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Crucial Information to Help You Begin Your Harvard Supplemental Essays

Writing supplemental essays is a critical component of the college application process, and when it comes to Harvard University, it becomes even more vital. As one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, Harvard seeks to admit students who not only excel academically but also possess unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives that align with the university’s values. The supplemental essays provide an opportunity for applicants to go beyond their grades and test scores and present a more holistic picture of themselves.

Understanding the Purpose of Harvard Supplemental Essays

Before delving into the specifics of crafting compelling Harvard supplemental essays, it is essential to understand their purpose. These supplemental essays serve as a means for Harvard to gain deeper insights into who you are as an individual and how you might contribute to the university’s vibrant and diverse community. The admissions committee wants to understand your motivations, passions, intellectual curiosity, leadership potential, and the impact you have made in various aspects of your life.

Familiarizing Yourself with Harvard’s Essay Prompts

To successfully tackle the Harvard supplemental essays, you must familiarize yourself with the essay prompts provided by the university. Each year, Harvard presents a set of prompts that allow applicants to showcase different aspects of their personalities, experiences, and aspirations. It is crucial to carefully analyze and understand each prompt, identifying the specific requirements and expectations outlined by Harvard.

Researching Harvard and Demonstrating Fit

In order to create impactful supplemental essays, it is essential to demonstrate a genuine understanding of Harvard and how you align with the institution’s values and mission. Admissions officers are looking for applicants who have taken the time to research the university thoroughly and can articulate why they are genuinely interested in becoming part of the Harvard community.

By researching Harvard’s academic programs, faculty, extracurricular opportunities, and unique aspects, you can convey your enthusiasm for the institution and how it aligns with your academic and personal goals.

Identifying Your Key Experiences and Accomplishments

A crucial step in writing strong Harvard supplemental essays is identifying your key experiences and accomplishments that best reflect your character, skills, and potential. Consider the various aspects of your life: academic, extracurricular, personal, and community involvement. Reflect on the moments that have shaped you, challenged you, or allowed you to make a significant impact.

By selecting the most relevant experiences, you can highlight your strengths and demonstrate your potential to contribute to the Harvard community.

Crafting a Strong Personal Narrative

One of the most powerful ways to engage the admissions committee is by crafting a strong personal narrative in your Harvard supplemental essays. Your personal narrative should provide a cohesive and compelling story that ties together your experiences, values, and aspirations. It should showcase your unique voice and perspective while allowing the reader to understand the underlying motivations and passions that drive you. Crafting a strong personal narrative requires thoughtful reflection, careful planning, and skillful storytelling techniques.

In the subsequent sections of this article, we will explore each of these aspects in greater detail, providing you with crucial information and guidance to help you begin your Harvard supplemental essays. By understanding the purpose of these essays, familiarizing yourself with the essay prompts, researching Harvard, and identifying your key experiences, you will be well on your way to crafting a compelling personal narrative that captures the attention of the admissions committee.

Showcasing Your Intellectual Curiosity and Academic Passion

Harvard values students who possess a genuine thirst for knowledge and a deep intellectual curiosity. Use the supplemental essays to showcase your academic passions and pursuits. Share your experiences in pursuing challenging coursework, conducting research, participating in intellectual discussions, or engaging with academic communities beyond the classroom.

Demonstrate your eagerness to explore new ideas, ask thought-provoking questions, and contribute to intellectual discourse at Harvard and beyond.

Highlighting Your Extracurricular Involvement and Impact

While academic achievements are essential, Harvard also looks for well-rounded individuals who have made a meaningful impact beyond the classroom. Your extracurricular involvements, whether in clubs, sports, community service, or creative pursuits, provide an opportunity to showcase your passions, leadership skills, and the positive change you have brought about.

Highlight the depth of your involvement, the responsibilities you have taken on, and the impact you have had on others and the community around you.

Addressing Challenges and Overcoming Adversity

admissions committee

Admissions officers at Harvard understand that challenges and adversity can shape and strengthen individuals. Use the supplemental essays to address any personal or academic obstacles you have faced and how you have overcome them. Discuss the lessons you have learned, the resilience you have developed, and the personal growth that has resulted from these experiences.

Emphasize how you have used these challenges as opportunities for self-improvement and how they have shaped your character.

Demonstrating Leadership and Initiative

Harvard values individuals who exhibit leadership qualities and take the initiative to create positive change. Showcase instances where you have demonstrated leadership skills, whether in formal roles or through informal actions. Discuss your ability to motivate and inspire others, your capacity to collaborate and work in teams, and your vision for making a difference.

Highlight examples where you have taken the lead, tackled problems, and influenced outcomes.

Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Clarity

Authenticity is key when crafting your Harvard supplemental essays. Admissions officers appreciate genuine narratives that reflect your true self. Avoid trying to fit into preconceived molds or writing what you think the committee wants to hear. Instead, be true to yourself and your experiences.

Articulate your thoughts and ideas clearly, using concrete examples and vivid descriptions to paint a picture of who you are. Aim for clarity, coherence, and a compelling narrative that captivates the reader’s attention.

Reviewing and Editing Your Essays

Once you have written your initial drafts, it is crucial to allocate sufficient time for reviewing and editing your essays. Thoroughly proofread for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Ensure that your ideas flow logically and cohesively.

Consider seeking feedback from trusted mentors, teachers, or peers who can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvement. Use their feedback to refine your essays and ensure that your message is effectively communicated.


Crafting compelling Harvard supplemental essays requires careful consideration, introspection, and attention to detail. By showcasing your intellectual curiosity, highlighting your extracurricular involvements, addressing challenges, demonstrating leadership, telling your story authentically, and reviewing your essays diligently, you can create impactful essays that resonate with the admissions committee.

Remember that the supplemental essays are an opportunity for you to go beyond the conventional application materials and truly showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. With the guidance provided in this article, you are well-equipped to embark on your journey of writing outstanding Harvard supplemental essays that will strengthen your application and increase your chances of admission.


Brandon Galarita is a freelance writer and K-12 educator in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is passionate about technology in education, college and career readiness and school improvement through data-driven practices.

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