A more holistic and personal approach influenced my university decision

Guest Blog by Arjun Gobiraj, School Vice Captain.

Early April last year, around the beginning of the first lockdown, my classmates and I in Lower Sixth Form started on our journey of applying to university. The first question you must answer in this process is, as one might expect, “What do I want to study next year?” For me, as someone with a fascination for human biology and a desire work in an industry with interpersonal relationships at its core, the obvious decision was to study Medicine and, hopefully, graduate to become a doctor. I was content with this path. However, as someone who’s always loved learning, restricting myself to one academic course didn’t sit right with me. Nevertheless, under the assumption that this was the only way of becoming a doctor, and after being further inspired by the NHS’ hard work in recent times, I quickly came to terms with the decision.  

The next step of the process is answering the question, “Where do I want to study?” Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, I couldn’t visit any universities to see them for myself. Therefore, I resorted to old reliable: YouTube. One day in early May, I stumbled across a ‘Day in the Life of a Harvard Student’ video. Out of curiosity, I clicked on the video. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a Computer Science major at a ‘Swedish Introductory Class’. In an effort to understand how this was possible, I began to research US colleges’, specifically Harvard’s, curriculums. 

Harvard, like many other US colleges, is a liberal arts college. These are colleges that develop students’ broader knowledge and intellectual capacities. Harvard is also a research university. This combination would give me the freedom to shape my own course of study. It seemed perfectly tailored to what I wanted to get from my higher education.  

Knowing the Boston university was a rather optimistic (and expensive target), I focused most of my time on the UK application. I worked on my US application in my free time with Zain Peerbhoy’s help – last year’s School Captain and current Brown University student. Armed with SAT scores, teacher recommendations and a few hours of prayers, I sent my application off in October. 

On December 18, I woke up to find out my application had been successful. On January 10, Harvard offered me a 90% scholarship. Then, the very next day, Oxford offered me a place to study Medicine. In my mind, I was ready to head over to Harvard for all the reasons I’ve already detailed. Nevertheless, when you have an offer from Oxford on the table, it’s hard to say no. But, that weekend, I received an email from the Associate Dean of Admissions at Harvard, who herself had deemed my application successful. She made it clear that she was ready to answer any questions I had before committing. But that was all she needed to say. Her willingness to make this effort was indicative of the much more holistic and personal approach Harvard takes. It was still difficult to pass on Oxford, a goal I’d worked towards for so long, but with great pride and no regret, I committed to Harvard soon after receiving the email. I’m very excited to be moving over to Boston this August.

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