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 about 10 years of work as a consultant for admission to competitive universities abroad, every second student and parent who came to my consultation wanted to enroll and study at Harvard. Then I was not a Harvard student, but I had a wide experience of studying in the USA and other countries. I received a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College - a prestigious female university in the United States - the alma mater of the legendary women Emily Dickinson, Virginia Apgar, Francis Perkins among many others, and I completed the postgraduate program at the Johns Hopkins University Center in Nanjing. There is a direct correlation between the degree of difficulty of entering a university and the complexity of direct study on the program. Among the variety of training opportunities in different countries, entering 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 rubric. While studying at Harvard University Master's program in Neuroscience and Education, I will mainly refer to my freshly baked experience. I will do just that also because the educational system, approaches and methods are constantly changing and give a better idea of ​​the differences in higher education systems in general. Nevertheless, my academic experience in undergraduate studies in the USA, as well as the experience of my students studying in top US universities, confirm the universality of these skills. Let's start with the first skill.

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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 the introductory essay (Statement of Purpose / Statement of Intent / Motivation Letter). Often, when reading students' motivational letters, one gets the feeling that they are writing an autobiographical essay, that is, they answer the question “who am I and what did I do before the idea of ​​entering university X”, forgetting to answer key questions such as “what am I planning to do after the university ”and“ why I chose this particular university and program from a thousand of these. ”

The essence of the motivation letter comes down to the actual proof of the compliance of the selected program with your long-term goals, namely the allocation of specific program components (courses, professors, unique aspects of the learning process, university resources, etc.) and demonstration of 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 truly important problems, the more effective your motivation letter will be. If for graduates of schools entering undergraduate programs, the absence of a clearly formulated long-term goal is allowed due to a lack of wide life experience, then students entering graduate and postgraduate programs should be able to justify “what questions you want to find answers and how the program will allow you to do this” and “why are you a worthy candidate and should be included in 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 the specialty pass, in the USA, the student has the luxury of choosing subjects. Depending on the specialization and school, the student receives a guide on the number and level of subjects that he must pass in the framework of his specialization and related subjects to receive a diploma. Studying in the Master of Education program in Mind, Brain and Education, every semester I have to choose only 4 courses from about 15 available to me at 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:

Firstly, some courses and professors are so popular that a certain selection system is supposed. The simplest and, according to many students, dishonest form is a 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 touch devices, i-trackers, etc.) and use the information received for 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 in 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 particularly popular courses, especially if as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education you want to register for the Harvard Graduate School of Business, you need to write a motivation letter once again. This time the professor will read this motivation letter and decide how much your goals correspond to the content and goals of the course. For example, when registering for the Designing Innovation course at Harvard Innovation Lab, I had to send a resume, as well as a description of the project that I would like to complete as part of the course. This selection allows you to create a specific 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

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