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First thing’s first. While Harvard lists this essay as “optional,” know that, at least in our minds, no admissions essay is optional. If you have the opportunity to reveal something new about yourself to admissions and speak to them in your own voice, take it!
A “topic of your choice” can be difficult to brainstorm for, especially after you’ve spent so much of your creative energy on your personal statement. But there are other ideas in that head of yours — we know it! Unless Harvard is your first choice and you are tackling this application with an early submission deadline in front of you, you may want to leave this essay until the end of your supplement run. Are you applying to other schools with more specific prompts? Maybe those prompts will pull something unexpected out of your noggin that feels interesting enough to include or expand upon for Harvard? Also feel free to use their sample prompts as inspiration. Overall, remember the purpose of any admissions essay is to showcase something about yourself that admissions would not otherwise know about you. This is called the “Additional Information” essay for a reason — what information would make your submissions feel more complete?
This is an activity essay with a bit of a community and leadership-focused twist. Harvard not only wants to know more about one of your activities or work experiences, they also want to know how that experience has proven your leadership and relationship building skills. What have you invested your time in and how has that activity or job made you better able to lead the charge and contribute to the world around you? Be sure to cover something that has not been elaborated on in your Common App or optional-but-not-really-optional Additional Info essay. You want to contribute additional context to what the Harvard admissions officers know about you, and you only have a small space to do it in, so use it wisely.
This is a pretty straightforward prompt. Harvard wants you to list any of your intellectual activities that you have not mentioned elsewhere in your application. Did you try to build an app this summer? Maybe you shadowed someone with a position you’d like to hold one day to get a better idea of what the day-to-day looks like. Perhaps you took an online French course to familiarize yourself with the language before taking a trip to Paris with your family. Harvard wants to know – so get to typing!