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My Journey to Harvard: A Veteran’s Perspective

Updated: May 29, 2021

It’s still hard to believe that I’m at Harvard. I would love to say that I had always known I would end up at such a prestigious institution, but nothing could be further from the truth. It seems like only yesterday, that I was heading back home to Fort Worth, Texas after an abysmal first semester at the University of Oklahoma (OU). It had been a semester of missed homework assignments and an embarrassingly bleak class-attendance record, that culminated in a GPA so low that if it were doubled I would still likely have missed the Dean’s List...

That initial failed college experience is what kicked off my post-high-school career and is what ultimately led to my decision to enlist in the Marine Corps. I had spent the months following my semester-from-hell, desperately trying to find some way to get a fresh start. I had taken classes at a local community college and was working multiple jobs, but it still didn’t seem like it would be enough to make up for my brief and less-than-stellar stint at OU. Thus, the Marines seemed like the only jumpstart that could possibly allow me to regain my footing and provide me with a clean slate.

I never thought I would make a career out of the Marine Corp. But I have to admit that the experiences I had while serving helped transform me into an entirely different person than the one I had been just five years earlier. I learned invaluable lessons about time management and developed much-needed personal discipline.More than anything else, I was forced to endure trials and challenges that forced me to mature and grow in a variety of ways. I had always imagined that when my commitment to the military ended, I would relaunch my college career at a state university in Texas. Given my academic scars and abysmal grade point average, even that seemed unattainable at times. But during my enlistment I began to slowly chip away at the goal of repairing my academic standing to prepare me for the brutal college-admissions process.

As I cautiously entered back into the world of academia, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy the demands of the classroom had become now that I had grown up emotionally and mentally. I began to look into various colleges and seek advice on how to set myself apart in the application process. I knew that I needed to show the progress that I had made, and I saw the SAT as a great opportunity to do just that. As the admissions window approached, I began to see that I could be somewhat competitive at some of the best programs in the nation. With the assistance of Service To School and the MCCS Leadership Scholar program, I timidly completed applications to schools that, eight years earlier, would have been unthinkable. Even as I clicked the “Submit” button , I was preparing myself to receive the expected letters of rejection.

But, one morning, as I left the base gym in Okinawa, I received a call from an unknown number. It was coming from Cambridge, Massachusetts. As I answered the call, it felt as if time stopped. I sat on a step and in disbelief I heard a voice on the other end of the line inform me that I had been accepted into the Harvard Class of 2023. It was surreal. And even after successfully completing my first year of studies, I still find it hard to believe that I’m a student at Harvard.

As I prepare to begin my second year, I have come to realize that the Harvard admissions office saw something in me that is too often missing in the typical applicant. They understood that veterans bring a unique blend of talents, abilities, and life experiences that the average high-school graduate cannot replicate. Some of the best schools in the nation have shown that they are eager to enroll hard-working veterans into their student body. These men and women bring with them a unique perspective of the world that is a valued addition to the campus community at Harvard and other top schools.

While that initial phone call left me shocked and surprised, I have discovered that I was not only qualified to be a student at Harvard, but that I have much to offer. I have found Harvard to be a place where I am given the resources and support to truly thrive. The journey I took to Harvard was long and full of twist and turns, but I would not change it for the world.

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