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Ask Claire: How Can I Prepare My Child to Get Into Harvard? 5 Tips + How I Got Into Harvard University

Today we have an “Ask Claire” question from @Brownsugar731, who writes, “I am a single mom with a 10-year-old amazing daughter! She has a passion: she really wants to go to Harvard. I was wondering can you give us any advice about scholarships or how can she get into Harvard. Even though we have some time because she’s only 10, she’s a straight-A student doing well in school. And I just want her to get a chance to experience her dream, graduate from Harvard. Congratulations, I’m super proud of you and one day I’m going to watch my daughter do the same!”

Thank you! And yes, you will! If you believe it, you can achieve it! Setting a goal, visualizing that goal, and reinforcing your belief that you can achieve that goal are the first steps to achieving it!
With that said, I have a few thoughts. Read below:
1. Enroll your child in a good school

The preparation for Harvard starts early, so beginning to think about your child’s future now is smart! Do some research and find out what the best schools are in your area. My brother and I tested for and got into all the top schools in Atlanta, but ultimately went to arguably one of the best: The Westminster Schools of Atlanta. Westminster is known to send kids to Ivy Leagues (out of my high school class, 5 of us went to Harvard, and others went to Yale, Brown, Columbia, etc). Though attending a prestigious private school puts you in a better position to get in, there are no guarantees, and those schools are also super expensive (though you can get scholarships–I was a scholarship student). If private school is not a possibility, there are plenty of Harvard graduates who went to public high schools that had honors programs or magnet programs. Whatever school your child goes to, she has to be one of the best academically. She doesn’t have to be valedictorian or salutatorian, but making honor roll and getting consistent A’s and B’s are definitely a necessity. She has to study and want to make good grades.

Some students need a ‘kick in the pants‘ to get on the right academic track. In my book, The Bomb Life, I talk about having a group of friends who were ‘up to no good,’ and thought it was cool to not get good grades. My school had a ceremony where all the Honor Roll students got a gold certificate, and I felt some kind of way about not being on the receiving end of said gold certificate. It was that feeling of not being good enough, but WANTING to be exceptional that got me to focus on my grades. Other people don’t need that, but being motivated and making good grades is step one.

2. Make sure your child scores well on standardized tests

Scores matter! When preparing for the SAT and PSAT, I listened to SAT vocabulary tapes on my way to school, did SAT practice tests at home, and went to SAT prep classes. The beautiful thing is that good scores are attainable, you just have to study for it. There really is no way around it. When your child starts high school, start SAT prep. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

3. Academics are great, but make sure your child is well rounded i.e. is active in sports and extracurricular activities

Harvard really looks for well rounded people–students who don’t spend all of their time in the books. My friends and I were discussing today, and some feel as if you need to be great at one thing; I personally was pretty good at many things. I played the viola, did cheerleading, ran track, played tennis, participated in the French Club, and was big in our school’s Diversity Club and Honor Council. After the school bell rings, your child should be going off to dance class, piano lessons, sports practice, or whatever their heart desires (within reason). I think Harvard seeks out people who are interesting beyond academics, so get involved!

4. Write a Great Essay

There are loads of books about how to write a great essay, so a paragraph won’t do this subject justice. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be boring. When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Paris, so I wrote about my first time going to France and how much I learned (I wish I could find that dern essay!). Then, at the recommendation of my brother, I wrote another essay and sent it to the head of recruitment for my region. A little extra credit never hurts:) Write a story distinctive to your experience. Don’t write about why you love your mom. Don’t write about how long you’ve wanted to go to Harvard. Tell a story, but make it yours.

5. Visualization and Affirmation

As I said in the intro, a lot of getting in and being successful in life is about believing you can achieve it. If your child really wants to go to Harvard, she can affirm her wishes every day saying, “I will get into Harvard,” and then decorate her room with posters of campus. She can start wearing sweatshirts and telling everyone who will listen that she wants to get in. This is not a sure fire way…sometimes we plan and GOD laughs. There are many many (many!) things in life I’ve really wanted that didn’t pan out as I envisioned. But I’d say 80% of things I’ve really wanted in life, if they were meant to be mine, I received them–just by focusing all of my energy and attention on them, and doing something, day by day, to get closer to that goal.

I hope that helps!
When it comes to paying for tuition at Harvard, you should definitely research scholarships, but also know that Harvard and many Ivy Leagues offer need based financial aid. Between financial aid and loans, paying for your education should be the least of your concerns. Focus on getting in, and everything will take care of itself afterwards.

Again, Harvard wasn’t a huge goal for me. I applied after my brother encouraged me to, and I got in. That said, having a mentor or someone who can speak to your child who can add an extra dose of motivation would be helpful as well. I’m happy to do it!
I hope to see her at a #HarvardReunion in the future.
Harvard had its dull moments (it is definitely NOT a party school), but I think going there was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, and I am forever changed for the better as a result. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, so go for it!
Love & Light,

** A question I get a lot now is: Why did you go to Harvard to work in fashion? When I was 18-years-old, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so just went to the best school and figured everything else out later. You can never go wrong with a great education, regardless of where you go (this post is all about Harvard, but you can get a stellar education at many Universities). Once you have a solid foundation, then you can go out into the world and make it your oyster.

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