Harvard University

35 Harvard Essays That Worked

Updated for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle.

About Harvard

One of the most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard University is the United States’ oldest college. Steeped in a rich 400 year history, Harvard's rich academic and research environment has fostered some of the world's brightest minds. Students at this Cambridge-based school have access to a world-class education and a community with exceptional talents, resources, and connections. Indeed, Harvard’s alumni includes presidents, billionaires, and award-winning researchers. Motivated students and passionate faculty members make it possible for Harvard's students to pursue their passions and gain the experience they need to realize their goals and make the world a better place.

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Cambridge, MA

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Real Essays from Harvard Admits

Prompt: Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include, but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere.

In sophomore year, I conducted research on gentrification in [Place Redacted]. Because of the robust nonprofit network serving Chinatown, my team hypothesized that its cultural homogeneity fostered solidarity, arming it with better resources to fight against urban development. Using testimonies from residents, community organizers, and young professionals, we compiled case studies of Chinatown as well as [Place Redacted] and [Place Redacted], two diverse neighborhoods contrasting Chinatown. The latter two were relatively powerless against developing institutions and affluent migrants. We used our findings to advocate for education of newcomers about their neighborhood’s long-standing heritages and current developments, so that they may amplify the voices of historically silenced longtime residents. We presented our research in a mini-documentary ([URL Redacted]), which was displayed at the [Place Redacted]

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Essay by Aileen Luo

former academic weapon, current hot mess (health equity & social medicine focused pre-med).

Prompt: Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences.

After learning to play viola with Save Our Kids Music (SOKM) from 3rd-8th grade, I returned to volunteer in 9th. Noticing a dire need for instructors I recruited several former SOKM members and we built a cohort of 5 weekly volunteers.

I see myself as a part of my pupil's’ team. Together, we learn to hold a bow, read music, or understand music theory. I also teach the leadership skills I've acquired through studying music including communication, organization, resilience through consistent practice, and teamwork.

Regaining momentum after Covid had been challenging; nevertheless, I've managed to recruit new volunteers to support SOKM. Leadership is not a marathon—it's a relay! Our volunteer team has helped beginners barely able to hold their instruments blossom into confident musicians. I believe our efforts have inspired others to carry the torch of service and flourishing in the arts going forward.

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Essay by Víctor

i love cities <3

Prompt: You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel that the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments.

As the other kids prepared to present their 3D-printed towers to students and parents, Nathan fretted, brow furrowed and arms crossed, deeply anxious about the prospect of speaking in front of the large audience. I was in my third year as an assistant teacher for a middle school weekend STEM class when I met Nathan, a student on the autism spectrum. While the other students worked in pairs, Nathan adamantly insisted he work alone. I was happy to support Nathan as he designed a miniature CAD model of the Big Ben, but he was now tasked with presenting alone, without a partner, unlike the rest of the students. Though he struggled socially and shuddered at the thought of reaching out to his classmates, the other students failed to make an effort to reach out to him. I was perplexed as to why the other kids felt content in excluding Nathan, but as I honestly admitted to myself, I had been no better at their age. Nathan displayed behaviors reminiscent of those of my older brother [Name Redacted], who has severe autism. [Name Redacted] is the most affectionate brother, constantly projecting an infectious smile that has the enchanting power to put me at ease; yet so many people unwittingly deprive him of the fair chance to live a life free from prejudice—including my younger self. When I was my students’ age, I felt a disgraceful degree of shame upon going into public with [Name Redacted], embarrassed by his random loud outbursts and the disparaging stares we would receive from almost every stranger. However, growing up alongside [Name Redacted], I sometimes observed genuine kindness that made me re-examine my outlook. I began to recognize that autism doesn’t make [Name Redacted] disabled; it’s how society accommodates his differences that dictates whether he’s disabled or not. Perceiving the barriers perpetuated by a world not inherently designed for people like [Name Redacted], I felt progressively empowered to try to make life more accommodating for others. I calmly assured Nathan that he would not need to present in person; instead, I recorded a video of his individual presentation to send to his parents, which alleviated his fears. In the subsequent classes, I put significant effort into connecting Nathan with the other students. I typically spent a majority of each class working with Nathan, trying to support him in any way I could. I’m eternally grateful that [Name Redacted] has helped me become more compassionate and understanding of those around me, whether it’s Nathan or simply a random stranger I encounter in public. Beyond the interactions I share with others, [Name Redacted] has also shaped my aspirations for the future. I am drawn in large part to technological innovation because it provides the avenue through which I can continue to better the lives of differently-abled people. I plan to innovate efficient assistive technology, such as AI-powered robotic assistants, to aid those whom society often overlooks. I’m proud that I can serve as an advocate for acceptance and help those who need it most. As I endeavor to provide meaningful assistance to these individuals, I hope I can inspire others to act in a similar manner.

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Essay by Sarah J.

CS @ Stanford. Lover of all things STEM, Taylor Swift, and dogs!

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