Harvard Outreach Newsletter

114th Issue, February 2023

In this issue:

Best thing about Harvard: the diverse community

William Tarr poses in front of the crest of his old high school (Colyton Grammar School in Devon) before giving a talk to his ex-classmates about his first semester at Harvard.  Photo subject to copyright

During the Harvard January vacation, the Harvard Club of the UK encourages first-year students to return to their old high schools to talk about how they got on during their first semester at Harvard.  Last month we highlighted Elizabeth Bennett’s talk at her school in Northumberland.  This month we feature William Tarr, who paid a return visit to Colyton Grammar School in Devon to give an engaging talk to his ex-classmates on 16 January.

His talk covered his activities in and outside the classroom, his first-year accommodation on Harvard Yard, and his preferences for Housing Day (the day in March when he will find out which house he has been allocated for the remaining three years of his degree).  Questions at the end of his talk were about the application process, the differences between universities in the US and UK, and how Harvard’s financial aid system worked.

Students take four courses per semester, and William took courses in Expository Writing, Economics, Computer Science, and a Freshman Seminar entitled ‘The Economist’s View of the World,’ which was his favourite class.  Many first-year students report how much they enjoy their Freshman Seminar classes.  William was impressed by the small class size (12-15 students), and with the discussion format that enables students to learn from each other.  The goal of his particular seminar was: ‘…to probe how economists of various perspectives view human behavior and the proper role of government in society,’ which fitted in well with his intended concentration in economics. (Click here to check out the dozens of Freshman Seminars available to first-year students in 2022/23).

William plays a lot of squash, but his main activity outside the classroom is his involvement in the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations (HPAIR), a student-led not-for-profit organisation founded in 1991.  Its purpose is ‘to create a forum of exchange for students and young professionals to discuss and learn about the most important economic, political, and social issues facing the Asia-Pacific region.’  Around 30-35 students are involved in the administration of HPAIR, and its main activity is organising two conferences a year, one at Harvard and one in Asia.

His interest in voluntary work started at high school where he founded a charity called ‘Safe Start,’ which provided remote tuition via Zoom to disadvantaged school students in his local community.  He and two friends were the tutors, and they had 50-100 students on their books at any one time.  The service was publicised through local schools.

Like all first-years, he lives on Harvard Yard and likes the convenience of not having far to go to attend class.  His two roommates in Mower House are Vlad, from Romania, who he thinks is “a computer science genius,” and Thang, who is a Vietnamese American.  “We get on well and help each other with problem sets,” he says. (The three of them are in the back row of the photo below).

Some of William's classmates in Mower House. Photo subject to copyright

Some of William’s classmates in Mower House.  Photo subject to copyright

The best thing about Harvard overall?  “The best thing is undoubtedly the diverse Harvard community – the fact that you are mixing with people with different outlooks on life. So far I’m 100% happy I came here.” 

Any downsides? “Being a long way from home.”

Financial aid at Harvard

Note: This article uses the exchange rate of £1 = $1.20 current in mid-February 2023.  It is likely to be different by the time you apply. 
Almost since its foundation, Harvard College has provided financial aid to its students.  The tradition started with Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, who in 1643 left a bequest to help needy students admitted to Harvard College.  Since then, many other benefactors have supported students who otherwise could not afford to attend, culminating in Kenneth Griffin’s landmark $125 million donation in support of financial aid in February 2014 (the 10th anniversary of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, launched in 2004).  The Financial Aid Initiative was set up to ensure that all admitted students – both domestic and international – can attend Harvard regardless of their economic circumstances.  

Bequest of Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, to establish Harvard's first endowed scholarship on 9th May 1643.

Bequest of Anne Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson of London, to establish Harvard’s first endowed scholarship on 9th May 1643.

Financial aid: four students share their personal experiences

In this video, four students share their personal stories about how Harvard’s Financial Aid Initiative enabled them to realize their dream of attending Harvard.  Go to the Harvard College Admissions & Financial Aid YouTube channel, and scroll down until you see the title: Financial Aid at Harvard: Students Share their Stories

How financial aid works at Harvard

The financial aid application process is essentially the same for all students – regardless of nationality or citizenship.  You will be asked to provide information about your family income and assets, outside awards, and any unusual or changed financial circumstances.  Once we have reviewed your information and determined your demonstrated need, you will be notified of your award for the coming year.  Rest assured that applying for financial aid will in no way jeopardize your chances of admission.  

The Admissions Office has two guiding principles:  

  • Need-blind admissions.  This means that admissions and financial aid are dealt with separately.  Only after the Admissions Committee has decided who it wants to admit do financial aid officers look at students’ financial aid applications and assess how much aid they need.  Your financial circumstances will never affect your chance of being admitted to Harvard. 
  • 100% need-based aid.  Harvard is committed to meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need for all four years, based on the information submitted on their financial aid applications.  

The two guiding principles mean that all admitted students automatically get access to financial aid if they need it, and the amount they receive is means-tested against their family’s income.  Financial aid officers will work closely with your family to understand your financial situation, then create a comprehensive financial aid package that accounts for the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board.  

Families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less (around £62,000) will not be expected to pay anything towards their child’s education at Harvard.  Families with annual incomes of between £62,000 – £125,000 will pay anything between zero and 10% of their income towards university costs, depending on their other assets.  Those with incomes above £125,000 will be asked to pay proportionately more than 10% depending on circumstances.  Any equity in the family’s main place of residence and personal pension assets are not considered in our assessment of financial need.  The aid comes in the form of grants, not loans, so it does not have to be paid back and it is therefore possible for all students to complete their degree without getting into debt.  

As the primary beneficiary of a Harvard education, all students are expected to contribute to their college expenses – currently $3,500 (around £2,900) per year – see worked examples below.  Most students work to meet their student contribution, and jobs on campus are plentiful and varied.  Students may meet their entire financial contribution by working 10-12 hours per week during term time.  Visit our Guide to Student Employment for further information.  

The numbers:

  • 22% of families pay nothing towards their child’s Harvard education
  • 55% of students at Harvard receive financial aid
  • $13,000 (£10,800) is the average parental contribution per annum
  • 100% of demonstrated financial need is met
  • 100% of students can graduate debt-free

Step by step process for international students applying for financial aid from US colleges

This information is relevant to students in Year 12 (England & Wales), S5 (Scotland) and Year 13 (N. Ireland) who will be applying to US colleges in the autumn of 2023 for entry in 2024. 

1. Identify colleges that provide financial aid for international applicants:

When researching the US college system to decide where you want to apply, make sure you investigate financial aid early in the research process so you can identify colleges where aid is available for international applicants.  By law, every US college website must have a net price calculator or similar tool that allows prospective candidates to find out if they are eligible for financial aid, and if so, roughly how much they are likely to receive.  Use the tool on the websites of all your long-listed colleges as one way of choosing your final shortlist.  If applying to Harvard, our Net Price Calculator is user-friendly with only four fields, making it easy to estimate your likely financial aid package (see the worked examples at the end of this section).

2. Apply for financial aid at the same time as you apply for admission,

so that any offers of admission you receive are accompanied by a financial aid offer.  That way, you can make an informed choice about whether to accept or decline any offers you receive.  A good time to start filling out your financial aid forms is during the summer holiday before your final year at high school, shortly after the main US college application platforms (Common Application and Coalition for College) go live on 1st August each year. 

3. Complete the necessary financial aid documents and submit the appropriate tax returns and supporting information:

International applicants will need to submit the following documents: 

  • CSS Profile
  • IDOC Packet
  • The annual tax return used in your home country – for UK applicants, this will be the HMRC Tax Return
  • Other information about your family’s business interests, unusual expenses or special circumstances

(At Harvard, the deadlines for submitting these documents are 1st November for Restrictive Early Action applicants, or 1st February for Regular Decision applicants).

4. Complete the CSS Profile:

Start by filling out the CSS Profile. This is an online financial aid application, administered by the College Board, used to determine a family’s financial need for institutional financial aid, and is suitable for both US citizens and international applicants.  It is used by about 400 colleges, universities and scholarship programs in the US, including Harvard, and allows international applicants to report financial information in their country’s currency.  To see a 30-minute video on how to complete the CSS Profile, go to the ‘International Applicants’ page of the CSS website, scroll down to ‘Resources’ and click on ‘Completing the CSS Profile as an International Student’.  On the next screen, click ‘Start’ and then enter ‘2024’ as your high school graduation year.  This will take you to the correct video.  

5. Submit your IDOC Packet:

After you have completed your CSS Profile, the next task is to submit all your financial aid documents online using the Institutional Documentation Service (IDOC).  The College Board will then provide the documents automatically to all the colleges to which you are applying.  As with the CSS Profile, the IDOC Packet is necessary both for domestic and international applicants.  To see a 14-minute video which introduces IDOC and guides you through its use, go to the IDOC Homepage, click ‘Open Presentation’ near the top of the page, and on the following page click ‘Start’ and enter ‘2023’ as your high school graduation year.  

For Harvard applicants: IDOC will show a list of basic documents to be uploaded, but it is not the definitive list of what you need to submit.  Additional required documents are given below.  Gather together all of the following that apply, and submit them to IDOC.  Please do not send draft or estimated taxes.  We need the actual tax return as filed with your Government. 

  • Most recent HMRC Tax Return (UK applicants) for both parents.
  • Student’s tax return (if you have submitted one).
  • Business documents – if either of your parents has an interest in a business or farm, submit the latest business tax return.
  • Trust or estate documents – if you or your parents are the beneficiary of an estate or trust, submit the full trust tax return and a letter explaining the contents of the trust or estate, its value, and accessibility.
  • Additional information – if you have any unusual expenses or special circumstances to share, submit an explanatory letter with the rest of your documents.

Worked examples using Harvard’s Net Price Calculator

(In addition to the worked examples, you will also find it helpful to view the ‘how to use the Net Price Calculator’ video on the Admissions Office YouTube channel). 

Family 1

Typical aid package for a student from a modest income family: Income of £40,000 pa (about $48,000 at current exchange rates), a home and £50,000 ($60,000) in other savings/assets.

Estimated scholarship: £65,370 ($78,513) 
Term-time work for student: £2,915 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: zero

Family 2

Typical aid package for a student from a middle income family:
Income of £80,000 pa (about $95,975 at current exchange rates), a home and £80,000 ($95,975) in other savings/assets.

Estimated scholarship: £61,789 ($74,213) 
Term-time work for student: £2,915 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: £3,580 ($4,300)

Family 3

Typical aid package for a student from a higher income family:
Income of £120,000 pa (about $144,135 at current exchange rates), a home and £160,000 ($192,160) in other savings/assets.

Estimated scholarship: £53,420 ($64,113) 
Term-time work for student: £2,915 ($3,500) 
Cost to parents: £11,995 ($14,400)

Other US colleges that are ‘need-blind’ and provide the ‘full demonstrated need’ for international students

Amherst College  
Amherst College is ‘need blind’ with respect to admission.  Amherst will not take into account whether or not you have applied for financial aid in the admission process. The College has a comprehensive program of financial aid that provides assistance in the form of scholarships and grants, loans, and student employment; Amherst meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted applicants. (Amherst website)
Dartmouth College 
Dartmouth College has scholarships and loans available to international students, which includes an allowance for travel to the U.S.  We understand that your circumstances may be unique and our office will help in any way we can.  Dartmouth has expanded its longstanding need-blind admissions policy to include all international citizens, beginning with the Class of 2026. (Dartmouth website)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)  
International students are considered for aid using the same process that we use for all applicants.  We are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need for international students just as we are for domestic students. (MIT website)
Princeton University  
Princeton considers U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens alike in the admission and financial process.  In fact, Princeton is one of only a handful of schools in the country that do not limit financial aid for international undergraduates, treating international and U.S. students the same in the financial aid process.  (Princeton website)
Yale College  
Yale operates a need-blind admissions policy for all applicants, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.  Yale admits undergraduate students without regard to their ability to pay, and provides need-based financial aid awards to all admitted students on the basis of individual needs assessments.  All of Yale’s undergraduate financial aid is awarded on the basis of financial need.  There are no merit-based or academic scholarships.  (Yale website)

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