The Ivy Coach Daily

February 13, 2024

Applying to Harvard? Don’t Be Arrogant in Your Application

Arrogant Harvard Applicants, Harvard Applicants, Harvard Applicant
Many Harvard applicants make the mistake of bragging in their applications.

Previously Published on October 25, 2018:

Loyal readers of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog know all too well that if there’s any one thing that can torpedo an applicant’s chances of admission, it’s arrogance.

It could be a subtle brag in a line within the Personal Statement. Perhaps it’s a boast of how much money a student raised for a particular charity in a supplemental essay. Maybe it’s a description within an activity in the activities section where a student puts themselves on a pedestal over their peers.

No matter a student’s grades and scores, legacy status, or extracurricular achievements, arrogance can be a death knell in the highly selective college admissions process.

Why Arrogance is the Enemy of College Admissions

In our experience, most applicants fail to realize they’re boasting in an essay or across other components of their applications. In fact, it never ceases to amaze us how many students (and their parents) don’t even realize what constitutes a brag on a college application. Maybe they’re so used to tooting their own horn that they don’t recognize how that line about how they singlehandedly saved the South African economy from collapse might come across. And, yes, that’s an extreme example, but arrogance has a way of popping up in much more subtle ways in college admissions.

Sometimes it takes a third party for a student to realize, “Wow. I can’t believe I said that. I don’t even like me after re-reading that!” And when a student’s chief objective in the elite college admissions process is to present as likable, as someone admissions officers can get behind and root for, arrogance does them no favor.

Arrogance Can Cost an Applicant Admission to Harvard

And if our readers think bragging is okay at Harvard because it’s Harvard, allow us to dispel this notion here and now. Yes, many arrogant students apply to Harvard in particular. The gold standard of American higher education naturally attracts some arrogant high school students who like to brag throughout their applications and fill up their Common Application’s Additional Information section with superfluous material that Harvard’s admissions office didn’t ask for or care to see. Yet arrogance can easily lead to rejection for a Harvard applicant, just as it can for applicants to every other highly selective university across the land.

As Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Molly C. McCafferty reported for The Harvard Crimson during the Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College case, which brought to light the notations of Harvard’s admissions officers on past admissions files, “Two candidates’ pause factors included ’arrogance.’ One was placed on the waitlist and never accepted; the other admitted to Harvard only ’after many hours of debate.’”

The fact is when Harvard’s overall admission rate falls below 4% — as it has in each of the last three admissions cycles (for the Classes of 2027, 2026, and 2025) — the school has the luxury of not admitting any applicants who present as arrogant.

Ivy Coach’s Students Never Present As Arrogant

Our students at Ivy Coach so often earn admission to their dream schools because they take the most rigorous curriculum at their high schools — and then some. They take all the right tests. They get involved in activities that showcase a wonderfully weird, singular hook. They demonstrate interest in colleges effectively. And so much more. But the most important through-line between all of our students across the last three decades?

You guessed it. Ivy Coach’s students have all presented as likable. Maybe that’s a brag, but we’re not applying to college. So we’re allowed!

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