Harvard Short Answer Questions

August 17, 2022
By AdmissionSight

Harvard Short Answer Questions

What Is the Primary Purpose of Short Answer Questions?

More than 50,000 students applied to Harvard last year. The majority of applicants have stellar GPAs, test results, and extracurricular histories. In order to find applicants who “…will be the best educators of one another and their professors — individuals who will inspire those around them during College years and beyond,” admissions authorities look to the Harvard essay prompts. So, what is the primary purpose of short answer questions?

The essays you submit for Harvard should describe your personal development to this moment. Each essay should contribute to demonstrating your intellectual curiosity, your capacity for character reflection, and your ability to provide something distinctive to each place you live in.

Consider these Harvard short answer questions to be an opportunity to present oneself to the admissions committee. It’s possible that your SAT score is lower than the norm, but the essay prompts can work to your advantage.

How Many Supplementals Do You Need for Harvard?

The Common Application, the Coalition Application, or the Universal College Application are the only ways to apply for admission to Harvard (UCA). Depending on which application method you use to apply to Harvard, you will need to submit a personal essay in response to one of the Common App, Coalition App, or UCA prompts.

Every applicant must submit this essay, which must be between 500 and 550 words long (and must be less than 650 words). Check out the current essay prompts for the Common App, Coalition App, and UCA on their respective websites to discover more about this essay.

In addition to the required essay, how many supplementals do you need for Harvard? Harvard supplement essay is entirely optional; you are welcome to compose it and submit it with your application, but you are not required to. This essay has no word restriction as well, although if you do write it, it’s better to adhere to the standard length for college essays (i.e., somewhere around 500 words).

Young man writing in front of his laptop.

If applicants feel that the college application forms do not give them enough chance to convey significant information about themselves or their accomplishments, the school proposes that they submit this Harvard short answer questions and other additional essays.

There are ten different subjects from which you can select for your essay, and the choices are quite open-ended (11 if you include the fact that you may also “write on a topic of your choice”).

How To Answer Harvard Short Answer Questions?

If you think your application needs a little boost, take a look at this guide on how to answer Harvard Short Answer Questions.

The Requirements:  Two 150-word essays and one long essay with no word count

1. Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences. (150 words max.)

Because they give you the chance to say everything you couldn’t fit on your Common App activity list, we enjoy Activity essays like this one. First and foremost, make sure you choose a meaningful activity that you haven’t already written about.

Picking a long-running endeavor where you can demonstrate important traits like dedication, perseverance, and leadership is typically a wise move. However, even if you’re itching to write about a hobby or career you just started, you can still come up with a fascinating essay about why you chose to begin, what interested you, and what you’ve discovered so far. Use the limited space you have wisely. You want to provide more context to what the Harvard admissions officers already know about you.

2. Your intellectual life may extend beyond the academic requirements of your particular school. Please use the space below to list additional intellectual activities that you have not mentioned or detailed elsewhere in your application. These could include but are not limited to, supervised or self-directed projects not done as school work, training experiences, online courses not run by your school, or summer academic or research programs not described elsewhere. (150 words max.)

This prompt is relatively simple to follow. If you haven’t already on your application, Harvard wants you to list any of your intellectual pursuits. Have you attempted to create an app this summer? To have a better understanding of what a typical day would be like, you might have shadowed someone in a position you’d like to occupy one day. Perhaps before traveling to Paris with your family, you enrolled in an online French course to brush up on your language skills. Harvard is curious, so start typing!

3. Additional Essay: You may wish to include an additional essay if you feel the college application forms do not provide sufficient opportunity to convey important information about yourself or your accomplishments. You may write on a topic of your choice, or you may choose from one of the following topics:

  • Unusual circumstances in your life
  • Travel, living, or working experiences in your own or other communities
  • What you would want your future college roommate to know about you
  • An intellectual experience (course, project, book, discussion, paper, poetry, or research topic in engineering, mathematics, science, or other modes of inquiry) that has meant the most to you
  • How you hope to use your college education
  • A list of books you have read during the past twelve months
  • The Harvard College Honor Code declares that we “hold honesty as the foundation of our community.” As you consider entering this community that is committed to honesty, please reflect on a time when you or someone you observed had to make a choice about whether to act with integrity and honesty.
  • The mission of Harvard College is to educate our students to be citizens and citizen-leaders for society. What would you do to contribute to the lives of your classmates in advancing this mission?
  • Each year a substantial number of students admitted to Harvard defer their admission for one year or take time off during college. If you decided in the future to choose either option, what would you like to do?
  • Harvard has long recognized the importance of student body diversity of all kinds. We welcome you to write about distinctive aspects of your background, personal development or the intellectual interests you might bring to your Harvard classmates.

What comes first? This essay is listed by Harvard as “optional,” but in our opinion, there is no such thing as an optional admissions essay. Take advantage of the chance to talk to admissions in your own voice and share something fresh about yourself.

It can be challenging to come up with ideas for a “subject of your choice,” especially after investing so much time and creativity into your personal statement. You may have several thoughts churning inside your head. You might want to save this essay for the end of your supplement run unless Harvard is your top option and you are approaching this application with an early submission date in front of you.

Are you submitting applications to other schools with more detailed requirements? Maybe those questions will make you think of something unexpected that feels fascinating enough to include or elaborate on for Harvard. Also, feel free to draw inspiration from their example prompts. Overall, keep in mind that the goal of any application essay is to highlight a quality about you that the admissions committee would not otherwise be aware of.

4. For International Students: What specific plan do you have, if any, for using the education you hope to receive? (0-50 words)

For international students, the answer is rather succinct. Harvard University is interested in learning why you choose to apply to Harvard and why you favor Harvard over other universities in the US, your country of residence, and abroad. You must keep your response concise and to the point because you only have 50 words. However, you can still emphasize certain, identifying features that demonstrate your level of familiarity with the institution. Do you feel drawn to Harvard’s Folklore and Mythology concentration? Are you going to be a pioneer in reducing or even reversing water and air pollution if you put your attention on environmental science and engineering? Harvard is would want to know all of those.

Do you need to submit another essay when you already have to submit one for your Harvard application? There are differing views on whether or not you ought to submit the Harvard supplement essay.

While some people believe that this essay is essentially required and that there are few possibilities of getting into Harvard without it. Others feel that sending it in is just a waste of time, especially if you don’t have anything particularly noteworthy or fascinating to write about.

Which is it then? In general, you should submit something if you have the chance because you believe it will improve your college application. You’ll spice up your application and show off a different side of yourself by writing this essay.

However, it’s important to reiterate that this essay is not necessary for admission to Harvard. It is totally up to you whether you submit a Harvard supplement essay, but experts strongly advise doing so.

If you’re having trouble deciding whether to complete the additional Harvard essay or not, consider the following factors:

  • Do you view yourself as a capable writer? Do you know somebody who you could trust to edit and proofread your essay?
  • Do you worry about other aspects of your Harvard application that would reduce your likelihood of acceptance, such as subpar SAT/ACT scores, a poor GPA, etc.?
  • Do you think the assigned essay prevented you from writing about something you truly wanted to?
  • Have you had an opportunity to write about all you think the admissions committee should know about you?
  • Would you have enough time to write and revise another essay?
  • Do you feel that the majority of your Harvard application is overly biased or too narrowly focused on one facet of your hobbies or personality? Could additional diversity and balance be added to your application?

You should begin to have a better notion of whether you will write the Harvard short answer questions by responding to these questions.

What Does Harvard Look for in Essays?

Keep in mind that your topic needs to be appealing as you consider writing a supplemental essay. If you’re asking what does Harvard look for in essays, consider Harvard’s strategy for achieving academic success and what it means to you. It values students who are not only academically gifted but also actively involved in their community and receptive to new experiences.

Additionally, a dynamic synergy exists between and among students and faculty, which contributes to Harvard’s collegiate spirit. “Students who will be the best educators of one another and their professors– individuals who will inspire those around them during their College years and beyond.”  are what the organization is searching for. Harvard takes pride in having a close-knit student body.

Typing on a laptop in a table.

The Harvard Houses, where teaching, learning, and living go hand in hand, are a prime example of this concentration. How can you improve this environment? Maybe you want to join a chorus and sing? Run a certain club? Is there a research project where you would like to collaborate with professors? The idea is to show that you will interact positively with your community.

The Harvard admissions committee looks for applicants who are not only well-rounded but also highly innovative in one or more areas, contemplative, passionate, artistic, empathetic, intelligent, and smart. Do not let these qualities scare you. Instead, make an effort to compellingly communicate your distinct personality, life experiences, objectives, motivations, interests, and opinions.

It should come as no surprise that Harvard has a very competitive application pool. For the class of 2025, it received 57,786 undergraduate applications but just 2,320 were admitted. How can you stand out in this competitive application pool the best? Be yourself, highlight your talents, and demonstrate your individuality in your application and essay responses!

Do you still need assistance with the Harvard essay writing process? For answers to your inquiries, continue reading.

1. Will completing the additional essays for Harvard increase my chances of being admitted?

Your essays can increase your chances of being accepted if you are a strong writer and you can show that you are a vibrant person who will contribute to the Harvard community. They will help the admissions panel understand your character and interests.

Young woman looking out the window while holding her glasses.

2. Are the Harvard extra essays have to be written?

These essays are optional, but if you are certain that you want to go to Harvard, you should take advantage of the chance to strengthen your application and raise your chances of getting accepted.

3. The word count I should aim for in the third essay has no word restriction.

Aim to limit your response to 500–700 words. Don’t go overboard; just give yourself enough room to respond to the prompt.

4. How does the Harvard admissions board choose which applicants to accept?

Harvard said, “There is no formula for gaining admission to Harvard. Academic accomplishment in high school is important, but the Admissions Committee also considers many other criteria, such as community involvement, leadership and distinction in extracurricular activities, and personal qualities and character.

Young woman hugging a friend while holding a letter.

We rely on teachers, counselors, and alumni to share information with us about an applicant’s strength of character, his or her ability to overcome adversity, and other personal qualities.”

If you’re unsure of how to start, think about asking an admissions consultant for advice.

5. Will writing extra essays harm rather than help my application?

These Harvard essays have the potential to hurt your chances of acceptance if you don’t compose them wisely. Your essays will, nevertheless, be a huge addition to your application if you get help from your friends, family, and resources.

6. How can I make my application stand out?

Jay Chen, a Harvard alum, claims “What you want to do is write something very true to yourself. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerability. Talk about something difficult that happened and how you overcame it. You don’t want to pretend to be invincible if you think that’s what colleges want. They want to see that you’re mature and that you’re able to cope with hardships.”

Since acceptance rates to Ivy League schools are often low, you should take every step possible to increase your chances of getting accepted.

Rest assured that Harvard is reviewing your whole application to find the program that will be the best fit for you as a student. Try not to lose focus and resist becoming overwhelmed. As you devote yourself to this procedure, be sure to meet deadlines. Make a good plan to allow yourself the time you need to offer your best effort. You must do your part to persuade the admissions committee that you are the best fit for Harvard while also taking into account what appeals to YOU about the “big H.” Keep in mind that this is a two-way street.

If you would like to more about Harvard short answer questions or essays in general, AdmissionSight can provide you with more information. Together, we can create strategies for you to be able to write an impressive college application essay. AdmissionSight also has a program focused on essay writing. Feel free to set up an initial consultation to start writing your college essays early.

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