The Application for Harvard

RORY: Oh my God … It’s here … My application to Harvard.

This episode is focused on Rory receiving her application for Harvard University, and the stress she goes through as a result. The US university application process is somewhat different to many other countries, so it’s necessary to understand a little bit of how it works.

It’s not the case that you simply send off your academic results to the university and if you make the cutoff point, you get in. You are also expected to tell the university about yourself, about your interests, goals, and contributions you’ve made to society, and supply letters of recommendation from teachers and community leaders to bolster your case.

Most importantly, you need to write a short essay, usually around 600 words or so, that somehow convinces them you’re more than academically gifted, you’re also a wonderful person who deserves a college education, but are far too modest to actually say that. As these essays tend to end up very much alike, they also need to be fascinating enough to keep the admissions officer reading them! But they can’t be too edgy or creative either, because then you’ll seem too weird for the college to handle. Stressful or what?

There are also opportunities to have an in-depth personal interview with an alumnus of the university, who hasn’t read your application, and doesn’t know anything about you except your name and contact details. It’s basically a job interview, but instead of trying to get a job, you’re trying to get into college, answering questions about all your positive traits that will serve to make the college a better place, while letting them see what kind of person you are.

The harder a university is to get into, the more rigorous and exacting the entire process is – you will need to have higher grades, more impressive goals and aspirations, and have made some kind of major contribution to the world. You will do well to have letters of recommendation from people who are leaders in their field, or actually famous. Your essay will preferably be of publishable standard. You will dazzle, astound, charm, and knock the socks off your interviewer. And that’s just to get in!

Rory’s application arrives in what appears to be mid-to-late September, but that’s just to fit in with the timing of the season in Gilmore Girls. In real life, Harvard usually sends its applications out around the start of August.

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