I am from HSEB board, the weak part of my application is my GPA (78.8% in aggregate ). I have quite strong standardized test scores (on SAT, SAT II, and TOEFL), influential ECAs, a few web applications that I created on my own, and a Music Supplement. Moreover, I am working on a bit rigorous courses like Harvard’s CS50, MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming in Python, and few Social Science courses on edX to prove myself academically capable. If I work hard on my essays and make it compelling enough, can I think of applying to Harvard for its Early programmme? Or should I drop this idea and apply to a less competitive one?
Taking the online classes you mentioned definitely helps. If you have done well on them, they can compensate partly for your GPA.
If you really want to apply early to Harvard, do so. But if you want to play if ‘safe’, you can apply EA there and ED to some other college. If the admission officers think they can get a better applicant from RD pool, they will defer you (which happens a lot). From that perspective, applying ED elsewhere (but EA at Harvard) helps. The downside of applying both EA and ED appears if you are accepted at both places. You will likely have to go with the ED college. On a personal note, I think if you are qualified to get in, it won’t make a significant difference whether you apply EA or RD in the case of Harvard.
Remember, it’s very hard to tell who gets in and who does not in relatively many cases when it’s about Harvard. Why do I say so? Read the footnote below from Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’. The footnote is from the chapter ‘The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1’. The statistics put forth by Gladwell also speaks of the importance of personal essays and other supplement essays when applying to college.
To get a sense of how absurd the selection process at elite Ivy League schools has become, consider the following statistics. In 2008, 27,462 of the most highly qualified high school seniors in the world applied to Harvard University. Of these students, 2,500 of them scored a perfect 800 on the SAT critical reading test and 3,300 had a perfect score on the SAT math exam. More than 3,300 were ranked first in their high school class. How many did Harvard accept? About 1,600, which is to say they rejected 93 out of every 100 applicants. Is it really possible to say that one student is Harvard material and another isn’t, when both have identical—and perfect—academic records? Of course not. Harvard is being dishonest. Schwartz is right. They should just have a lottery.