Meet Harvard’s Class of 2020

‘Crying was the only way I knew how to respond’

Last week, Harvard welcomed 918 high school seniors to the Class of 2020. Admitting 14.8 percent of early applicants, the incoming freshman class hails from all walks of life with a diversity of talents and personal achievements.

We wanted to get to know a few of the members of the Class of 2020 and see what they’re all about.

Linda Qin, from Boston

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What was your reaction when you found out you got into Harvard?

I just felt really relieved – the waiting game started to freak me out and I just wanted to know the results. I was also in the middle of dance and had to secretly check my phone so I had to kind of hide my reaction.

Where were you when you found out and who was the first person you told?

I was in dance. I texted a friend because he told me that morning he wanted to be the first to know.

What are you looking forward to at Harvard? Anything in particular that interest you?

Food 24/7 and living around the Cambridge area with friends.

Is there anything that you’re nervous about?

Essays. Hate writing.

Are there any myths that you may have heard about Harvard?

It’s as hard as Boston Latin School.

What would you like to study at Harvard?

Undecided – leaning toward Bio/Life Sciences.

Anything you want to say to your fellow classmates?

Super excited to spend the next four years with all you wonderful people.

Favorite food: Bertucci rolls.

Favorite colour: Rose gold.

Favorite song: Ah this is stressful… Does the entire Les Mis Broadway soundtrack count? (I mean it’s technically one continuous song).

Hobbies: Dance, sleeping, classics, League, trying crazy Buzzfeed recipes, sleeping.

Anthony O’Neil, from Miramar, Florida

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What was your reaction when you found out you got into Harvard?

Well, we were told that decisions would be released after 5pm on Dec. 10, and at about 4:30, I decided to hunker down in my living room with my mother and sister to wait it out. But when I refreshed by portal at 4:56pm, it said something along the lines of “There has been a status update. Click to view,” and immediately I started crying.

My body thought it was going to have five more minutes to prep, and crying was the only way I knew how to respond! Then after 30 seconds of staring blankly at the screen, and after some encouragement from my mom, I clicked the link and I read “Dear Anthony, Congratulations…” and immediately went into a full-on meltdown. I honestly didn’t read past the first three words for another hour. It was the happiest, most surreal moment of my life.

Where were you when you found out? Who was the first person you told?

I was in my living room. My father lives in New York, and he was the first person I called to tell. I still go through that conversation in my mind. When he answered his phone he thought something was wrong, because I could barely breathe, but when I finally managed to say “Dad, I got into Harvard,” he struggled to manage speaking, too. My family comes from a very humble background. My father dropped out of high school and my mother immigrated to this country from Cuba in her late teens. As surreal as that moment was for me, I imagine it was doubly so for my parents.

What are you most looking forward to at Harvard? Anything in particular that interests you?

I’m most looking forward to studying on the Yard, late night runs to Insomnia, and sitting in my first official Harvard class.

Is there anything that you’re nervous about?

I’m nervous about fitting in. A lot of the people who get into Harvard have done award-winning research, have achieved recognition at international levels, play seven instruments and speak six languages, rank at the very top of their sport in the country, or all of the above.

Are there any myths that you may have heard about Harvard?

I’ve heard some rumors about Harvard students being pretentious, which I’d like to think I am not. All in all, my worries don’t come anywhere close to how excited I am!

What would you like to study at Harvard? 

Environmental Science and Public Policy.

Anything you want to say to your fellow classmates?

Good luck, and I can’t wait to meet all of you.

Favorite food: Sweet potato casserole.

Favorite song: Shameless by The Weeknd.

Hobbies:  Honestly, my favorite thing to do is sleep. Once that’s taken care of, I like to go on YouTube or spend time with friends or do puzzles. I love jigsaw puzzles and volunteering at local animal shelters.

Jess Shodipo, from Pittsburgh

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What was your reaction when you found out you got into Harvard?

I stared at the screen for a good five minutes before proceeding to look around the room for a camera.

Where were you when you found out? Who was the first person you told?

I was at home! My sister was in the room when I started freaking out, but I had to refrain from telling her until my mom got home so she’d be the first to know.

What are you most looking forward to at Harvard? Anything in particular that interest you?

I’m definitely looking forward to joining a club sport and getting involved in community outreach. I’m really big on social activism as well!

Is there anything that you’re nervous about?

I’m definitely nervous about the winters and being too homesick!

Are there any myths that you may have heard about Harvard?

Myths? I’m really hoping peeing on the John Harvard statue isn’t mandatory.

What would you like to study at Harvard? 

I’m planning on studying Biology and/or Psychology.

Anything you want to say to your fellow classmates?

To fellow classmates: I’m super excited to meet everyone! One of the things I read was that the admissions readers wanted to be 100 percent sure about their early admits. That being said, I can’t wait to meet such a diverse group of individuals!

Favorite food: Shrimp pasta.

Favorite colour: Pink.

Favorite song: Currently Here by Alessia Cara.

Hobbies: Playing the viola, reading, and binge-watching Netflix shows!

Amy Tan, from Chicago

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What was your reaction when you found out you got into Harvard?

I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed in my life. Time seemed to have stopped for a second. I couldn’t believe the words of congratulations I’ve been dreaming about for so long actually appeared on my screen.

Where were you when you found out? who was the first person you told?

At home. I first ran to the kitchen to tell my grandma, who was making dinner for the family. She was so happy that she cried because to her, that was the fulfillment of her American Dream.

What are you most looking forward to at Harvard? Anything in particular that interest you?

I’m looking forward to meeting amazing peers and having the freedom to take classes that are interesting to me at Harvard. I’m particularly interested in taking CS50 just for the experience because I’ve heard so many good things about it from current students.

Is there anything that you’re nervous about?

Whether I’ll be able to acclimate well to living away from home and whether I’ll fit in among the extraordinarily accomplished student body.

Are there any myths that you may have heard about Harvard?

That students there are cut-throat, elitist, and snobby. I certainly hope it’s not true because I don’t consider any of those characteristics of mine.

What would you like to study at Harvard? 

I am interested in studying sociology or other areas in social studies, but things may change as I start experimenting with different classes at Harvard.

Anything you want to say to your fellow classmates?

Congratulations to all of you! We all worked really hard to get to this point, and I cannot be more excited to spend the next four years getting to know and learn from you guys. It’s going to be an amazing, transformative journey.

Favorite food:  Spaghetti (and any kind of pasta).

Favorite colour:  Baby blue.

Favorite song:  Viva La Vida by Coldplay.

Hobbies:Biking, reading, photography and film.

Jose Espinel III, from Marietta, Georgia

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What was your reaction when you found out you got into Harvard?

It’s incredible to even consider the possibility of attending the most prestigious university in the world. I read “Congratulations” and was so shocked that I scanned the entire letter looking for a catch before jumping out of my chair and crying with my parents. I think all newly-admitted students can relate to that moment when that word appears on your screen, and suddenly every hour spent studying, building, or volunteering pays off.

Where were you when you found out and who was the first person you told?

At home with my parents who insisted on opening the decision with me. I first called my grandparents (and my parents were with me when I checked the decision), but the first non-relative I told was my local FBLA Adviser, Mrs Brown. She has been my biggest champion in FBLA for three years, and has essentially become my second mother. Mrs Brown has traveled across the country to support me, helping me run my campaign booth at our National Leadership Conference in Chicago, and was waiting expectantly for Harvard’s decision on December 10th.

What are you most looking forward to at Harvard? Anything in particular that interests you?

There is so much that I am looking forward to at Harvard, but I will break it down into two areas: knowledge and network.

Harvard’s academics are world-renowned. I am interested in studying Economics, with an intent to delve into entrepreneurship at some point, and at Harvard I can rest assured I will receive the best education to prepare me for the task.

Knowledge, however, is only half of the equation. A good company can come from a great idea, but a great company thrives from a great idea and a great team. At Harvard, everyone around me will be exceptionally gifted, representing a multitude of skill sets different than my own. That network is invaluable. I look forward to meeting my teammates for a future venture at Harvard.

Favorite food: Sushi.

Favorite colour: Blue.

Favorite movie: (No spoilers) Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Hobbies: Entrepreneurship, astrophotography, triathlons, and piano.

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So there you have it! Here is a small piece of the Class of 2020. As you can see this is a remarkable group of individuals and we’re excited to have you here on campus next year. Until then enjoy the rest of your senior year and get pumped for Visitas.

Special thanks to Lina Qin, Jess Shodipo, Anthony O’Neil, Amy Tan, and Jose Espinel III.

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