Why goal-setting is so important when entering Harvard (article with video)
08.09.17
Why goal-setting is so important when entering Harvard (article with video)

 

Harvard10skills

 

10 Required Student Skills at Harvard University 

For nearly 10 years as a consultant for admission to competitive universities abroad, every second student and parent who came to consult me ​​wanted to go to and study at Harvard. Then I was not yet a Harvard student, but I had a wide experience of studying in the USA and other countries. I received my bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College, a prestigious US women's university - the alma mater of legendary women Emily Dickinson, Virginia Apgar, Francis Perkins, among many others, and I took a postgraduate program at the Nanjing Center of Johns Hopkins University. There is a direct relationship between the degree of difficulty of entering the university and the complexity of direct study on the program. Among the variety of study opportunities in different countries, applying to the United States remains the most difficult, time consuming and demanding process. Knowing this, I first of all analyzed how the student himself and his parents are ready for such a long and unpredictable process.

 
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Unlike many private universities in the United States, where admission is really facilitated (such universities, by the way, can be calculated by their active presence on the Russian-speaking Internet and on the websites of educational agencies), the Ivy League universities and the top 50 universities and colleges from US News University rating / College Ranking is very serious about student selection. The multi-stage admission process and multi-component introductory package of documents for both undergraduate and graduate programs give the selection committee a more complete picture of the candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

Successful students to one degree or another demonstrate 10 skills that allow them to be a successful student and professional in the future.

I will gradually talk about them in the next articles of my section. In my Neuroscience and Education graduate program at Harvard University, I will mainly refer to my new experiences. I will also do this because the educational system, approaches and methodologies are constantly changing, and give a better idea of ​​the differences in higher education systems in general. However, my academic experience of undergraduate studies in the US, as well as the experience of my students studying at top US universities, confirm the universality of these skills. Let's start with the first skill.

goal1

 

Skill # 1: Goal Setting

Goal setting - in our case, the ability to set long-term and short-term goals - will allow the student to use the resources of the educational program as efficiently as possible, not to get lost among the huge selection of subjects that are available to him, and maintain motivation to cope with huge volumes of independent work.

It must be remembered that getting an education is not a goal, it is a means of acquiring tools, experience, competencies and acquaintances to achieve higher goals.

The main introductory document used by the admissions committee to assess this quality is an introductory essay (Statement of Purpose / Statement of Intent / Motivation Letter). Often, when reading motivation letters from students, one gets the feeling that they are writing an autobiographical essay, that is, answering the question “who I am and what I did before the idea of ​​entering the university X”, forgetting to answer key questions such as “what am I planning to do after university ”and“ why did I choose this particular university and program from thousands of similar ones ”.

The essence of the letter of motivation comes down to the factual proof of the correspondence of the chosen program to your long-term goals, namely, highlighting specific components of the program (courses, professors, unique aspects of the learning process, university resources, etc.) and demonstrating their significance for achieving your long-term goals. At the same time, the more specific your goal and the more it is associated with solving really important problems, the more effective your motivation letter will be. If graduates of schools applying for bachelor's programs are allowed to lack a clearly formulated long-term goal due to the lack of wide life experience, then students applying for master's and postgraduate programs should be able to justify “what questions do you want to find answers to and how the program will allow you to do it” and “why are you a worthy candidate and should be in the 5% of successful applicants”?   
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Why is it so important to understand why and what you came to study?

Unlike the higher education system in Russia, which is dominated by a fixed list of subjects that all students of a specialty take, in the United States the student has the luxury of choosing subjects. Depending on the specialization and the school, the student receives guidance on the number and level of subjects that he must take within his specialization and related disciplines in order to obtain a diploma. Studying on the Master of Education program in the direction of Mind, Brain and Education, each semester I have to choose only 4 courses out of about 15 available to me in different Harvard schools (for example, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard School of Arts & Sciences , etc).

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Screenshot of all available courses on Harvard student profile

Without a clear understanding of the goals, it is very difficult to make a choice. In addition, having made a preliminary choice, you need to meet with your academic curator, who will evaluate how much your choice really matches the goals. But that is not all. Choosing classes and getting the approval of the curator, it is not at all a fact that you can do this. And that's why:

First, some courses and professors are so popular that a certain selection system is assumed. The simplest and, according to many students, dishonest form is the lottery. This happened at the beginning of this semester with the mega-popular Multi-Modal Learning Analytics course, where students learn to use different methods of collecting big data (various sensor devices, eye trackers, etc.) and use the information obtained to conduct research. The popularity of the class is associated not only with the applied nature of the course and the novelty of the material, but also with the material base of the course. So, for example, already at the first lesson, each lucky person was given a kit for self-assembly of a sensor device. Unfortunately, the course is held only once a year, so those who did not get on it went to look for another suitable course.

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Harvard multi-modal learning analytics kit for building a touch device

Secondly, to enroll in especially popular courses, especially if as a student of the Harvard Graduate School of Education you want to enroll in a Harvard Graduate School of Business course, you need to write a motivation letter again. This time, this motivation letter will be read by the professor and decide how your goals correspond to the content and goals of the course. For example, when registering for the Designing Innovation course at the Harvard Innovation Lab, I had to send in a resume, as well as a description of the project that I would like to complete as part of the course. Such selection allows you to create a certain ecosystem within the class, when students have common goals, complementary competencies and an equally strong desire to learn and participate in the acquisition and creation of knowledge.

Goal setting and reflection are present when you are already a student of the course. Usually, in the first lesson, students write a separate essay, where they describe specific goals for this semester, and formulate questions that, as a result, they would like to find answers to.

In general, such a system allows each student not only to work more focused and efficiently, but also is a great motivation for independent learning, which underlies the student training system. Therefore, the next skill that we will talk about is the ability to learn independently.

     

 

Author:Evgenia Efremova, graduate student at Harvard University 
and academic director of Global Ambassador 

EE

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