Here are our tips on how to answer the 2023 Harvard supplemental questions. 

Each question has a 200 word limit. 

Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?

Harvard prides itself on having a diverse student body! In your response, be very specific and cite examples of how you have benefited and learned from your life experiences – you can talk about your family, your hometown, a particular incident – what shaped you are today? Describe the perspectives you’ve learned from others and what you have contributed to your surroundings or environment. And, hopefully, you’ll continue to contribute to others at Harvard.

Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you. 

Admissions officers are trying to assess the future you by evaluating your past academic accomplishments. Keep that in mind as you describe your favorite subject. For instance, if your response is biology but you plan to enroll in the undergraduate business school, that will likely cause some confusion; however, if you are able to more specifically intersect your passion for biology with a business-related angle (say, your interest in founding a bio-related startup), that can make for a very compelling and unique answer.

What have you done in the past to fuel this academic passion? Was it a competition, an organization, a lecture, an article in a journal?

Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.

This is an opportunity to expand on one of your favorite extracurricular activities (that you haven’t already touched on) or name something that hasn’t been mentioned yet in your application. Note that the question asks not just about extracurricular activities such as school clubs, but also includes travel, jobs you’ve held, or family responsibilities.

For example, did you spend your time after school watching your younger sibling or caring for an elderly grandparent? Were you in charge of making dinner for your family every night? Or if you have traveled extensively, what did you see? Where did you go? How did your adventure affect or change you? Think about things that you wouldn’t necessarily list on your college application and then describe why they are important.

How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?

This is  your chance to tell Harvard what sorts of things you hope to do in the future. There’s no right nor wrong answer – it’s all conjecture! That said, Harvard is one of the most prestigious and renowned universities, so it’s okay to dream big. If you want to study government as your major, let the university know what you plan to do with that degree. Yes, you might want to go to law school, but go to the next level – do you want to be an ambassador? A civil rights attorney? A Supreme Court Justice? Run for governor of your home state?

If you’re a science major, maybe you’ll talk about graduate school and some medical discovery you’ll make as you finish your Ph.D. Or maybe you want to study architecture for graduate school and become an urban planner, or a famous novelist after you get your AB in English or … The list goes on and on. Don’t be afraid to show your creativity and, perhaps more importantly, your ambition. Whatever you decide to write about, it should be authentic and give Harvard some insight into who you will be for four years on campus and then who you will become after graduation.

Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you. 

Think about something that has yet to be uncovered throughout the rest of your application. What about you is still unknown to an admissions officer? Important details like this can come in all sizes – from a quirky habit to an everyday hobby. Maybe you wake up early to check stock prices. Or maybe you practice meditation each evening before you go to bed. Or maybe you want to be a filmmaker someday, and you’re going to force your roommate to star in a couple of your student films.

The important thing here is to let your voice and true self shine through. Think about your note from the perspective of your roommate – what would make him or her most excited to meet you?

About the author
Amanda San Román

Amanda earned a BA in rhetoric from Bates College, where she was a Senior Admissions Fellow, responsible for interviewing applicants and leading information sessions. She continues to conduct alumni interviews both in-person and virtually. Amanda manages communication and partnership efforts for AcceptU by facilitating webinars, events, email marketing and technology management.

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