There is a certain stigma behind the name Harvard, that it is intense, egotistical, prestigious, and even scary. Though it is recognized as a top Ivy League with a world class education, many people are even afraid to apply. Fears of rejection and being surrounded by very intellectual people can be unsettling and intimidating.
Despite these fears, I decided to take a shot in the dark and apply. Initially, I had taken it as more of a joke and did not even consider my chances. When I began to work on my application, I noticed that the supplement was very open ended and I could submit an essay on a topic of my choice. This made me rethink my application and I began to work very hard on this essay. I incorporated many important aspects of my experiences, education, beliefs, and even anecdotes to ensure it encompassed my life. A few days after my submission, I received an email asking for an interview with the Harvard Club of San Francisco. Seeing this made my application to Harvard much more real, I now felt an immense pressure.
The idea of an interview made me both anxious and excited, I considered how much this could sway my application. I had spent three weeks preparing by doing extensive research on the school, brainstorming questions, topics to discuss; I thought it would be more intense than a job interview. In my eyes it was make or break, all of the preparation and years of work had come down to this moment.
Going into my Harvard interview, I was terrified. I had to wait in the lobby of International High School among students from all over the Bay Area. Upon arrival, it comforted me to see some friends from other schools, yet it made me see them as competition. All of us sitting around a table, chatting for the sole purpose of sizing each other up, it felt as it if we were in the hunger games. Seeing other students get called out by their interviewers made it very real, my hands were sweaty and my entire body was shaking.
After 5 excruciatingly long minutes, I had been called out by an older woman and gentleman. After shaking hands, we immediately began joking about the complexity of my name and the vibe felt more light and casual. I was taken to a small office and the interviewers initially began telling me about themselves; what they do, when they graduated, what their major was, giving me context to their experiences. There were many jokes and laughs in between each of their explanations which made me feel more comfortable with them.
As soon as they finished, the tables turned to me and the woman had asked me the first question. Before the interview, I had to fill out a form with my favorite classes, GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and achievements. The questions asked were based on this form, which made the interview feel a lot more personalized. While answering, I began to feel my confidence rising, nerves dropping, and the rest flowed together perfectly.
The only question they had prepared for me was the first and the rest of the interview felt like easy conversation between three friends. There were no papers with a list of questions, it was simply conversation about my life, education, favorite classes, and we had even discussed poetry and GMOs.
This was my element, talking and connecting with people is a passion of mine that I was able to perfectly display in this interview. Towards the end we had realized we went over time, I was shocked at how quickly the hour had passed. They told me to ask them questions for the last 15 minutes. This was my chance to interview them, and having prepared questions, I was very confident. Their answers to my questions had given me entirely new insight into Harvard and fueled my desire to attend the university even more. When time was up I was left wanting to say and ask even more, yet I felt fully satisfied with how it went. We shook hands, said our goodbyes, and I walked out smiling from ear to ear.
This experience showed me that my expectations and preconceived notions had blurred my confidence and heightened my nerves. The Harvard name alone had added a lot more pressure to the interview, fearful that the alumni would look down on me. Despite this, I was able to easily adjust to the surprisingly more casual feeling of the interview. Overall, was an amazing learning experience, my preparation had paid off, I had a wonderful interview, and the Harvard alumni are a lot nicer than I had thought.