Harvard Outreach Newsletter

123rd Issue, November 2023

In this issue:

School Visits Programme January – April 2024

Year 12 students watch the video 'Harvard College Mission of Discovery' at the London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham, on 14 September 2023
Year 12 students watch the video 'Harvard College Mission of Discovery' at the London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham, on 14 September 2023

Want to learn more about Harvard and American-style higher education? Then invite us to give a presentation at your school next term, either live or remotely.

Each year the Harvard Outreach Team visits schools across the UK to talk about Harvard and the American university system.  The session is entitled: Study in the USA – Is it for you? and is aimed at students who are thinking of applying to Harvard and other US colleges either next year or the year after, but would like further information before making up their minds.  Parents, teachers and university advisers are also welcome to attend.  Target institutions are state-funded schools and colleges that regularly send their students to Russell Group universities in the UK, but do not have a history of applying to American colleges.   The presentation lasts for 40 minutes plus time for questions – a total length of 45-60 minutes.

To request a visit, send an email to outreach co-ordinator Stuart Gordon (s.gordon@post.harvard.edu) giving the name and location of your school and roughly when you would like the presentation to take place.  We welcome requests from both teachers and students, but if you are a student, please seek the approval of the appropriate member of staff (the Head of Sixth Form or the teacher in charge of university applications) before you write to us. 

We look forward to meeting you in the New Year!

Applications are now open for the Sutton Trust US Programme 2024. The programme is designed to support high achieving state school students from across the UK to explore US study and access leading universities.  It includes two residentials in the UK before all students spend a week in the US staying on a campus at a leading university and visiting a variety of other American universities.  An optional second year of the programme supports students to apply to US universities alongside their UCAS options. 

The Programme is founded and funded by the Sutton Trust, the UK’s leading social mobility charity, and delivered in partnership with the Fulbright Commission, who are experts in helping UK students study in the US.  It is free to take part in the programme.

The programme includes:

  • A UK residential in April 2024 (exact dates TBC) where you will meet your cohort from across the UK, as well as alumni from American universities and experts in the admissions and test prep fields.
  • A second UK residential in June 2024 (exact dates TBC) where you will spend time preparing to go on your US week and begin to work on elements of the US admissions application, such as essays and the extracurricular list.
  • A bespoke, modular course undertaken during May, June and July 2024, where you will learn how to write about yourself, your world view and your achievements. These will form the building blocks of a US application in the autumn. 
  • A week-long residential at a leading US university held between late July and early August 2024. You will stay in university dorms and take part in campus tours, information sessions and cultural activities.  You will also take part in a university fair, where students will meet with university representatives from all over the US. During this week, you will start to decided if studying in the US is the right choice for you. 
  • The opportunity (in August 2024) to apply to join the second part of the programme if you would like to apply to US universities during the 2024/25 academic year.

To be eligible to apply, you must:

  • Currently be in Year 12 in England or Wales, S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland.
  • Attend, and have always attended, a state-funded school or college in the UK (i.e. non-fee paying).
  • Not hold US citizenship.
  • Be from a low or middle income family (generally, this will mean a household earning £45,000 per year or less).
  • Be interested in US culture and higher education.
  • Meet vaccination requirements to be able to enter the United States on a student visa if you decide to pursue an undergraduate degree in the USA, except in circumstances of medical exemption.

In addition, the Sutton Trust are looking for students who:

  • Would be the first generation of their family to attend university.
  • Have been eligible for free school meals.
  • Attend a school or college with a below average A Level or Higher point score and/or a low rate of progression into higher education.
  • Have attended schools with a lower than average progression to higher education, or a higher than average proportion of students who qualify for free school meals.
  • Live in a neighbourhood with a low rate of progression into higher education and/or a high level of socio-economic deprivation.
  • Have excellent GCSE or S4 qualifications. This means you have achieved at or close to the following grades.  In England and Northern Ireland: at least eight GCSEs at grade A or 7 or above, or near this level.  In Wales: at least eight GCSEs at grade A or above, or near this level.  In Scotland: at least six B passes at National 5 or above, or near this level

The more of the above criteria you meet, the more likely you are to secure a place.

Selection criteria

Students will complete an online application modelled on the US Common Application and Financial Aid forms. This will help the Sutton Trust to conduct a holistic review of your application, and will get students in the mindset of the US admissions process.

  • Academic performance and potential.
  • Extracurricular involvement, including school and community activities, work experience, paid work, sports and music performance, volunteering, caring responsibilities and other interests.
  • Character: leadership, service, work ethic, enthusiasm, drive to succeed.
  • Demonstrated interest in US higher education.

 Applications: Students should apply online here

Student application form deadline: 11.59pm, Sunday 14 January 2024
School reference form deadline: 11.59pm, Wednesday 17 January 2024

Teachers providing references should read the Sutton Trust’s information for teachers.

The Sutton Trust also provides information for parents

Teachers and university advisers – what information do you need to provide to US colleges in support of your students?

If you are a teacher with responsibility for supporting students with their UCAS applications, but are unfamiliar with the US college application system, this section will provide you with information about what your school needs to provide in terms of  reports, student transcripts and references.

Although not all US colleges accept the Common Application Form, or ‘Common App,’ it is nevertheless used by over 1,000 institutions, including all the top research universities, so a large majority of applicants and advisers are likely to use this method.  The main documents that schools need to provide are:

  • School Profile – description of the school and its community.
  • Student Transcript – record of the student’s exam grades and predicted grades.
  • Counselor Reference – a character reference written by the Head of Sixth Form or other senior member of staff.
  • Teacher Reference – an academic reference written by one or more of the student’s current subject teachers.

The School Profile is a description of the school and the community it serves.  Context is very important for a US college application as it helps admissions officers to make sense of the numerical data.  The school profile template provided by the US-UK Fulbright Commission suggests you include the following information:

  • Name of city and town and description of surroundings
  • Community information (agriculture, business, diplomatic, rural, urban)
  • Number of students eligible for Free School Meals
  • Ethnicity of student’s year group as a percentage
  • Students eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance (if applicable)
  • Mixed/single gender
  • Demographics of students attending the school (citizenship, gender, etc.)

To access the template – which you can adapt for your own particular school – go to ‘Applying for an undergraduate degree‘ on the Fulbright Commission website, and then click on ‘School documents’ on the side bar on the left of the page.  Scroll down the ‘School documents’ section until you reach the School Profile Template, which you can then download:

If your school needs a template to follow, you can download our example. EdUSA School Profile Template Use this template if you’re a teacher, counselor or advisor to complete the school profile for students applying to the US.

The Student Transcript is a document produced by the school as an official record of a student’s academic performance, which might include:

  • Years attended
  • Achieved and predicted national grades from the last four years of secondary education
  • Academic honours and awards
  • Explanations and equivalences of new or unfamiliar qualifications for university entry (e.g. EPQ, Pre-U, BTEC, Welsh Baccalaureate)
  • Information about how curriculum reforms relate to a student’s subject choices
  • Plans to resit any exams
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • How the choice and number of subjects compares to the average student

Different templates corresponding to the exam systems used in different parts of the UK can be accessed from the ‘Applying for an undergraduate degree‘  page on the Fulbright Commission website.  Click on ‘School documents’ on the side bar on the left of the page and then scroll down until you reach the ‘Transcript’ paragraph.  At the end of the paragraph, there are six transcript documents in Word format that you can download for the following groups of students:

  • Students sitting A levels in England only
  • Students in England sitting a combination of AS and A level exams
  • Northern Irish A level students
  • Welsh A level students
  • Students in Scotland
  • IB students

The Counselor Reference places applicants within the context of their entire year group and school community, and should address the student’s academic performance, extracurricular achievements and personal qualities.  In the US, this reference would be written by the school’s College Counselor, and the nearest UK equivalent of this role is the Head of Sixth Form or teacher in charge of university applications. 

The Teacher Reference should focus on the student’s qualities as a scholar: intellectual curiosity, creative thought, quality of writing, class behaviour and work habits.  The student may request either one or two teacher references from their current subject teachers. 

Differences between counselor and teacher recommendations

Although there are some common elements, such as capturing a student’s personality and strengths, there are also distinct differences between the two perspectives.  The Common App website contains a useful Writing Guide for Counselors and Teachers which provides a comparison of how to address some key student characteristics from each perspective.

The Harvard Admissions Office has also provided what it considers to be helpful recommendations from UK subject teachers and Heads of Sixth Form to enable you to get an idea of the structure and content of a good reference.

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