“I applied to Harvard on a whim—and got in.”

Meet Nick, from Anniston, Alabama. Nick is a political junkie, sociology major, and a sophomore at Harvard College.

   
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      What was high school like for you?       I went to a public high school that only offered one   AP class  . I spent most of my time playing in a youth orchestra—I actually almost went to school for music. I didn’t feel like my school was very rigorous and I didn’t have a lot of schoolwork in high school so I spent most of my time on my music. I didn’t necessarily know what college I wanted to go to, but I knew that I wanted to go out-of-state for school.    Why Harvard? Was that your plan all along?    Even though I ended up going to Harvard, I didn’t apply to many Ivy League Schools. I applied to Harvard on a whim through the   Common App   because it was free. I didn’t even submit a supplementary essay and I was accepted. I was shocked and I’ve thought a lot about why Harvard accepted me when a lot of the other schools I applied to didn’t.  I think the two biggest factors were my letters of recommendation and the interview. Which is ironic, because looking back I should have prepared more for the interview. I think I printed out my resume twenty minutes before heading out the door. I showed up to find everyone in suits and dresses. Meanwhile, I was wearing jeans and a button up—I felt so out of place. But once  the interview started, the conversation just flowed. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of interpersonal connections—I really think my interview is what put me over the top. 

What was high school like for you?

I went to a public high school that only offered one AP class. I spent most of my time playing in a youth orchestra—I actually almost went to school for music. I didn’t feel like my school was very rigorous and I didn’t have a lot of schoolwork in high school so I spent most of my time on my music. I didn’t necessarily know what college I wanted to go to, but I knew that I wanted to go out-of-state for school.

Why Harvard? Was that your plan all along?

Even though I ended up going to Harvard, I didn’t apply to many Ivy League Schools. I applied to Harvard on a whim through the Common App because it was free. I didn’t even submit a supplementary essay and I was accepted. I was shocked and I’ve thought a lot about why Harvard accepted me when a lot of the other schools I applied to didn’t.

I think the two biggest factors were my letters of recommendation and the interview. Which is ironic, because looking back I should have prepared more for the interview. I think I printed out my resume twenty minutes before heading out the door. I showed up to find everyone in suits and dresses. Meanwhile, I was wearing jeans and a button up—I felt so out of place. But once  the interview started, the conversation just flowed. I think sometimes people underestimate the power of interpersonal connections—I really think my interview is what put me over the top. 

Nick (third from the right) arriving at Harvard.      
  
   
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    What was it like to go from a pretty relaxed educational environment, where you didn’t really need to study, to Harvard? Did you struggle with that transition at all?    It was a huge difference. I remember taking an economics class my freshman year. I went to all the review sessions, but I didn’t really know how to study outside of that and so I didn’t, which I think definitely hurt my grade in that class. I also had some reading intensive courses which were difficult because I’d never had to read that much before. I enrolled in a reading class to get help and develop a more efficient reading strategy. I also found it hard to adjust to having to do homework every single day, for 3+ hours. The good thing is there’s a lot of support offered, but it’s really easy to just give up. Pushing through is definitely the most important thing.    When he was growing up, Nick’s parents jumped between jobs a lot, which led to a lot of instability. They always stressed the importance of college. However, now that Nick is in college, they sometimes don’t understand why he’s is majoring in sociology or the kinds of jobs he could have with that degree.      What would you say to students who want to major in something that their parents don't think is going to get them a good job?     I think when talking to your parents, it’s important for people to keep in mind that at a lot of schools your major doesn’t matter that much, a lot of it has to do with what you’re involved with on campus and how much work you’re willing to put in. For example, if I wanted to go into consulting, I wouldn’t necessarily have to focus on economics or applied math because we have so many consulting groups on campus that I could just get involved in one of those. Or if I wanted to go to law school, I wouldn't have to major in Political Science because the LSAT (*law school entrance exam*) doesn’t cover political theory. So really, it comes down to factors other than your major, like internships and networking. Actually, I think networking might be the most important thing.

Nick (third from the right) arriving at Harvard. 

What was it like to go from a pretty relaxed educational environment, where you didn’t really need to study, to Harvard? Did you struggle with that transition at all?

It was a huge difference. I remember taking an economics class my freshman year. I went to all the review sessions, but I didn’t really know how to study outside of that and so I didn’t, which I think definitely hurt my grade in that class. I also had some reading intensive courses which were difficult because I’d never had to read that much before. I enrolled in a reading class to get help and develop a more efficient reading strategy. I also found it hard to adjust to having to do homework every single day, for 3+ hours. The good thing is there’s a lot of support offered, but it’s really easy to just give up. Pushing through is definitely the most important thing.

When he was growing up, Nick’s parents jumped between jobs a lot, which led to a lot of instability. They always stressed the importance of college. However, now that Nick is in college, they sometimes don’t understand why he’s is majoring in sociology or the kinds of jobs he could have with that degree.

What would you say to students who want to major in something that their parents don't think is going to get them a good job?

I think when talking to your parents, it’s important for people to keep in mind that at a lot of schools your major doesn’t matter that much, a lot of it has to do with what you’re involved with on campus and how much work you’re willing to put in. For example, if I wanted to go into consulting, I wouldn’t necessarily have to focus on economics or applied math because we have so many consulting groups on campus that I could just get involved in one of those. Or if I wanted to go to law school, I wouldn't have to major in Political Science because the LSAT (*law school entrance exam*) doesn’t cover political theory. So really, it comes down to factors other than your major, like internships and networking. Actually, I think networking might be the most important thing.

Go Crimson!    
  
   
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      Tell me more. What is networking and why is it so important?        Networking is basically meeting people who work in fields you’re interested in and building personal relationships with them. It’s actually something I’ve really struggled with. Many people come into Harvard with premade networks that either they or their parents have arranged for them. It’s sometimes hard to know where to even start.  I would say definitely make the best of the opportunities given to you. If there’s an event or an interesting speaker coming to campus GO! If you talk with someone and they give you a business card, follow up with an email.    But it’s hard, right? When you’re not used to networking at that level, it’s hard to go up to someone and feel like you have something worthy to say.     Yeah, it’s also difficult when you don’t necessarily have anything to say beyond, “You’re awesome and I admire you”.  But you have to start putting yourself out there and reminding yourself that you are more than qualified to be there.

Go Crimson! 

Tell me more. What is networking and why is it so important?

 Networking is basically meeting people who work in fields you’re interested in and building personal relationships with them. It’s actually something I’ve really struggled with. Many people come into Harvard with premade networks that either they or their parents have arranged for them. It’s sometimes hard to know where to even start.

I would say definitely make the best of the opportunities given to you. If there’s an event or an interesting speaker coming to campus GO! If you talk with someone and they give you a business card, follow up with an email.

But it’s hard, right? When you’re not used to networking at that level, it’s hard to go up to someone and feel like you have something worthy to say.

Yeah, it’s also difficult when you don’t necessarily have anything to say beyond, “You’re awesome and I admire you”.  But you have to start putting yourself out there and reminding yourself that you are more than qualified to be there.

Rapid fire round:     What's a quote you live by:     The Golden Rule — “Treat people as you want to be treated”.    What motivates you?   Informally, how screwed up everything is. Formally, the need to advocate for justice throughout underserved communities in the country.    Who do you look up to?   My boss at my last summer internship. He’s the coolest boss I’ve ever had and is such an inspiring person. He’s written a book, gone to law school, and is a great campaign operative.    One book recommendation?   The book that I enjoy reading is Harry Potter, because well, I love Harry Potter. The one that has more meaning to me, is  To Kill a Mockingbird . I love the author, Harper Lee, and it’s a great book that touches on societal justice.   A million thanks to Nick for sharing his story. Keep on killing the game! We'll be following up with a more detailed post on some of the topics Nick touched on. Stay tuned!

Rapid fire round:

What's a quote you live by: The Golden Rule“Treat people as you want to be treated”.

What motivates you? Informally, how screwed up everything is. Formally, the need to advocate for justice throughout underserved communities in the country.

Who do you look up to? My boss at my last summer internship. He’s the coolest boss I’ve ever had and is such an inspiring person. He’s written a book, gone to law school, and is a great campaign operative.

One book recommendation? The book that I enjoy reading is Harry Potter, because well, I love Harry Potter. The one that has more meaning to me, is To Kill a Mockingbird. I love the author, Harper Lee, and it’s a great book that touches on societal justice.

A million thanks to Nick for sharing his story. Keep on killing the game! We'll be following up with a more detailed post on some of the topics Nick touched on. Stay tuned!