I have many regrets in life. Why did I choose messy spaghetti at prom dinner? Why did I hit on that girl when her buff boyfriend was standing right there? And so on.
But none surpass: Why didn’t I apply to Harvard?
First, I want to make something clear: my chances of getting into Harvard after high school were probably 0.07 percent.
Other things in that percent range include: surviving a 50 story jump; me marrying Zooey Deschanel; and Harvard’s Dean of Admissions reading this and admitting me.
But regardless, here are the five reasons I wish I applied to Harvard.
#1. To cure the “what if?” disease
Like I said, 0.07 percent chance of getting in. But still, what if the admissions officer was having an off day? What if he was feeling inadequate as a human being, and in return, admitting all inadequate applicants that day? What if they were desperate for diversity and needed to tip the scales by admitting a short, hipster-looking white guy?
Look at the movie Legally Blonde. Do you honestly think Elle Woods could have gotten in to Harvard? Accidents happen. Applications get mixed up.
All I’m saying is that 0.07 percent keeps me up at night.
#2. To grow through the process
Harvard’s application process is intense. It requires you to really analyze your accomplishments, your own strengths and weaknesses, and the people in your life.
None of the schools I applied to required such self reflection. Sure, I could have done this on my own, and I could have also gotten SAT help, but I know I wouldn’t have taken it as seriously. If I had applied to Harvard, I think the application itself would have forced my then-18-year-old self to reflect and perhaps, god forbid, grow up a little. Sometimes it takes others questioning us to shine light on our lives and empower us to move forward.
#3. To imagine their responses
The spitting out of coffee. The long gasp. The ripping of paper. The possible responses are endless and entertaining.
I like to think my application appalled the guy enough to call someone else into his office. “Hey Jerry! Get in here. Check out this guys’ GPA.” They laugh for a good two minutes. They hang it up on their wall of shame (because, of course, they have one). The dean uses my anecdote as the example of what not to do when he’s trying to prove to his kids why they need to do their homework.
Just the fact that they would take my application seriously for at least a split second would be worth every penny to me.
#4. To go to Harvard
Yes, the chances are unbelievably low, but one reason I wish I had applied to Harvard is because I wish I had gone to Harvard (wow, what a concept). Ivy League schools are by no means overrated.
When I lived in New York, many of my successful friends—fellow recent college grads—had attended Ivy League schools. The connections they forged at these schools—and the mere fact their resumes included bachelor’s degree from the likes of Harvard—allowed them to go to the most competitive city in the world and climb the corporate ladder quicker.
I’m not saying getting an Ivy League education is the only way to land a good job (there are internships, luck, skill, etc.). But I am saying that the networking opportunities offered by these schools along with the impressive fact that you not only got in to the school but completed a degree there work wonders with top name employers. And that’s something I wish I had.
#5. To reject them back
There’s a 74 percent chance that one day I’ll write a book that changes the world. When this happens, Harvard will inevitably want to award me with an honorary degree, to which I’ll say: “Eh, no thanks. It’s just not up to my standards.” Then they’ll say, “But it’s free.” I’ll interrupt with, “I said good day!” (Which I didn’t actually say, but that’s not the point.)
I will, however, be accepting honorary degrees from schools that would or did accept me, like the University of Nevada, Reno and University of Arizona.
This sounds like immature logic, I know. But admit it: it would be rad to be on a phone call with Harvard, perhaps in front of a girl you’re trying to date, and say, “No thanks, Harvard. I’m not interested.”
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