Simon says Harvard
SPARTA. How does a high school senior decide what to do when accepted to every college he applied to?


Where's he going to attend college, after receiving acceptance letters from every college he applied to? Simon says he'll be attending Harvard. (Photo submitted).

Simon Leviens can't stop feeling like he is in a dream. He's a Sparta High School senior and he was accepted to Stanford, Harvard, Caltech, and just about every one of the many colleges to which he applied. It's now been about a month since he received the slew of acceptance letters.
"And yet it still feels as if I just stepped off a wild roller coaster," he told the Sparta Independent on Sunday.
"A lot of people have been asking me, how did you get in? And frankly, there's no way to know," he said.
He says he'd like to think his character was evident from his essays. He knows it wasn't through connections or family legacy.
"For the select few legacies, children of faculty members, donors, and other 'development case' students, admissions is an easily winnable game. For the rest of us, it's a slim-chance dice roll: Harvard and Stanford's acceptance rates this year are hovering at 4 percent. That's not exactly meritocratic or at least it doesn't seem that way too many. I've just been lucky enough to come out on top, and I'm eternally thankful for that."
Narrowing the choices down wasn't easy, he said.
He committed to Harvard University because of his particular interest in some of its specific clubs, advising prospects, financial aid, and academic programs over the other two.
"Honestly, they are all so close in caliber that I think the decision doesn't matter too much in retrospect as the schools' levels of opportunity are incredible, no matter how much I nitpicked it," he said. "As someone interested in both science (biology) and the humanities (writing, history of science; I am undecided on my major pathway), Harvard seemed like the perfect blend, whereas the other two were a little STEM-heavy. I personally vibed with the mission of Harvard College more; it's more about intellectual and personal growth while Stanford's mission is more about practicality and pre-professionalism."
He says he really can't sugarcoat his his high school experience, but "still found parts extremely valuable to him as a person and an academic." I've met amazing people here, between friends, guidance counselors, and amazing teachers. That said, I stressed myself out too much, I rarely looked up when I had the chance, and I missed out socially when I shouldn't have."
He says he plans on being a part of the college social scene though.
"As for what I did in high school, I honed in on two things I loved, science and writing, combined them, and did my best to pursue them to the fullest rather than spread myself to thin, the 'jack of all trades, master of none,' is the model many students use thinking spreading themselves across a ton of activities will benefit them for college admissions purposes; I say do none of that and just do what you really enjoy and do it deeply."
He credits his success in admissions towards his "relentless, but fun, pursuit of writing."
Advice he'd give to younger students? Don't stress over trying to achieve perfect SAT scores.
"Thousands of SAT 1600 scorers get rejected from schools like Harvard, because well, they spent too much time studying for tests when they could've been pursuing something more along their interests," he said. American colleges are notorious for caring much more about the subjective: personality, extracurricular activities, and accomplishments all relative to the places you come from. For students with worries about paying for college, apply to elite schools. Many of them are happy to bankroll you. 100 percent of Harvard students, for example, will graduate debt-free, no matter their socioeconomic background."
Above all else he says, "do not procrastinate." His only regret is spending his vacation writing essays rather than writing them sooner.
Which college did he select? This fall he is Harvard bound.