I’m an incoming Harvard freshman. I’m nervous I won’t fit in with the rich kids on campus as a financial-aid student.

Since I don’t have rich parents or many connections, I could not see myself going to Harvard.But during the application process, I suddenly pictured myself there, so I applied.As a rising senior in high school, I was in Boston last summer to visit MIT, Northeastern, and Boston University. At the time, Harvard wasn’t in the picture. It seemed like an elitist club meant for the ultrawealthy. As a middle-class student from Illinois, I thought Harvard wasn’t built for people like me.I did walk by the Cambridge campus, which was crowded with students and tourists, but from my brief exposure, I remember reporting to my friends that it was uninteresting and underwhelming.I decided to apply anyway, and under a year later, I anxiously clicked on the decision letter. Confetti appeared on the screen. A video played at the bottom. “Congratulations! I am delighted to inform you that the Committee on Admissions has admitted you to the Harvard College Class of 2027.”I could not have been more thrilled.I initially believed that Harvard was stuck in the past, but when I spoke with my interviewer and learned about my financial-aid package, I knew it was the perfect school for me.At first, I could not see myself as a Harvard student”Just be careful,” my dad told me.As I applied to name-brand schools, my parents worried about the exclusive nature of wealthy circles. They supported my decisions, but like many, they assumed that the slots would be filled with legacy students, recruited athletes, and people whose parents’ names topped the donor list.Unlike those top donors, my parents went between substitute teaching and freelance work. While they worked hard to support our household, they knew little about the application process, and we had no affiliation with Harvard University. They have always been incredibly supportive of my education, but I simply come from a different financial background and lived experience than the stereotypical Harvard student.I feared that all their students would be rich and well connected, that they would be arrogant or weird, and that the environment would feel unwelcoming for an average kid who went to public schools.But I learned a lot about Harvard and its student body during the application processDespite my fears, I was encouraged to apply, so I threw my hat in the regular decision pool.My first surprise was the interview. When the alumnus asked whether I had any questions or concerns, I told her my worries.I assumed she came from money, but it turned out that she was a recent immigrant who was able to graduate because of Harvard’s financial aid. As she detailed her own time at Harvard, I was intrigued. She spoke about a lunch chat she had with the dean of admissions on this issue. It sounded like the university was genuinely trying to increase economic diversity.As I learned more, I became more excited about the school. If I got in, according to the Harvard website and net-cost calculator, it would be not only affordable but also my cheapest option. I learned it was more likely than not that my financial-aid package would cover everything, including stipends for living expenses. For the first time, I felt like I could be a Harvard student.In March, the last thing I expected to happen, happened. I got into Harvard. My stellar financial package covered my tuition and expenses. I remain nervous but optimisticStill, I had mixed feelings about the student body. I questioned how I, as a student on full financial aid, could find my seat at the table.In a school that relies so heavily on a process where students apply and interview for extracurricular activities, I could not help but wonder how big a factor wealth and connections might play in the success of an individual.But I headed to Harvard for a prospective-student weekend recently and met my future classmates. It helped ease my fears. My prospective classmates came from diverse financial and cultural backgrounds, and we were curious to learn about our shared and contrasting experiences. Wealthy students definitely do attend Harvard, but the undergraduate population seems to blend together in a way that I had not previously imagined.Like most of my buddies from high school, I leave later this month. I could not be more excited, and I remain nervous but optimistic about the road ahead.Is Harvard built for the top 1%, or does it cultivate a space where everyone belongs? As I move on to the next phase of my life, only time will tell.

See also  Bold & Beautiful Recap: Liam Tells Hope He Still Loves Her

Related Posts