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Learning from Experience: Leveraging Current College Students

How to use LinkedIn, Instagram, alumni, and current students to answer your questions about college.

October 12, 2021 by Veritas Essays Team | Colleges, Student Life, Advice, LinkedIn, Alumni


One of the best ways to learn more about colleges you’re interested in applying to is by talking with current students and learning from their experiences.

However, it can be difficult to find current students to talk to and get honest accounts of what life looks like on campus.

This article will go over how high school students who are planning on applying to college can reach out to current college students and hear about their experiences.

Harvard Yard A typical day lounging in Harvard Yard in the fall

Before we go over the strategies to find high school students to learn from, consider doing some reflecting about what you want to get out of the experience of reaching out to current college students.

Questions to Ask Current College Students

Some questions to consider asking include:

  1. What factors are most important to you when you look for a university?

For example, how important is it to you to be near a city? Do you want to go to school where everyone lives on campus or is that not as important to you?

  1. What are some questions you want to ask current students?

It’s oftentimes helpful to enter conversations with a set list of questions to get the conversation flowing!

  1. What do you plan to get involved in on campus?

The activities you get involved in on campus will likely influence who you spend your time with. Consider what clubs you might want to get involved in on campus and try to connect with students involved in similar activities.

Method #1: LinkedIn

Reach out to current students on LinkedIn by first searching the name of the club you might be interested in joining on campus.

Next, scroll through the LinkedIn members who are part of the club.

To reach out to students and have a brief conversation, consider thinking through a few factors first to optimize the likelihood that someone will get back to you.

First, try to find students who are from your hometown or close to where you grew up. A college student might be more likely to share their experience on campus if you have something in common, and hometown is an easy similarity.

Second, look for students who are studying a discipline you are also in. If you end up connecting and having a conversation, it might be easier to have a conversation about shared interests.

This relates back to my earlier point about reflecting on what you want out of the experience. If you’ve spent the time reflecting on the question you want to ask and what you want to get out of the experience, it’ll be easier to have a more genuine and honest conversation.

Method #2: Instagram

Another option to connect with current students is through Instagram. There are a few different ways to find and reach out to people on Instagram: extracurricular Instagram profiles, conference locations, and geotags.

First, many extracurriculars have their own Instagram profiles where they post updates about their membership events and pictures.

Usually clubs have social media managers who regulate the account and would likely help connect you to students in the club.

Second, if you’re interested in an extracurricular on a campus that holds conferences or events, try to find a hashtag for the event and reach out to the organization’s Instagram or people who were at the event.

For example, the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB) organization holds the annual Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC). If you were interested in joining HUWIB, you could go to the location of the convention and reach out to people who attended the event.

Finally, you can also go to the college geotag location on Instagram and reach out to people who are students.

It’s best to keep outreach messages short, clear, and upbeat to increase the chance that the student will get back to you.

Method #3: Campus Visit + Meet Real Students

The third method of reaching out to college students is contingent on if you can visit the college in-person.

Harvard Yard

Sunset from Harvard Yard

If you can’t visit the college in-person, there are lots of great resources that you still have access to.

Many colleges have virtual campus tours and information sessions with current students. Many current students also make YouTube videos talking about their experience at different colleges.

Some great college YouTubers to check out:

  1. The Kath Path from Stanford
  2. Paris Boswell from the University of Wisconsin Madison
  3. Katherout from USC
  4. LifeWithLaur from Dartmouth
  5. Nicolas Chae from Princeton
  6. Elliot Choy from Vanderbilt

If you are able to visit the college in person, it can be helpful to sit on a bench in the center of campus and observe the students walking around. It can be helpful to respectfully approach students and ask them about their experience, but be sure to keep in mind that college students are often extremely busy and might not have a lot of time to answer your questions.

A few locations that are good options for places to sit and observe current students include:

  1. The student center
  2. A few of the dorms
  3. Classroom buildings
  4. The library
  5. The dining hall

It can be helpful to have a few questions in mind if you decide to approach students so as to avoid wasting time. Remember to respect student’s times and take rejections graciously.

Method #4: Reach out to Admissions Officers

Another option is to reach out to the admissions office directly. There are a few benefits and a few drawbacks to this approach.

Benefits of reaching out to the admissions office

  • Admissions officers will be able to share a wide range of resources, from presentations to flyers and student testimonials
  • Since admissions officers connect with students every day, they will likely respond to your inquiries quickly and share high-quality information
  • It might take longer for students to get back to you because they have a lot going on with extracurriculars and classes
  • Speaking with admissions officers might count as demonstrated interest for some schools who look at student interest as part of the admissions process

Drawbacks of reaching out to the admissions office

  • The admissions office will connect you with the students that they want you to talk to
  • The students who choose to work with the admissions office likely have a high opinion of the school
  • In this way, it might be challenging to get a fully accurate picture of the student experience
  • Most of what students share and what admissions officers talk about is likely the positive elements of the college experience and it might be harder to get an accurate picture of some of the less-rosy elements of going to a certain school

Method #5: Hometown Resources

One final option for reaching out to current students is to connect with alumni organizations in your hometown.

This is probably easiest for state schools where many alumni likely live nearby after graduation and schools that have clubs in large cities.

In terms of state schools, ask your friends and family if they know anyone who went to a certain school and ask about their experience.

Remember that colleges can change over time, and an experience twenty years ago will not necessarily be consistent with an experience today.

Many Ivy League colleges have clubs in large cities and states. If you’re interested in applying to Ivy League colleges, you can find contact information for each club on their websites.

And if you can't find anyone, we have plenty of Ivy League students on our team who'd be happy to chat. Feel free to grab a free consultation slot here to learn how we can help you on your application journey!


These five methods of reaching out to current students are by no means mutually exclusive.

Consider combining two or more of these approaches to reach out to current students and learn from their experiences.

And keep in mind that one student’s experience will not necessarily be your experience!

Take everything you hear with an open mind and be sure to ask multiple people similar questions to get different points of view!

When I was applying to college, I found visiting campus in-person and reaching out to alumni in my hometown to be the two easiest methods since I live near Boston, which is where Harvard is located.

I suggest figuring out which methods feel most natural and comfortable to you and starting there. Depending on what works and who gets back to you, you can always adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember to stay persistent, but respectful, and get the questions you have about the college experience answered! Best of luck!

Learning from Experience: Leveraging Current College Students

How to use LinkedIn, Instagram, alumni, and current students to answer your questions about college.

October 12, 2021 by Veritas Essays Team | Colleges, Student Life, Advice, LinkedIn, Alumni


One of the best ways to learn more about colleges you’re interested in applying to is by talking with current students and learning from their experiences.

However, it can be difficult to find current students to talk to and get honest accounts of what life looks like on campus.

This article will go over how high school students who are planning on applying to college can reach out to current college students and hear about their experiences.

Harvard Yard A typical day lounging in Harvard Yard in the fall

Before we go over the strategies to find high school students to learn from, consider doing some reflecting about what you want to get out of the experience of reaching out to current college students.

Questions to Ask Current College Students

Some questions to consider asking include:

  1. What factors are most important to you when you look for a university?

For example, how important is it to you to be near a city? Do you want to go to school where everyone lives on campus or is that not as important to you?

  1. What are some questions you want to ask current students?

It’s oftentimes helpful to enter conversations with a set list of questions to get the conversation flowing!

  1. What do you plan to get involved in on campus?

The activities you get involved in on campus will likely influence who you spend your time with. Consider what clubs you might want to get involved in on campus and try to connect with students involved in similar activities.

Method #1: LinkedIn

Reach out to current students on LinkedIn by first searching the name of the club you might be interested in joining on campus.

Next, scroll through the LinkedIn members who are part of the club.

To reach out to students and have a brief conversation, consider thinking through a few factors first to optimize the likelihood that someone will get back to you.

First, try to find students who are from your hometown or close to where you grew up. A college student might be more likely to share their experience on campus if you have something in common, and hometown is an easy similarity.

Second, look for students who are studying a discipline you are also in. If you end up connecting and having a conversation, it might be easier to have a conversation about shared interests.

This relates back to my earlier point about reflecting on what you want out of the experience. If you’ve spent the time reflecting on the question you want to ask and what you want to get out of the experience, it’ll be easier to have a more genuine and honest conversation.

Method #2: Instagram

Another option to connect with current students is through Instagram. There are a few different ways to find and reach out to people on Instagram: extracurricular Instagram profiles, conference locations, and geotags.

First, many extracurriculars have their own Instagram profiles where they post updates about their membership events and pictures.

Usually clubs have social media managers who regulate the account and would likely help connect you to students in the club.

Second, if you’re interested in an extracurricular on a campus that holds conferences or events, try to find a hashtag for the event and reach out to the organization’s Instagram or people who were at the event.

For example, the Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business (HUWIB) organization holds the annual Intercollegiate Business Convention (IBC). If you were interested in joining HUWIB, you could go to the location of the convention and reach out to people who attended the event.

Finally, you can also go to the college geotag location on Instagram and reach out to people who are students.

It’s best to keep outreach messages short, clear, and upbeat to increase the chance that the student will get back to you.

Method #3: Campus Visit + Meet Real Students

The third method of reaching out to college students is contingent on if you can visit the college in-person.

Harvard Yard

Sunset from Harvard Yard

If you can’t visit the college in-person, there are lots of great resources that you still have access to.

Many colleges have virtual campus tours and information sessions with current students. Many current students also make YouTube videos talking about their experience at different colleges.

Some great college YouTubers to check out:

  1. The Kath Path from Stanford
  2. Paris Boswell from the University of Wisconsin Madison
  3. Katherout from USC
  4. LifeWithLaur from Dartmouth
  5. Nicolas Chae from Princeton
  6. Elliot Choy from Vanderbilt

If you are able to visit the college in person, it can be helpful to sit on a bench in the center of campus and observe the students walking around. It can be helpful to respectfully approach students and ask them about their experience, but be sure to keep in mind that college students are often extremely busy and might not have a lot of time to answer your questions.

A few locations that are good options for places to sit and observe current students include:

  1. The student center
  2. A few of the dorms
  3. Classroom buildings
  4. The library
  5. The dining hall

It can be helpful to have a few questions in mind if you decide to approach students so as to avoid wasting time. Remember to respect student’s times and take rejections graciously.

Method #4: Reach out to Admissions Officers

Another option is to reach out to the admissions office directly. There are a few benefits and a few drawbacks to this approach.

Benefits of reaching out to the admissions office

  • Admissions officers will be able to share a wide range of resources, from presentations to flyers and student testimonials
  • Since admissions officers connect with students every day, they will likely respond to your inquiries quickly and share high-quality information
  • It might take longer for students to get back to you because they have a lot going on with extracurriculars and classes
  • Speaking with admissions officers might count as demonstrated interest for some schools who look at student interest as part of the admissions process

Drawbacks of reaching out to the admissions office

  • The admissions office will connect you with the students that they want you to talk to
  • The students who choose to work with the admissions office likely have a high opinion of the school
  • In this way, it might be challenging to get a fully accurate picture of the student experience
  • Most of what students share and what admissions officers talk about is likely the positive elements of the college experience and it might be harder to get an accurate picture of some of the less-rosy elements of going to a certain school

Method #5: Hometown Resources

One final option for reaching out to current students is to connect with alumni organizations in your hometown.

This is probably easiest for state schools where many alumni likely live nearby after graduation and schools that have clubs in large cities.

In terms of state schools, ask your friends and family if they know anyone who went to a certain school and ask about their experience.

Remember that colleges can change over time, and an experience twenty years ago will not necessarily be consistent with an experience today.

Many Ivy League colleges have clubs in large cities and states. If you’re interested in applying to Ivy League colleges, you can find contact information for each club on their websites.

And if you can't find anyone, we have plenty of Ivy League students on our team who'd be happy to chat. Feel free to grab a free consultation slot here to learn how we can help you on your application journey!


These five methods of reaching out to current students are by no means mutually exclusive.

Consider combining two or more of these approaches to reach out to current students and learn from their experiences.

And keep in mind that one student’s experience will not necessarily be your experience!

Take everything you hear with an open mind and be sure to ask multiple people similar questions to get different points of view!

When I was applying to college, I found visiting campus in-person and reaching out to alumni in my hometown to be the two easiest methods since I live near Boston, which is where Harvard is located.

I suggest figuring out which methods feel most natural and comfortable to you and starting there. Depending on what works and who gets back to you, you can always adjust your approach accordingly.

Remember to stay persistent, but respectful, and get the questions you have about the college experience answered! Best of luck!

What is it Like to be a Harvard Student? A Harvard Undergrad Shares a Day in Her Life

October 02, 2021 by Veritas Essays Team | Harvard, Student Life, Undergrad


What follows is an hour-by-hour account at what a typical day in my life as a Harvard undergrad looks like!

8:00 – 8:45 am: “Veritaffle” in the Kirkland House Dining Hall

Kirkland

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason, but you wouldn't know that observing Harvard students -- only about 40% of us attend breakfast, according to Harvard's Undergraduate Dining Services!

The house that I live in, Kirkland , has a dining hall with lots of to-go options including all of the cereal you could ever want (like Marshmallows & Stars, a Lucky Charms knock-off), bagels (aka rolls with holes), and fruits (the apples are my go-to).

Virtually all upperclassmen live on campus in one of 12 houses. You're randomly sorted into a house during your freshman spring semester, and you then live in that house for the remaining three years of your Harvard career.

My house, Kirkland, is known as the smallest house (but most spirited!)

The Kirkland dining hall is usually pretty empty in the morning, which makes it easy to find a seat next to whomever I go to breakfast with!

As a nice little touch of Harvard, each upperclass dining hall has a machine that makes waffles with the Harvard “Veritas” logo. Waiting to see if the clumpy mess of waffle batter turns into a beautiful Harvard-themed waffle is truly the highlight of my week.

Waffle

I like adding strawberries, blueberries, cinnamon sugar, and a little bit of syrup to my waffles. Getting one of these "Veritaffles" is a Sunday morning tradition for many Harvard students.

9:00 – 10:30 am: First class of the day -- Hist 1155: Early Modern Europe

After breakfast, I walk to my first class of the day: Hist 1155: Early Modern Europe , which is located in historic Emerson Hall. I usually try to get to class at least 15 minutes early so I can sit wherever I want.

Widener

On the way to class, I passed by Widener Library (view from the steps pictured above) and accidentally walked through a few tourists' pictures. Walking through tourist pictures is both a rite of passage and a given when walking through Harvard Yard. There are a lot of tourists and it can be hard to dodge them all.

Today in Hist 1155, we had a lecture on the Urban Revolution and looked at a number of primary sources detailing personal experiences during the plague. Most lecture classes I’m in consist of the professor presenting a PowerPoint presentation and students participating by asking or answering questions.

10:30 – 11:45 pm: On to Spanish 20

After Hist 1155, I headed to my Spanish class right next door in Sever Hall at 10:30 am.

I decided to take a quick stroll around the yard before heading off to class.

Sever

Spanish class is definitely one of my favorite classes this semester.

In high school, I got to know my classmates because we took many of the same courses together.

However, it can be harder to get to know classmates in college because everyone takes such different courseloads. Since Harvard has a language requirement, I’m in a class with people from a number of other "concentrations" (Harvard's word for a "major") that I might have otherwise not have been able to meet.

Today, we read “La Familia” by Rigoberta Menchú and learned about her activism work.

12:00 pm – 1:15 pm: Next up, SUP 206: The Causes and Consequences of Inequality

I decided to cross register at the Harvard Kennedy School with a friend to fulfill my last economics elective.

The Kennedy School, or "HKS", is Harvard's graduate school for government and public policy, and is pictured below.

HKS

Undergrads are welcome to cross-enroll in most classes taught at other Harvard graduate schools, including HKS.

At first, it was intimidating to sit in a classroom filled with graduate students. But attending office hours with the professor and getting to know the other students better after class helped assuage my doubts.

The Kennedy School is also a place where I can spend my Board Plus, which is essentially free money that Harvard gives us to spend at designated locations on campus. It's a total of $65 per semester, and is a great excuse to buy granola bars and other snacks.

I tried a chia seed blueberry cobbler -- A solid 7/10.

1:30 pm – 1:15 pm: Lunch at Eliot House

After class, I swung by Eliot House for lunch. Eliot is Kirkland's sister house (it's located literally right next door), and is one of the 12 houses where upperclassmen (sophomores through seniors) live.

Eliot

I love eating lunch at Eliot because the porch is beautiful and the house is conveniently located close to the Yard and the Charles River , but also removed from the chaos and bustle of Harvard Square .

Many of the Harvard houses used to have specific characteristics and reputations before they instituted a randomized sorting policy. If you’re interested, you can read more about some of the house reputations here .

2:30 - 5:30 pm: Studying in the Smith Center

After lunch, I decided to head to the Smith Student Center in Harvard Square to do some studying and get my readings done for later in the week.

Smith is an interesting cross section of Harvard because anyone from any of the Harvard schools -- undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, faculty, staff, etc. -- can go to Smith to work, and the main section is open to the public.

Smith

I especially enjoy studying on the 10th floor because there are beautiful views of the Harvard campus and surrounding Cambridge area.

Only people with a valid HUID can access the 10th floor, but I snapped a picture of the view to give you a sneak peak below!

Tenth Floor

5:45 - 6:30 pm: Dinner in Kirkland

After studying for a bit, I decide to head home to Kirkland House for dinner.

The Kirkland Junior Common Room is one of the spaces on campus that makes me extremely grateful to be a student at Harvard. Wood paneling, velvet curtains, oil paintings, ornate chandeliers -- this room really has it all.:

JCR

I met a friend for dinner and we decided to eat in the junior common room because there had been some COVID-related reshuffling of the regular dining room.

6:45 - 7:30 pm: After dinner walk

River

After dinner, my friend and I walked around campus a bit and watched the sunset from Weeks Bridge , pictured above.

It was a beautiful end to the day!

Weeks Bridge can be found full of Harvard students and Cambridge residents watching the sunset most evenings.

The sunset last night was especially beautiful with the pink and orange clouds. I find that taking a walk before I start my homework helps me recenter my focus and recharge.

7:45pm - Midnight: Homework and studying

I spent the rest of the night studying and working on homework.

I usually try to go to bed by midnight, but that doesn’t always happen.

Anyway, thanks for spending the day with me! From Harvard Yard to upperclassmen houses like Eliot and Kirkland, to the Smith Center and Weeks Bridge, I hope you got a better sense of what a “day in the life” might look like for you as a Harvard college student!