It’s not a popular answer, but the truth is there is no secret formula to be admitted to Harvard University -- Harvard itself writes this as the first thing on their admissions page:
"There is no such thing as a typical Harvard student."
That being said, though Harvard students come from all different walks of life there are clear trends within this group.
Harvard students are not just well-rounded students who were near the top of their high school class.
More importantly, they are typically highly passionate and accomplished in one specific area.
For many Harvard applicants, a stellar academic record is a given, so Harvard must look further to differentiate between candidates.
As a result, Harvard often selects students who have state or even national-level recognition in their craft. This can mean Science Olympiads or musicians who have won international competitions.
This can also mean service projects that have deeply affected your local community.
A sense of deep passion, grit, and work ethic will have the best chances of wooing the admission committee.
The Harvard admission process requires discussion of each candidate after an initial first check.
In order to stand out in this setting, candidates do not want to be just a student with good test scores and grades, or a jack of all trades. Rather, candidates are most memorable when they have a clear arc to their application: the notable scientist, the future political and community leader, the bridgebuilder in times of division.
The best strategy, then, seems to be ensuring a few things:
- A Steller Academic Record
- An Established Pattern of Passion
- Recognition on a Large Scale for that Passion