Applying from the UK
The US university application process is different from UCAS in several ways. In contrast to the UCAS system, it is important that you start to think about the process well in advance of the actual application, because for a start you’ll need to line up different kinds of paperwork. We explain the procedure below, but bear in mind that your teachers or Uni adviser may not know very much about the process, so it’s best if you get as much information as you can up front, line up your referees, find out about the financial assistance packages that are on offer, and plan in the SAT or ACT tests, if required.
It sounds like a lot, but when you break it down into manageable chunks and spread it over 18 months or so, it’s not all that bad! Ask your Head of Sixth Form or university adviser as well as your parents or guardians to go through this site.
Thinking about Yourself and Harvard
US colleges in general, and Harvard in particular, look for a wider range of interests and pursuits in an applicant than British universities. These might be activities in which you have been participating to a high level for some time, or new interests to which you have recently become committed and are spending time developing. In some cases you may be playing a sport to advanced level, or be developing your talents in the arts, music or theatre. You may have been learning a language just for fun, or working in a community service activity.
You may have won prizes for science competitions or tutored primary school kids in maths. You may even have started up a small business and shown genuine entrepreneurial spirit. All these things are part of ‘who you are’ as a person, and US colleges look at the whole person when they make their decisions, not just academic grades. So when in Years 11 and 12, take time to focus on what you have accomplished so far, and think about what aspects of yourself you’d like to highlight. It may help you decide what extracurricular activities to keep up and develop further, whether during the school year or in the holidays.
Visit if you can!
While not everyone has the time or resources to make a trip to the US to visit university campuses in person, those who can make such a trip will likely find they get a better sense of what campus life is like, and can better imagine what studying there would be like for them. If you can visit, most US colleges offer daily admissions information sessions, campus tours and may allow students to sit in on classes and/or stay overnight in the dorms with a current student. Check each college’s website for more information about what is on offer for visitors. Especially on the East Coast of the US, there are hundreds of colleges and universities located in close proximity and it would be easy to visit eight or ten within a week. To plan a visit to Harvard, find more details here.