Catlin - Harvard College - Class of 2010
student photo

I didn't have to dress myself up to get admitted. In my Harvard interview I was totally relaxed. I told them who I was and what sort of student I would be when I showed up in the fall.

I was very involved in high school, especially in journalism, theater, and leadership. But I decided to write my personal essay about stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to love something that I was not very good at. I was a terrible softball player. I wrote about joining the JV team anyway, getting better and winding up being elected the captain. Of course, I don't know for sure, but I think my willingness to learn new skills made my application stand out.

Hometown: Maryville TN

High School: Private

GPA: 3.85

SAT: 2320

ACT: 35

Major: English/International Relations

Goal: Career working abroad



Brown UniversityWaitlisted
Harvard CollegeAttending
Pomona CollegeAccepted
Vanderbilt UniversityAccepted
Yale UniversityDenied
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillAccepted
Scripps CollegeAccepted
Duke UniversityDenied
Washington University in St. LouisAccepted
Wellesley CollegeAccepted
Bryn Mawr CollegeAccepted
Tufts UniversityAccepted
Davidson CollegeAccepted
Dickinson CollegeAccepted
University of Southern CaliforniaAccepted
Freshman Year Update

My experience at Harvard has been different than I expected in many positive ways. Most students are really helpful to one another and are always organizing study groups, etc. I was worried that everyone here would be a bookworm, but many undergrads are outgoing like me.

I have been trying out new things outside class. I joined the radio station and have my own radio show. I joined the Committee on Deaf Awareness and have been mentoring deaf children and learning American Sign Language. I recently joined a sorority and am thinking of joining the Crimson as well. These are all things that I never tried before I got to college. I really love all the new opportunities I've been afforded here.

On another note, I had roommate issues, but we have learned to make it work. The experience has made me stronger for it.

Sophomore Year Update

My year is going really well. Over the summer I thought a lot about my academic passions, and decided to declare an English major. So far I love the department and my classes. This year I moved into an upper class house. I'm on the House Council board, acting as social co-chair. I also became a Peer Advising Fellow, working with freshmen throughout the year.

Application mania

At first, the only schools I considered were Ivy League colleges, nearby schools, or schools people suggested. Then my advisor proposed schools I had never heard of, such as Scripps and Pomona in California, both of which I liked a lot. I ended up with a list of over 30 schools! I worked hard to separate schools that were suited to my personality and goals from those I had simply heard were great. Even so, I was only able to reduce the list by half.

I visited many of these schools. In fact, these visits showed me where I felt most comfortable. My best fit college was smaller, urban, and focused on the liberal arts.

Losing Brown and choosing Harvard

I had my heart set on Brown University. It was the first campus I saw that I really loved. People asked me repeatedly where I wanted to go to school, and I always answered "Brown." This made me feel that Brown was my only option. When I was waitlisted there, I realized that I had overlooked some wonderful schools just because I was set on the first school that impressed me.

I never thought I could get into Harvard. I had actually taken it off my list. I applied on a whim because some friends were applying there. I was so convinced I would not get in that I had zero anxiety about it. In my Harvard interview I was totally relaxed and said whatever came into my head.

In the end, Harvard, Pomona, and Vanderbilt offered me the most financial support. Harvard's academics and location suited me best.

My ups and downs

My counselor was wonderful. She helped me be realistic about my options and identify sizeable scholarships. It was great having someone to help me at each step of the process.

One of the bad things about applying early was that I had to wait longer. It was nervewracking. I was anxious even about schools where I was a sure bet. But after the first rejection, I got over it. So what? My acceptances made up for it.

I enjoyed talking to students and graduates about their colleges. I heard about secret traditions, what it is really like in the dorms and how helpful the school was after graduation. I saw their passion for their school was something I would feel someday for my own school.

What I learned

I didn't have to dress myself up to get admitted. I told them who I was and what sort of student I would be when I showed up in the fall. For a recommendation letter I even picked a teacher of a class where I had struggled. Many valedictorians are rejected every year. You have to be more than a set of numbers.

I got into the habit of applying, especially to schools that I did not care about. Looking back I see that many of the schools I applied to were not a good fit for me. I would have been better off visiting and eliminating more campuses before applying. Every school you apply to should be one you would be happy at.

The money factor

Money was a huge factor in my decision. My family always reminded me that seeking out scholarships and financial aid was important. Luckily, my top choices met my financial need, because many others did not.