Harvard Application That Worked

The following application was submitted to Harvard in 2017 by Reddit user u/StringJohnson. Click here to view more examples of college applications that worked.

Common App Essay

When someone asks where I come from, they expect a three word answer consisting of a state and city. I wish that my answer could be that simple. Where a person comes from can speak volumes about who they are and as such requires more than a short phrase. My community sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and I’ve grown up in their embrace. Living in a shadow your whole life can be oppressive at times. The feeling of something constantly looming above you can be crushing for some. In my case, it shaped me and gave me a stark sense of self-worth. These mountains aren’t jagged rocks jutting through the ground like shark’s teeth these, instead, are soft, tall, amiable and inviting. They tower over the township in the western sky, delaying sunrise by more than fifteen minutes depending on your proximity. The piñon nuts that fall from the sentinel’s trees coupled with the indigenous elk and deer infiltrate the food from September to early March. The turquoise found in the native jewelry is a reflection of the blue and green mountains that encircle the town. In this way, the peaks worm their way into every facet of our town’s culture. This creates a unique microcosm of traditions centered on the foothills.

The mountains play more than a recreational role for the inhabitants of this small town. They are a visual embodiment of the values our community instills. In redacted, the youth are expected to be bigger than the mountains that stand watch nearby. We are expected to be greater in stature, honesty, and determination. The coaches of my teams are happier to receive a glowing report on the athletes’ conduct than they are a win because we represent the values of the community in everything we do.

A portion of this shaping is the product of our mountains. The Sangres hold a person accountable. They can always see you and, when you see them you are forced to remember the values they represent. More than once I’ve considered slowing down or stopping while in training for cross-country, but even when the coach was not watching, those three peaks were. When I lay eyes on them in a fit of introspection, everything they stand for motivates me and reminds me of the journey I’m on. The mountains give me strength during the times I may feel the weakest.

These mountains, though amicable, demand respect. Whether it was the time I was overconfident in my ability to ski on pure ice, or the time I thought that the mud would not stop my Dodge Durango, the mountains have taught me that respect is priceless. The proximity of nature has piqued my curiosity while keeping me grounded in reality. In a world that has become so inundated with technology, it is liberating to escape to a place with none. To this day, I’ve found no better panacea than the thin mountain air after a rainstorm. An early morning jog near the base of our sentries is the best medicine for a soul in turmoil. The cold air burns the lungs, but the harsh inhalant is a necessary component of growth.

I was born in Dallas, Texas and moved to redacted when I was four. I used to be intimidated by the pillars that towered above the town, but they’ve become more of a part of me than I could’ve ever previously known. I may have been born in the shadows of skyscrapers, but I’m proud to say that I’ve grown into myself in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristos.

Harvard Supplement

I am sitting on the roof of a Motel 6 in New Mexico and I am the luckiest person alive.

It is just past midnight and the corrugated metal is beginning to bite into the small of my back. Looking out past the bright blue six that adorns the entrance to the hotel, I can see the red blinking light of a single wind turbine. If I strain my eyes I can almost make out the three broad arms circling inexorably. My legs dangle over the side of the building, rubbing against the rough plaster. I sat down up here two hours ago, and the time has slipped through my fingers like grains of sand.

Looking over the edge makes me understand how truly lucky I am. The first time I looked down I was scared; my stomach tumbled within me. But the longer I looked, the less formidable it became. I welcome the introspection that my setting instills and I use this time to wander through my own mind. I am about 200 miles from home and I can’t help but think about the community that has shaped me. ——- is riddled with domestic violence and poverty. The kids at my high school wear the evidence on their faces. I can see that they are trapped and buried beneath their own misfortune. Their expressions are what have helped motivate me on my path to leaving this place. I carry within me not only my own aspirations but also all of the aspirations of those who are powerless to act on their own dreams. Despite my struggles, the truth is that I could have been dealt a far worse hand. I know so many others who would give anything to be in my place. While this is not a new revelation, the scale of it has not been fully impressed upon me until tonight. The dark stretching down to the black pavement beneath me makes me feel as if I am seated on a high promontory. The black of night resembles waves crashing against a cape, but I am up here. I am safe. Those that are in the water are not. They thrash violently, yearning for freedom but the waves of oppression pull them back out to sea. I got lucky. My place of safety has been crafted by my parents’ dedication: their dedication to endurance in their marriage, their lives, and their jobs. Their support has been invaluable and this is why I am so lucky. In the face of hardships, they refuse to give up and I could never express the thanks I owe them.

It is a little after one in the morning and I am cold so it is time to go inside. I don’t know how these experiences will affect me, but I am certain they will. Already, I feel within me a renewed vigor. I must make something of myself and I must do everything I can to exceed expectations. To give anything less than my best would be to sacrifice the gifts I have been given; so I simply will refuse to offer any less.