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How to Write the Haverford College Essays 2016 – 2017
Located on a quaint suburban campus outside the metropolitan hub of Philadelphia sits Haverford College, one of the nation’s most prominent liberal arts colleges. Since the vast majority of its 1,194 undergraduates reside on campus, the school is revered for its close-knit student body and embodiment of traditional Quaker values— such as respect, acceptance, and an emphasis on family or community.
Haverford’s acceptance rate of 24.6% means their academic expectations are top-rate, demonstrated by the fact that a full 100% of the Class of 2019 was in the top 20% of their high school class. Additionally, the median ACT composite score was a 32, while the median SAT score for math, reading, and critical writing was a 720.
In addition to your high school academic record, involvement in extracurricular activities or leadership roles is also taken into consideration. Despite its small student body, Haverford College has over 145 clubs that play an active role in campus life, and they want to see that you plan on contributing to some of those organizations once accepted. As you will find out in the guide below, there are plenty of opportunities in your supplemental essays to elaborate on this idea.
Haverford College has one of the oldest and one of the very few student-run Honor Codes in the U.S. Our Honor Code is not a set of rules, but rather a statement of shared values centered on the concepts of trust, concern, and respect. Our Honor Code serves as an educational tool in and of itself and provides a powerful framework for our community, emphasizing and supporting qualities we see as essential to a Haverford education. Among other things, the Honor Code at Haverford shapes:
Academic Freedom: The Honor Code fosters an atmosphere emphasizing academic integrity, collaboration over competition, and the cultivation of intellectual curiosity. Differences and disagreement are respected, valued, and embraced, and open discourse is seen as fundamental to the academic endeavor.
Student Agency: The Honor Code upholds a culture in which students are deeply trusted to take substantial ownership of their education and to profoundly shape and define the Haverford community. Student ownership is reflected in self-scheduled exams, in the fact that every student completes a Senior Thesis, in shared responsibility for the residential experience, and of course in oversight of the Honor Code itself.
Community: The Honor Code establishes a supportive environment for living and learning, where the community experience plays a central role in one’s education. The inherent value of every community member is recognized, and diversity in all respects – including diversity of background, experience, and perspective – is nurtured, celebrated, and embraced.
Leadership and Engagement: The Honor Code allows every student to find and develop their own voice, to practice ways of improving community and acting on issues of importance, to learn methods of problem solving and conflict resolution, and to examine the ways they can and will impact the world beyond Haverford.
Before we delve into the supplementary essays, it is important to have a solid understanding of what the honor code really means at Haverford. If your first impression is to be apprehensive about a school with an explicit Honor Code that “governs” daily life, consider that the role is not to scare students away or force them into compliance. Instead, the code hopes to foster community, honesty, and maturity in its student body— something we all hope to have at university anyways. Students are afforded an unprecedented level of control over their education in part due to the expectation of adherence to its principles. For example, Haverford students can schedule their own final exams, and certain courses even offer take-home exams.
While the Honor Code is taken seriously, consequences for infractions are not seen so much as a punishment as they are an opportunity to instill lifelong lessons. This is established through by the role of student government officers and jury members in officiating the code, not members of the school administration. Their hope is that students will take ownership in their bad decisions,learn from them, grow as a member of the Haverford community, and realize that they have the power to control their circumstances both in the classroom and out. For these reasons, the college is often regarded as having an unusually honest and respectful student body.
Please give us a better sense of what you are looking for in your college experience by answering the following questions:
A. Tell us about a topic or issue that sparks your curiosity and gets you intellectually excited. How do you think the environment at Haverford and the framework of the Honor Code would foster your continued intellectual growth (250 words)?
Chances are, this is not the first intellectual vitality prompt you have come across in the college admissions process, so it is definitely safe to say that being an intellectually curious student is a highly valued trait. It is important, though, to make the distinction between “intellectually curious” and being an intellectual. Being able to score a “5” on every AP exam may be evident of one’s intellect, but does little to reflect their craving for knowledge. Are you an avid documentary watcher? Do you find yourself delving deeper into a concept in class than would ever be necessary for that level? Do you simply enjoy figuring things out? These are all signs that your curiosity for academia has been “excited,” and we encourage you to ask yourself what topic or issue creates this feeling in your mind before working on this supplementary essay.
Now in terms of what Haverford is looking for, your choices of topics are honestly limitless. By no means should you feel restricted to discussing traditional educational resources, like a theorem from Calculus or Machiavellian principles. If these speak to you, then by all means use them! But if politics grinds your gears or you find yourself gravitating towards YouTube videos concerning topics as foreign as Chernobyl, share those interests. An admissions officer will be able to tell if you’re genuinely sharing a passion as opposed to a topic you’re using because you believe it’s what they want to hear. With that being said, do take into consideration that ideally, you will be able to connect this idea with your academic goals at Haverford in some way. This isn’t to say that it must be related to your major, but referencing a related on-campus organization or class at the College is highly recommended.
The most difficult aspect of this prompt will be incorporating Haverford’s environment and Honor Code into your discussion of an intellectual pursuit. It is vital that you reference both of these concepts. Failure to reference the Honor Code especially could imply that you have done little to understand it and might not be truly interested in the school, so while it might require a creative approach to weave the code into the overall discussion of your curiosity, don’t neglect this aspect of the question.
Perhaps you choose to delve into your fascination with documentaries and TED Talks— especially those concerning female empowerment. An excellent way to forge a connection with the Honor Code would be to mention Haverford’s requirement that every student complete a senior thesis, and your desire to pursue a project involving research on women’s rights in developing countries— a unique opportunity you might not have at similar schools.
B. Please tell us what motivated you to apply to Haverford and what excites you most as you imagine your Haverford experience (150 words).
As this is essentially the very common “Why our school” prompt, our recommendations for Haverford are in line with similar supplementary essays at other schools. First and foremost, stay far, far away from vague statements about a school’s affinity for “academic excellence,” or in the case of a liberal arts school, “the encouragement to pursue study in a variety of fields.” No matter how clever your wording, nothing will save such broad claims from sounding cliché.
While a campus tour or conversation with a current student are the best ways to gain a feeling for the student body and find examples of ways in which you fit into their niche, simply spending an hour or two reading articles in the student newspaper or familiarizing yourself with academic offerings and professors can have a similar effect.
At the end of the day, your reasoning can be anything as focused as a certain class to something more unusual, like a blossoming tree at the end of the Quad. Regardless of what you select, the most important thing is that it must be specific to Haverford. Admissions officers want to see that you have done your research and can envision yourself as an active member of the Haverford community. Passivity or indifference are the last things you want to come across in an essay, so an enthusiastic or motivated tone is highly recommended for a “Why…?” essay.
While this could be said of any university, the importance of showing how you fit into a school’s community and why you are drawn to their environment is especially significant at small liberal arts colleges like Haverford. In addition to revealing more about your personality, these should be the primary goals of your supplemental essays. The key is achieving a fine balance between presenting your academic and extracurricular interests with their relation to Haverford values.
Show you have done your research and demonstrate how Haverford’s approach to education fits alongside your own. How will you benefit from the culture/environment? How do you envision four years at Haverford impacting your future? What will you contribute to the student body? While you don’t have to explicitly ask and answer these questions in your essays, use them as a rough guide for the ideas you hope to convey. An admissions officer wants to see not only how you will fit in, but the perspective and influence you’ll bring to campus.