For 5 months, Andrei, a grade 12 student at Avenor College, prepared applications for 13 universities around the world. He wrote essays, prepared his portfolios, participated in interviews and told his story.
It was a demanding, tiring and stressful endeavor.
He was admitted to NYU Abu Dhabi and Drexel University but all the other US universities he applied to either rejected him or put him on the waiting list or offered him insufficient scholarships. He was waiting for one last response from overseas, and in the meantime he was joking with his family about what the Harvard rejection letter looked like.
The morning he received the answer, he thought he was still dreaming while reading the admission message. He is still trying to get acquainted with the idea that he is admitted to the most prestigious university in the world with a specialization in Film and Visual Studies.
How is the admission process at Harvard?
The admission process is a complex one, which beyond the evaluation of academic results involves several essays through which you have the opportunity to present yourself as a person, but in which you must also present your activity, co-curricular projects, interests and passions. The other components of the admission process are the portfolio and the interview, to which all candidates are invited, with few exceptions.
What were the topics you covered in the essays?
In the application I included three essays that had the role of portraying me. The first one was about me, who I am, my family and my passion for film. In this essay I tried to tell how I started making films and how this activity helped me to express myself especially in the context in which I have been hearing impaired since childhood. Here I explained how I started making movies, how I learned a lot from YouTube, how I learned a lot by myself. With minimal financial resources and limited help, I produced my own films, going through all stages: screenplay, pre-production, production, post-production being in turn screenwriter, music composer, director and even actor. I have invested hundreds of hours in each product, all out of passion. And I think I managed to convey that in the essay.
The other essays were about the volunteer projects I got involved in and about the internships I did. In terms of volunteering, I chose to talk about how I managed to contribute through an animation used as an advertising to raise 50,000 lei in the ”Turn a dream into reality”,dedicated to a scholarship programme for students from the porest areas of the country, run by the Heart of a Child Foundation. . I could say that this project was my most successful project. The film produced – although it was my first animation – garnered over 50,000 views and, most importantly, contributed to a social cause. Avenor Christmas Charity Fair, BMNATO, Art for Heart are a few other volunteer projects in which I have been involved either as a photographer or with filming and / or editing.
The internships also have their own story, their role in my development being very big. The practical experience, from the studio, the interaction with specialists, the internship projects in which I was involved or which I only attended, each one contributed to my personal and professional development in the field of film production.
What should include a successful portfolio?
I don’t know what a successful portfolio includes, I can only say what I included in my portfolio. 🙂
:I’ve included all 11 of my high school movies – you can watch them on my YouTube channel. The movies were made by myself and more than that, I made other films in which I illustrated my way of working. I think this was a differentiator which showed the admissions committee how I think, structure and plan, it showed that I can adapt and find solutions. It also conveyed my passion for film and the effort I am capable of for such projects.
In addition, I spoke in my presentation about myself and the other passions I have, namely piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar.
Tell us about the interview, how it went, what were the topics discussed in it?
The interview at Harvard is the last step of the application process and takes place with all the candidates, so it is not an indicator of the transition to a later stage of the admission process. However, it is an important step because it has a weight in the final decision. The interesting part is that the interview is not with a professor, but with a Harvard alumnus, specially trained for this and who knows nothing about you other than your name and date of birth. It’s not technical, it’s an interview in which you talk about yourself, about extra-curricular activities, about passions, about what you like to do, about future plans. It is also a good opportunity for you, as a candidate, to ask questions and learn more about life at Harvard.
Let’s move on to the less visual part – the academic results. What can you tell us about this component of the admissions process?
Obviously, academic results are very important and they must be in line with a standard. I had the privilege of studying at Avenor College, an international school with a curriculum that benefits you in the context of applying to universities abroad and that offers you diverse learning opportunities, with well-trained teachers, open to differentiated learning.
The best example and a differentiator in my application, is that at EPQ – Extended Project Qualification, in a film project led by me, I had the opportunity to do research, to analyze in detail and to understand what emotional and visual aspects I need to include in a film or in an advertising in order to generate emotion and to really reach the viewer.
In addition, the Drama, Media Studies or Arts classes, in which with the help of teachers I found solutions for me to make a film, the clubs I participated in, all contributed to this result.
Another advantage of the school is the teaching in English, which ensures a very good ability to express yourself academically and thus gives you the opportunity to say very easily what you think and what you feel. It is a skill that helps you a lot and that you develop through the presentations you make in school.
Beyond schooling, in addition to the A Levels exams, I prepared myself for the Toefl and SAT (American BAC) exams, where I got a score of 1480 out of 1600 which put me in the top 1% of those who take this exam.
Last but not least, I must mention the help I received from Madeleine Popescu, from Yourway Advisors, the consultant recommended by Avenor, who helped me throughout the admission process. It is a support that you need to be able to successfully pass the technical and administrative part involved in the process of admission to a university abroad.
If you were to make some recommendations for your colleagues preparing for college admission, what would they be?
I don’t think I’m in the position to give recommendations, maybe just some advice, as I received from my older brother who went through this experience before me and then mentored me throughout the admissions process.
The first advice I have is to be genuine and passionate about what you do. I think this is the most important thing that an application can convey and that differentiates you.
Then I firmly believe that you need to have backup plans – and not just one. The admission process is difficult and you may be surprised – to be rejected, to be admitted but not to receive financial aid and so on.
Another tip I have is to put all your energy into an application. In every application.
I know it’s tiring sometimes, because the processes are complex but me, for example, I took each application one at a time and before preparing it I analyzed the university website very well, I tried to think about what it would be like to study there, what I could do, what opportunities I would have. And then I wrote the application with all these details in mind and with a sincere desire to get there. When I finished the application, I went to the next application.
Beyond the enthusiasm you put into the application, you also need a little detachment. At the Harvard interview, being almost certain I wouldn’t be admitted, I went pretty relaxed, thinking I had nothing to lose. And I think that attitude helped me a lot.
What do you think was the major differentiator that brought you this remarkable success? And how do you feel now?
I think my greatest strengths were my passion and my perseverance. The projects I’ve been involved in over the years, the films I’ve made – whether it was the enthusiasm to screen a personal story, an emotion or just a school theme – the internships, the volunteer activities I’ve been involved, the plays in which I had a role, or the piano and the guitar recitals I attended were made because I enjoyed it, because it represented me and helped me to express myself. I made the first films just for myself and my family members – who, at first, were the only spectators.
Later, I managed to learn and evolve, and the films I produced in High School were my portfolio for college admission. Although it seems hard to believe, these short films – along with the other academic results and the portfolio of activities – gave me the chance to get a place at Harvard College.
Even though I received the letter confirming the admission, it still seems to me that I am dreaming with open eyes! There are days when I can’t believe what’s going on, when I’m inert, and others when I’m overwhelmed with emotion and then I wonder what I’m looking for there in the context in which, this year, Harvard had the lowest admission rate.
What are your plans for the future? What do you hope to find at Harvard?
The most important plan is to go to Harvard in the fall, where I hope to find colleagues with similar passions, who want to change the world through art. I want to take advantage of the opportunities that the university offers me, to learn and to follow my passion. And in the long run, I want to start a film start-up.