Why do so many students aspire to get into Harvard? The answer is easy – prestige.
Harvard is the oldest university in America, the most economically developed country with the highest GDP in the world. Oxford is the oldest university in the world, and had the United Kingdom been the most developed country; I don’t doubt that Oxford would have been the king in terms of name brand recognition.
More importantly, Harvard’s position as the oldest university in the most developed country in the world means it has attracted the largest endowment of any university, which allows it to fund its faculty, research facilities, academic and extracurricular offerings, which in turn further boosts its ranking and prestige.
Harvard also has 22,000 students among its student body, which is one of the larger private universities. Certainly, many will go on to do great things and take on positions in public policy, government, technology, healthcare, finance, and eventually donate back to the school. This feedback loop of increasing endowment and rankings will continually boost its public perception.
There are many other great schools, of course, that offer just as much if not more than Harvard, including its rivals at Stanford, Princeton, Yale, and MIT. Perhaps Harvard’s biggest strength is its prestige in the eyes of the public – Harvard also does a remarkable job in marketing its name brand, sending out flyers to nearly every high school student in America offering them to apply. It’s highly likely that you’ll get an invitation from Harvard to apply, but rarely would you get one from MIT, for instance.
So what does Harvard offer that other universities may not? It’s brand recognition.
Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the world (if not the most). Getting admitted to Harvard to most will feel like hitting the lottery – many successful people have attended or graduated from Harvard as it serves as an institution of higher learning dating back to 1636.
Harvard also has strengths in numerous departments and graduate schools and is top-notch in virtually every arena. This in turn, attracts greater funding and faculty to teach on campus, which in turn boosts the image and prestige of the institution. So for most, Harvard would feel like once in a lifetime opportunity that will open up the doors to attain the greater heights of success.
But we have to say that the Harvard degree alone, while it opens up doors, does not, in turn, guarantee your success. You will still have to work hard, think with clarity, and make the right choices to be successful. What the degree does give you is social mobility and signal to others that you are smart and accomplished up to a certain extent – the rest is on you to truly thrive.
There are many Harvard students who were extremely successful. There are also many Harvard students who did not turn out well. Some of these students didn’t deserve to be admitted in the first place, and others became burnt out through high school and thought that the Harvard ticket would be enough. It is not – merely an emblem or stamp on your forehead, so to speak.
But all in all, anyone would be ecstatic to be admitted to Harvard.