and success of my peers as well.
My scholastic and musical achievements, as well as my leadership abilities and potential to succeed at the highest level will hopefully be readily apparent to the committee when you review my application. Perhaps more importantly, however, is the behind-the-scenes character traits that have made these possible. I believe that I can conquer any challenge put in front of me. My past achievements provide testimony to my work ethic, aptitudes and grit, and are predictive of my future potential.
Thank you for your consideration.
Why this Harvard essay worked: From an ex-admissions officer
In this essay, the writer highlighted their resilience. At some point, we will all endure challenges and struggles, but it is how we redeem ourselves that matters. This writer highlighted their initial struggles, their dedication and commitment, and the ways in which they’ve used those challenges as inspiration and motivation to persevere and also to encourage others to do the same.
Harvard University Supplemental Essay Option: An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you.
I want to be a part of something amazing, and I believe I can. The first line of the chorus springs into my mind instantaneously as my fingers experiment with chords on the piano. In this moment, as I compose the protagonist’s solo number, I speak from my heart. I envision the stage and set, the actors, the orchestra, even the audience. Growing increasingly excited, I promptly begin to create recordings so I can release the music from the confines of my imagination and share it with any willing ears.
My brother [name redacted] and I are in the process of writing a full-length, two-act musical comprised of original scenes, songs, characters. I began creating the show not only because I love to write music and entertain my friends and family, but also with the hope that I might change the way my peers view society. Through Joan, the protagonist of my musical, I want to communicate how I feel about the world.
The story centers around Joan, a high schooler, and her connection to the pilot Amelia Earhart. Ever since I saw a theatrical rendition of Amelia Earhart’s life in fifth grade, she has fascinated me as an extraordinary feminist and a challenger of society’s beliefs and standards. As I began researching and writing for the show, I perused through biographies and clicked through countless youtube documentaries about the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, astounded by her bravery and ability to overcome a troubled childhood and achieve her dream. In my musical, as Amelia transcends 20th century norms, changing the way that people regard women and flight, Joan strives to convince her peers and superiors that the worth of one’s life spans not from material success and grades, but from self-love and passion.
As I compose, the essence of each character and the mood of each scene steer the flow of each song. To me, it seems as though everything falls into place at once – as I pluck a melody out of the air, the lyrics come to me naturally as if the two have been paired all along. As I listen to the newly born principal line, I hear the tremolo of strings underscoring and the blaring of a brass section that may someday audibly punctuate each musical phrase.
The project is certainly one of the most daunting tasks I’ve ever undertaken – we’ve been working on it for almost a year, and hope to be done by January – but, fueled by my passion for creating music and writing, it is also one of the most enjoyable. I dream that it may be performed one day and that it may influence society to appreciate the success that enthusiasm for one’s relationships and work can bring.
These essay examples were compiled by the advising team at Bullseye Admissions. If you want to get help writing your Harvard University application essays from Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.
- MAKE IT UNIQUELY YOU. The personal essay is the only place in your entire application where the admissions officers have the ability to hear your own voice. ...
- PICK A TOPIC WHICH MATTERS TO YOU. ...
- START WRITING. ...
- WRITE A LOT. ...
- REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE. ...
- SHOW IT TO OTHER PEOPLE. ...
- ARE YOU PROUD OF IT?
Writing. The first section is the personal essay. Harvard requires the submission of the personal essay with your application. We also offer an opportunity to add an additional information.Is the Harvard supplement essay really optional? ›
The Harvard supplement essay, as it's known, is completely optional—you may, but do not need to, write this essay and submit it with your application. Also, this essay also has no word limit, though if you do write it, it's best to stick to a typical college essay length (i.e., somewhere around 500 words).Can I get into Harvard with just a good essay? ›
Harvard admissions officers are looking for well-written, authentic, and unique essays that reveal who the student is, what matters to them, and what makes them stand out. Successful essays can take many forms, from personal narratives to academic essays to creative writing.How do you make a college essay stand out? ›
- A unique, personally meaningful topic.
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook.
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.
- Vulnerability that's authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy.
Harvard students have access to courses, research institutes, and faculty mentors from all parts of Harvard. With world-renowned faculty, state-of-the-art resources, and individualized instruction, it's the perfect place to pursue your favorite and still-to-be-discovered academic interests.What do Ivy Leagues look for in essays? ›
You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics: Unusual circumstances in your life. Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities. What you would want your future college roommate to know about you.What is most important for Harvard? ›
To have the best shot of getting in, you should aim for the 75th percentile, with a 1580 SAT or a 35 ACT. You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score.What qualities does Harvard look for? ›
It's essential to remember that Harvard has a holistic admissions process, meaning they consider every aspect of an applicant's profile. Harvard weighs grades and test scores but also values personal qualities such as character, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and growth potential.What is Harvard style of writing? ›
Harvard (Author-Date) style
The Harvard referencing style is another popular style using the author-date system for in-text citations. In-text citation: It consists mainly of the authors' last name and the year of publication (and page numbers if it is directly quoted) in round brackets placed within the text.
In our admissions process, we give careful, individual attention to each applicant. We seek to identify students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors—individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.How many essays does Harvard want? ›
General Tips. Harvard College has three supplemental essay prompts, two limited to 150 words and one of unspecified length. The only required essay among these is one of the two short-response essays, but we strongly advise that all applicants attempt each of the three essays.Does Harvard look at common app essay? ›
Because Harvard takes the common app, they require you to write an essay from the topic list, but they also require a supplemental essay that can be chosen from a list of Harvard-specific topics or you can choose your own topic.Do colleges actually read supplemental essays? ›
So if a school requires an essay it is VERY likely to be read. If a school has a writing section in their supplement to the Common Application you can rest assured that ALL of that writing is evaluated by admissions officers.Can you get into Harvard without straight A's? ›
You need a minimum 4.0 GPA to get into Harvard. This means getting “Straight A's” or “A+'s” depending on how your school grades. It would be very difficult to get into Harvard with a lower GPA than 4.0. Many students have even higher GPAs than 4.0.What are my chances at Harvard if I dont have straight A's? ›
No, the truth is you don't necessarily require straight A's to get into Harvard. Harvard prefers all rounded students, who exhibit passion, hard-work, extraordinary achievements or potential for success.Can you get into an ivy with a bad essay? ›
The sooner you start brainstorming and writing your college essays, the better. All of the things we've talked about above won't increase your chances of getting into an Ivy if your essay is terrible. You simply won't get in.
- Write about something that's important to you. ...
- Don't just recount—reflect! ...
- Being funny is tough. ...
- Start early and write several drafts. ...
- No repeats. ...
- Answer the question being asked. ...
- Have at least one other person edit your essay. ...
- Test Your College Knowledge.
- An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
- Return to the beginning with a “full circle” structure.
- Reveal the main point or insight in your story.
- Look to the future.
- End on an action.
Convey, through your voice, enthusiasm, passion, and competence. Avoid “up-talk”—the verbal punctuation of each sentence with a question mark. Plan the time and place of your phone interview so that you know you will have privacy, quiet, and a good connection. Dress as you would for a real interview.What GPA is required for Harvard? ›
The GPA requirements for Harvard University are between 3.9 to 4.1. You will need an incredibly high GPA and will likely be graduating at the top of their class in order to get into Harvard University.What are good college essay topics? ›
- Prompt #1: Share your story.
- Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
- Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
- Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
- Prompt #5: Personal growth.
- Prompt #6: What captivates you?
- Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
- Describe a person you admire.
- Write About Something That is Deeply Personal.
- Avoid a Detached Style.
- Don't Try to Be Funny.
- Essays Succeed or Fail in the Details.
- Proofread, Proofread, Proofread.
Be sure to have good grades and test scores.
If your goal is to enter an Ivy League school, you will need outstanding grades and test scores. According to The National Association for College Admission Counseling, these are the two most important factors for a student trying to get into a highly-selective university.
The most popular majors overall in Harvard are Political Science and Government, Economics, Social Sciences, Evolutionary Biology, and Psychology.What are my chances of getting into Harvard? ›
Harvard Acceptance Rate – Class of 2027
Out of 56,937 applicants, a mere 1,942 Class of 2027 hopefuls were admitted. This translates to a stunningly low Harvard acceptance rate of 3.41%. Recent historical Harvard acceptance rates are as follows: Class of 2026 Harvard Acceptance Rate: 3.2%
The Core Curriculum includes Humanities (social studies, literature, language arts, and fine arts) and Math/Science (mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology). In addition, all students are required to participate in physical education, community service, and two electives each semester.What is the Harvard way of writing? ›
What is Harvard Style? The Harvard referencing system is known as the Author-Date style. It emphasizes the name of the creator of a piece of information and the date of publication, with the list of references in alphabetical order at the end of your paper.What is proper Harvard format? ›
Harvard style referencing is an author/date method. Sources are cited within the body of your assignment by giving the name of the author(s) followed by the date of publication. All other details about the publication are given in the list of references or bibliography at the end.
You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.How do you use Harvard style and write an example? ›
Author surname, initial. (Year) 'Article title', Journal Name, Volume(Issue), pp. page range. Thagard, P. (1990) 'Philosophy and machine learning', Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 20(2), pp. 261–276. This format is also used for journal articles which you accessed online but which are available in print too.What are commas used for Harvard? ›
Revised on March 29, 2023. The serial comma (aka Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is a term that describes the use of a comma before the conjunction in a list of three or more items (e.g., the comma before “and” in “pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon”). The name comes from the fact that it's used in a series (list).What is Harvard style in English? ›
The Harvard method of referencing, often referred to as the author- date style, is commonly used in humanities and social sciences. With this style, in-text citations consist of author's last name and the year of publication in parentheses, and the full details of the sources are entered in separate reference lists.Where do you put word count on an essay Harvard? ›
The word count needs to be clearly and correctly stated on the title page of the assignment. Incorrectly understating the word count constitutes an assessment offence and may result in further action.Are Harvard essays double spaced? ›
MANUSCRIPT PAGE: Set margins for 8 ½ x 11” pages, with 1.25” margins left and right; 1” margins top and bottom. SPACING: Line spacing: Use double spacing throughout, including text, extracts, footnotes. Do not add extra spaces between paragraphs or between text and extracts. Use one space after a period.How should a Harvard reference list look? ›
In the Harvard (author-date) System the list of references is arranged alphabetically by author's surname, year (and letter, if necessary) and is placed at the end of the work. A reference list is the detailed list of references that are cited in your work.How can I increase my chances of getting into Harvard? ›
The single best thing a student can do to improve their chance of admission to Harvard is applying early action, but only if their application is completely ready by the early action deadline. Remember, the Harvard early decision acceptance rate is 7.9%.What attracts students to Harvard? ›
In terms of endowment, Harvard invests the highest, hence, it has the best infrastructure, resources for study plus research and an expansive campus with all possible amenities. The main feature which attracts the researchers at Harvard is its 17 million volumes spread across 55 miles of shelving.What is the lowest GPA to get into the Ivy League? ›
The admission rates of these schools have an average of merely 4.96%. None of the Ivy League schools have a minimum GPA requirement for applications, which means anyone can apply with any GPA.
While there is no minimum GPA required to apply to Harvard Law, you should aim for the median GPA of 3.92 or higher for a more competitive application.What was Mark Zuckerberg's GPA in high school? ›
Famous CEOs such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg did not attend college, and therefore did not have a GPA.