Monday, January 3, 2011

A brand new year

I've been receiving emails from the Harvard Interviewing Committee telling me that they are changing the system.

Fewer interviews will be given this year, which means less pressure on interviewers, who in previous years were stretched pretty thin. That's a good thing, in general.

That's also a good thing for you, because it means if you get an interview, you're really special and your interviewer will be 100% focused on getting to know *you*, not blurring you together with the kid who plays cello or the girl who rescues abandoned kittens.

So, it's another year. Last year, applications were at a record high. Out of the students I interviewed, one girl truly stood out for me. I wrote her a very strong letter... and was frankly surprised to learn that she did not get accepted.

That can be frustrating, as an interviewer. You wonder if you could have written a stronger recommendation... if you were too stingy with the marks.

When I was applying ten years ago, the process was stressful and competitive. There were tears, mini nervous breakdowns, trips to Coldstones to make me feel better. I can't imagine it's gotten any better, given that numbers of applicants keep climbing.

As you start the process, whether you're a senior getting your acceptances, or a junior looking forward, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. This is not a life or death event. It doesn't decide your future.
2. There are still many many wonderful opportunities ahead of you.
3. YOU determine how successful you are, not what college you go to.
4. Read biographies of famous people you admire - some of them went to Ivy League schools. But a great many didn't, and didn't consider themselves handicapped because of it.

That said, you owe it to yourself to give it your best shot. Be prepared. Ask me questions - I'll make an effort to answer them as they come up. Treat this seriously, and think about your interview prep not as time that ends up being "wasted" if you don't get in to your top college, but as an investment. During the course of your life, you will have a great many interviews, and the sooner you learn to present yourself in the best possible light, the better for you.


  1. Hi, I've been looking for your posts in college confidential, but couldn't find any. I do not understand why they are deleting your posts as they are perfectly good and helpful ones for the applicants.

    Re."Fewer interviews will be given this year," I wonder if this also means they may not give interviews to some applicants, especially to those who do not cut their first screening? [This is because unless Harvard somehow increased the # of interviewers vastly, the can only give 'fewer' interviews by not giving some portion of their applicants because the number of applicants should only increase this year from last.]

    I am slightly concerned about this because my S2 sent app on the same day (Dec.20) to H, Yale and Columbia, and about a week later to Princeton. He was contacted by Yale and Princeton already. But Harvard has yet to contact him -- the admission office do not even verify if they received or not the research and other supplements my S2 mailed. So it makes me think they are either terribly swamped by the volume, this region may be short in interviewers, or my S2's stat did not cut their first screening?

    Thanks for the very helpful posts here and on CC.

  2. Hi there, thanks for the words of support! I'm glad you find this helpful - feel free to share the link or the content.

    As for your son's case, I wouldn't give up hope just yet because you are correct in assuming different regions tend to do interviews at different times. I know for my region we were interviewing through March of last year, even though they had finished earlier in other geographies. That said, even if Harvard is a pass, hearing back from both Yale and Princeton is great and something to be excited about. Focus on that. Best of luck to you!