The Ivy Coach Daily

August 10, 2023

2023-2024 Harvard Supplemental Essay Prompts

A hall at Harvard University shaded by trees
In the wake of the SCOTUS ruling against Affirmative Action, Harvard has opened its application supplement with a question about diversity.

Harvard University has released its supplemental essays for the 2023-2024 college admissions cycle. The Ivy League institution, which defended the practice of Affirmative Action for all American universities and was defeated in a late June 2023 ruling of the United States Supreme Court, is arguably being watched more closely than any other university with respect to its response to the outlawing of the consideration of race in admissions. So how did Harvard change its supplemental essays?

Over the last few admissions cycles, in addition to The Common Application essay(s), Harvard asked applicants one long essay prompt, a short prompt, and a list. This year, the long prompt and list are gone. In their place are five — that’s right — five 200-word essays. The essay questions are new as well. It’s as though Harvard did a refresh. So let’s dive into the language of the Harvard essay prompts for applicants to the Class of 2028!

2023-2024 Harvard Essay Topics and Questions

1. Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?

This prompt is Harvard’s most overt response to the Supreme Court’s ruling. While the Supreme Court struck down the legality of Affirmative Action, Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion ruling against Harvard, wrote, ““At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

This essay prompt is the manifestation of the loophole Chief Justice Roberts penned in the majority opinion. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Harvard President-elect Claudine Gay said, “The Supreme Court’s decision on college and university admissions will change how we pursue the educational benefits of diversity. But our commitment to that work remains steadfast.”

Oh yes, it does — as evidenced by this Harvard essay prompt in which applicants are required to thoughtfully reflect on the diversity — in all of its forms — that they hope to bring to Harvard’s community. And, remember, it doesn’t have to be racial diversity. It can be religious diversity. It can be diversity of thought. The question is intentionally open-ended.

2. Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.

Ideally, applicants will write about an intellectual experience that relates to their hook so they showcase a singular angle rather than well-roundedness on their Harvard application. As such, if a student is an astrophysicist, writing about an intellectual experience beneath the night’s sky has the potential to wow Harvard’s admissions committee.

3. Briefly describe any of your extracurricular activities, employment experience, travel, or family responsibilities that have shaped who you are.

Harvard has long asked for students to write about one of their extracurricular pursuits. Applicants should just make sure not to repeat an activity here that they wrote about in any other essay that Harvard’s admissions officers will see. The activity should also be included within the activities section on The Common Application.

And while so many Harvard applicants do love to brag in response to this essay prompt by, for instance, writing about how much money they raised for a charity, Ivy Coach’s students applying to Harvard would never make such a mistake. After all, a big reason Ivy Coach’s students so often earn admission to Harvard — as every one of them has in 26 of the last 30 Early cycles — is that they present as entirely likable. Admissions officers want to root for our students.

4. How do you hope to use your Harvard education in the future?

In past years, international applicants to Harvard were presented this essay prompt but, this year, it’s being asked of all Harvard applicants. It’s an opportunity to showcase precisely how a student hopes to change the world in one super specific way — through the hook they’ve ideally presented in their activities and storytelling.

5. Top 3 things your roommates might like to know about you.

It seems Harvard has taken a page from Stanford University with this latest essay prompt. Stanford has asked applicants to write a note to their future roommate for many years.

For this essay, it’s vital that all three things applicants share demonstrate intellectual curiosity and/or kindness. The responses can’t just be silly. Too many applicants are inclined to answer this question with answers that offer no insight into how they think or wish to change the world. And that’s a wasted opportunity.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Harvard Essays

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