not the typical Harvard student; my dad was a sign
painter, my mom a secretary, and neither had the chance
to go to college. The only reason I could
attend is because of a generous financial aid package (scholarship/work-study
job/negligible NDSL loan at 3% interest). What an incredible
gift! My only regret is being unable to take
part in many extracurriculars because of having to work 15-20
hours per week.
While not as well prepared as many
of my classmates, I held my own by working hard
(reading more than 1000 pages a week as an honors
English concentrator) and seeking the help of professors and teaching
fellows (all of whom were more than generous with their
time and attention).
Since leaving Harvard, I've followed a different
path than most alumni, becoming a teacher of students who
are Deaf or who have other special needs. For
me, success isn't measured by money, but by one's positive
influence on the world. Several of my former students
have told me that I had a positive effect on
them. Nice as that was to hear, I already
knew it. I had known it from the moment
I saw them develop a love of reading because I
had shown them the magic to be found in books;
I had heard it every time they asked me
â€œwhyâ€ because I had encouraged them to question; I had
felt it every time they persisted in trying even though
a task was difficult or the reward not immediately apparent.
At such moments, I have felt more successful than
any world leader or titan of industry.
Is Harvard for
everyone? No. Does it confer some magic that
shields from all life's ills? No. What it
does is open doors. Seeing “Harvard” on a resume
is enough to make most prospective employers grant you an
interview; from there, you're on your own.
to Harvard can be one of the most inspiring experiences
in the world, or it can be completely ego deflating.
As with any opportunity, what you get out of
it is largely a result of what you put into
it—and of the attitude with which you approach the experience.