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[Opinion] Getting Into Harvard University

Posted September. 02, 2005 07:16,   


Harvard University is the representative prestigious private university in the United States that marks its 370th anniversary next year. Seven U.S. presidents, including John F. Kennedy are its alumni, and 40 current and former Harvard professors have won Nobel prizes.

Then, how can you get into this university? The “Crimson,” Harvard University’s student newspaper, interviewed 50 Harvard undergraduates and published a book titled “How They Got into Harvard: 50 Successful Applicants Share 8 Key Strategies for Getting into the College of Your Choice.” Nonetheless, this book does not include any standardized formulas for entering Harvard.

For admission to Harvard University, school record is but one of many factors evaluating applicants. Even some students scoring a full 1,600 on the Scholastic Ability Test (SAT) fail. Statistics showed that 80 percent of high school students graduating summa cum laude failed to get into Harvard. Some students who have one well-developed talent but who do not excel in anything else are admitted to Harvard, while in other cases well-rounded students make it to the university. Essays submitted in the admission and opinions of teachers, counselors, and principals are also important.

Having parents who graduated from Harvard is also an advantage. This means, “The admission procedure is equal for every applicant, but if there is a group of similarly talented applicants, children of its alumni deserve one more look.” Volunteering activities in communities, leadership and excellence in extracurricular activities and working experience are also considered. Some say that because the university takes all aspects into consideration, approximately one fourth of its entrance quota is filled with students with less excellent scholastic abilities, making those with an outstanding school record feel a greater sense of achievement.

Like Harvard, all privileged universities in advanced countries enjoy complete autonomy in selecting students. No government meddles in college admissions as ours does through the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. The president says a few words and the Education Ministry freezes, going as far as to announce a guideline banning math essays and English texts for essay tests a month before the fall semester admissions. During a seminar of the faculty association of Seoul National University (SNU), some angry professors responded that the government “treats SNU like a kid.” Such a college admissions system would never succeed in creating universities like Harvard.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com