From Hawarden to Harvard: How I got accepted at a top US university

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

This week, Seren student Raphaelle Soffe tells us about being accepted at Harvard University in America, and her advice for exam success and aiming high.

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Harvard University is the place where intellectual pursuit is the norm, and where every dormitory room accommodates the best and brightest of the current generation. I remember stepping onto the Harvard campus for the first time as a US Sutton Trust student. My first thought was, “I can’t let myself fall in love with this place; it’s near impossible to enter!” But fall in love I did. I did not let low admittance rates intimidate me; I had a dream, and I pursued it.

As state school students, we are immediately disadvantaged through lack of resources, advice and funding. But that should never be an excuse – if Oxford, or any other institution, is your dream, then go for it.  Seren is there for you. It assists you on your UCAS application, guides you to opportunities and acts as a support group to the brightest students in Wales.

I wanted to attend a university that wanted me as much as I wanted it. It wasn’t just an acceptance email that I received. It was a warm welcome found in a lovely package sent from Harvard, a beautiful certificate and a personal congratulatory card from the Admissions Officer. Not only did I have the privilege of an unconditional offer, I also received a financial aid package worth the equivalent of a quarter of a million pounds.

Every time that I have a concern regarding my financial aid, visa or accommodation, I can expect a reply from Harvard, not within the day, but within the hour. It’s incredible the support they give; how genuinely concerned, and engaged they are with my problems.

My advice to the upcoming university applicants is that you must be prepared to dedicate time and effort to securing a place at your intended university. Your grades are important – and that is why the exam period must be used wisely. My exam periods consisted of typing my notes, copying them out multiple times, completing past papers, and making sure that I had no access to technology to avoid distraction.

I am due to leave for Harvard on the 14th August as I have been invited to a number of pre-orientation programmes. For example, I am partaking in the Fall Clean-Up Programme which consists of cleaning dorms, with activities in the evenings. During this time, I am paid a decent amount, and will able to visit Boston and bond with my future classmates. The other programme that I am likely to be admitted on is one directed at foreign students, and involves introductory courses and advice for settling in a completely different country. I feel that, although we share a common tongue, the culture of the US has distinct contrasts to that of the UK.

My last piece of advice would be to never give up, no matter how hard the struggle or the obstacles put in your path. There is learning in your struggle, strength in addressing your weaknesses, and success in pursuing your ambitions.  Natural Intelligence will only carry you so far. It is important you expand above and beyond the curriculum, in order to fulfill your full potential.

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