Harvard Writing Style Format A Harvard essay format is based … - AhlynewsInfo

Harvard Writing Style Format A Harvard essay format is based …

This page may be out of date. Submit any pending changes before refreshing this page.
Hide this message .
Quora uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more

Academic Citation


Essay Writing


How-to Question

How do I cite a documentary film (Harvard style) in the bibliography of a paper/essay? Cite This For Me puts the name of the film first, and the name of the filmmaker last, unlike what it does for other types of reference sources. Correct?

ad by Grammarly

Your writing, at its best.
Grammarlys free writing app makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free.
Learn More at grammarly.com
1 Answer

Anjana Aravind

Anjana Aravind , studied at Sardar Vallabhbhai National Institute of Technology, Surat

Inside the text youll need to write title and year; the filmmakers name, format and place of recording should be included only in the reference list, not in-text. As for the order, youre correct, the filmmakers name comes last and the title should be placed first. Why not read a few university guides: Library Subject Guides at RMIT University or Page on unsw.edu.au
Hope that helps.
Your feedback is private.
Is this answer useful?

  • Guide
  • Contests
  • Internships
  • Samples



  • Guide
  • Contests
  • Internships
  • Samples

Icon Writers

Icon How it works
Icon Writing services
Icon Reviews
Icon FAQ
Icon Blog
Icon About us
Icon Become a writer
Icon Affiliate program
Icon Terms and Conditions
Icon Privacy Policy

Essay Writing Service
Custom Essay Writing
Dissertation Writing
Research Paper Writing
Term Paper Writing
Write My Essay
Admission Essay Writing
About EssayPro
Essay Writer
College Essay Help
Buy An Essay
Essay Writing Help

Log In
Sign Up


Essay Writing Resources cover image Essay Writing Resources cover image

Essay Writing with EssayPro

  • Guide
  • Contests
  • Internships
  • Samples



  • Guide
  • Contests
  • Internships
  • Samples

  1. Home
  2. Blog

  3. Harvard Citation Style: A Detailed Guide from Experts

Harvard Citation Style: A Detailed Guide from Experts

May 28, 2015
Standard Essay Format

Harvard Citation Style: A Detailed Guide from Experts

EssayPro has composed this Harvard referencing guide to help you with formatting your custom essay in the AGPS Harvard referencing style. You can find out how to:

  • Format your paper in general,
  • Provide in-text citations,
  • Create a reference list.

Jump to the relevant section below instead of wasting your time on Harvard citation generator – it is not always accurate. Professional online writers from EssayPro will do better job!

Table Of Contents
  • What is Harvard Format?
  • General Paper Formatting Guidelines
    • General Rules
    • Title, Headers, and Page Numbers
    • Subheadings
    • Title Page
    • Outline
    • Reference List
  • Formatting Harvard In-Text Citations
    • General Rules
    • Different Types of In-Text Citations + Examples
  • Formatting the Reference List
    • General Rules
    • Books
    • Periodicals
    • Other Sources

What is Harvard Format?

Harvard citation style is one of the most popular formatting styles used in academic papers, along with APA , MLA , and Chicago . Harvard style dictates the general format of the paper, including the size of the margins, preferred font, etc. It also contains rules for citing sources—both in the text and in the list of references at the end of the paper.
Harvard referencing style is commonly used in the following fields:

  1. Humanities
  2. Behavioral sciences
  3. Philosophy

However, you may be requested to use the Harvard referencing system in other fields as well.

General Paper Formatting Guidelines

General Rules

  • 1-inch margins from all sides.
  • Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 12 pt. are the recommended fonts.
  • Double spacing between the lines.
  • The text is aligned to the left.
  • The first line of each paragraph is indented by 0.5″.
  • A title in the center of your first page right before the text.
  • Headers and page numbers (see below).
  • The paper may include subheadings (dividing it into sections), a title page, an outline (a plan of your paper), and/or a list of references (see below).

Title, Headers, and Page Numbers

  • Place a title before the text of your paper and make it center-aligned. Capitalize all the main words, for example: How to Write an Essay. Articles, short conjunctions, and prepositions are not capitalized. Do not make your title indented, italicized, underscored, or bold.
  • Include a page number in the header of your paper, in the top right corner of a page.
  • Place your last name in the header right before the page number.


Subheadings divide your paper into parts. For example, level 1 headings divide the whole paper into sections. Level 2 headings divide those sections into subsections.

  • Level 1 headings look just like the title of the paper. In other words, they are centered, capitalized, not bold, not underscored, not italicized, and not indented. After the heading, start typing your text on a new line as usual (indent the first line of your text by 0.5″).
  • Level 2 headings are also capitalized. However, they are flush left (aligned to the left margin of the paper). They are also italicized. After this subheading, also start typing your subsection on a new line as usual.

Title Page

The title page, also known as the cover page, is the very first page of your paper. It contains the basic info about it, namely:

  • The title of your paper, written in all caps. It should be centered and placed at approximately one-third of the way down the page.
  • Your name should be centered and placed at approximately halfway down the page.
  • At two-thirds of the way down the page, place the centered name and number of your course. Then (on the next line) your professor’s name, then (again on the following line) the name of your university, and, finally, the date on the line after that.

You can also find a template (with a title page, headers and subheadings) here .


An outline is a plan of your paper. It comes after the title page and lists all the subsections of the paper. So simply write the word “Outline” and place it at the center of the page, in the first line. Then list all your level 1 subheadings that you have in the paper (use a numbered list). Align them to the left, and capitalize them.

If you have level 2 subheadings, list them under the corresponding level 1 subheadings as bullet points. Be careful not to disrupt the numbering of your level 1 subheadings. Align the level 2 subheadings to the left, but probably indent them a bit (say, half an inch) for better appearance. Do not italicize them here, but leave them capitalized.

If you have done everything correctly, your outline should look like the one in the template above.

Reference List

Your list of Harvard references should be entitled “Reference List”. These two words should be capitalized and centered, just like level 1 subheadings. The list must contain a bibliographical entry for every source you cited in the paper. Conversely, each source cited in the paper must have a corresponding reference list entry.

Find out more about how to format your bibliographical entries below or just ask one of our professional writers for help.

boy with books

Formatting Harvard In-Text Citations

General Rules

  • Cite all your sources. When you use information from any sources in your paper, you must provide in-text citations to show where that info came from. Otherwise, your text will be considered plagiarized.

  • General appearance of in-text citations. In Harvard citation style, in-text citations are parenthetical, consisting of the author’s surname and the year of publication. They look like this: (Smith & Johnson 2018). You may also include the page number, like so: (Smith & Johnson 2018, p. 35).

  • Direct quotes. In Harvard referencing system, if you provide exact words from some source, you must place that quote in quotation marks, and give the page number in your in-text citation. If you quote a website, you need to include the number of the paragraph the words are taken from, like this: (Smith & Johnson 2018, para. 4). Just count the paragraphs on the web page you are citing.

  • Mentioning authors in the text. If you mention the name of the authors in the text, do not include it in parentheses. Also, use the word “and” instead of the ampersand (&). For example, you may write: In their book, Smith and Johnson (2018, p. 15) claim that jumping from a skyscraper might be bad for your health.

  • Citing an author discussed in a different source. If you are referring to an author who is discussed in a secondary source, you should mention the name of the original author, but state that this author is “cited in” the source you are using. For example, if Kraut discusses Plato, you can say:
    Plato believed that the existence of the soul is independent of the body it inhabits (cited in Kraut 2017).
    Note: in this case, you will have to provide a bibliographic entry for Kraut and not for Plato in the Reference List.

  • Several sources in one citation. If you wish to cite several sources in one set of parentheses, you should list them in the same order as they appear in your Reference List, and use a semicolon to separate them, like this: (Johnson 2015; Smith 2014).

Different Types of In-Text Citations + Examples

In Harvard referencing, in-text citations look different depending on the number of the authors in your source. We provide two Harvard referencing examples for each case: in one, the source is not mentioned in the text, and in the other, it is.

One Author

  • It is recommended to clean your teeth after dinner (Anderson 2015).
  • Anderson (2015) recommends cleaning your teeth after dinner.

Two Authors

  • Some students may actually enjoy writing papers (Ironicous & Sarcastish 2016).
  • According to Ironicous and Sarcastish (2016), some students may actually enjoy writing papers.

Three Authors

  • Gas giants do not have a hard surface (Peachy, Fluffy & Cozy 2014).
  • According to Peachy, Fluffy and Cozy (2014), gas giants do not have a hard surface.

Four or More Authors

  • Punishing children physically is considered an extremely harmful practice (Kickbutt et al. 2016).
  • Kickbutt et al. (2016) states that punishing children physically is an extremely harmful practice.

Edited Source

  • Disaster management is pivotal for lowering risks (eds López-Carresi et al. 2014).
  • According to the book edited by López-Carresi et al. (2014), disaster management is pivotal for lowering risks.

Note: in a parenthetical citation, if there is only one editor, use “ed.” before the name. If there are multiple editors, use “eds” (without a period) before their names. If you mention their names in the text, just say that the source was “edited by” before listing the name(s).

No Authors
If the authors of a source are not mentioned, use the title of that source in your in-text citation. Note that in Harvard system of referencing, the title is italicized for books, brochures, periodicals, and reports. However, the title is put in single quotation marks when you need to cite a website, article, newspaper, or chapter name. Only capitalize the first word of the title.
For books, periodicals, brochures, and reports:

  • Some people might work well under pressure (The psychology of pressure: an introduction 2010).
  • According to The psychology of pressure: an introduction (2010), some people might work well under pressure.

For newspapers, articles, chapter titles, and Web pages:

  • It is helpfully advised to act wisely in any situation (‘Ten brilliant tips to become successful’ 2011).
  • The article ‘Ten brilliant tips to become successful’ (2011) helpfully recommends to act wisely in any situation.

Also, you may shorten the title if it is too long. For instance, in the example above, you may write just The psychology of pressure (2010) instead of The psychology of pressure: an introduction (2010).

No Date
If there is no date in the source, use the abbreviation “n.d.” (no date) instead. All the other rules apply as usual.

  • It is stated that the Earth is large (‘The captain’s gazette’ n.d.)
  • One might not be surprised to learn that having a lot of money is better than having none, according to Allen (n.d.).

boy reading book

Formatting the Reference List

General Rules

  • Alphabetical order. Your Harvard reference list should be alphabetized according to the first letter of the first word of each reference entry (usually it’s the first author’s surname). However, if a reference entry starts with the words “a,” “an”, or “the,” ignore them and alphabetize according to the first letter of the next word.
    For instance, if you cite a source whose authors are not listed, and the entry starts with its title, e.g., “The importance of doing things well,” then you should alphabetize it according to the word “importance.”

  • Placement of entries. In Harvard reference system, each bibliographical entry must start from a new line. They are aligned to the left and not indented at all (which makes your reference list look like a total mess).
    Maintain double-spacing throughout your Harvard reference list.

  • Capitalization. In titles of books, book chapters, and articles from the Web, capitalize only the first letter. However, when citing scientific journals or newspapers, capitalize all the main words of their titles (i.e., not prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc.).
    See specific Harvard reference examples below.

  • Referencing multiple authors. Even though in-text citations require you to use “et al.” when there are four or more authors in a source, you need to list all the authors in a bibliographical entry. Yes, all of them, even if there are 25.

  • Several works by the same author. In Harvard style reference list, sources by the same author should be arranged by the year of publication. If there are several works by the same author published in the same year, arrange them in the alphabetical order of their titles, and add letters “a,” “b,” “c,” etc. after the year, like so:
    Smith, JH 2014a, A big book, Big Book Publisher, London, UK.
    Smith, JH 2014b, A small book, Small Book Publisher, London, UK.

Note: This will let you differentiate between in-text citations: (Smith 2014a; Smith 2014b).

Check out an example of a Harvard reference list .


General Book Format
Last Name, Initials Year of Publication, Title of the book: subtitle of the book, if any, Publishing House, City, State Abbreviation or Country.

Book With One Author
Doel, M 2012, Social work: the basics, Routledge, New York, NY.

Book With Two Authors
Tschudin, V & Davis, AJ 2008, The globalisation of nursing, Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, UK.

Book With Three Authors
Cretu, O, Stewart, RB & Berends, T 2011, Risk management for design and construction, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Book With Four or More Authors
Evans, J, Grimshaw, P, Philips, D & Swain, S 2003, Equal subjects, unequal rights: indigenous peoples in British settler colonies 1830s-1910, Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK.

Edited Book
López-Carresi, A, Fordham, M, Wisner, B, Kelman, I & Gaillard, JC (eds) 2014 Disaster management: international lessons in risk reduction, response and recovery, Routledge, New York, NY.
Note: if there is only one editor, use (ed.) after the name. If there are multiple editors, use (eds) after their names.

Book—Edition Other Than First
Field, A 2013, Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics: and sex and drugs and rock’n’roll, 4th edn, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Translated Book
Weber, M 2003, The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism, trans. T Parsons, Dover Publications, New York, NY, original work published 1905.

Chapter in an Edited Book
Luna, EM 2014, ‘Community-based disaster risk reduction and disaster management’, in A López-Carresi, M Fordham, B Wisner, I Kelman & JC Gaillard (eds), Disaster management: international lessons in risk reduction, response and recovery, Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 43-63.

No Author
The Oxford dictionary of abbreviations 1998, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Doel, M 2012, Social work: the basics, Routledge, viewed 19 April 2018, via Google Books.


Journal Articles
Viñuales, JE 2013, ‘The rise and fall of sustainable development’, Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 3-13.

Conference Proceedings
Bingulac, SP 1994 ‘On the compatibility of adaptive controllers’, Proceedings of 4th Annual Allerton Conference on Circuit and System Theory, New York, NY, pp. 8-16.

Newspaper Articles
Waterford, J 2007, ‘Bill of Rights gets it wrong’, Canberra Times, 30 May, p. 11.

Online Newspapers
Matthews, J & Smithson, LW 2015, ‘The latest reform causes large-scale protests’, The Contemporary News Gazette, 11 August, viewed 26 April 2018, <www.website.com/articleone>.

Other Sources

Web Pages
Jameson, S 2017, Protests in Portugal reached unseen scope, viewed 27 April 2018, <www.website.com/articletwo>.

Blog Articles
Brown, A 2016, ‘How to Harvard reference a website and other sources’, Referencing: Harvard Style Blog, web log post, 20 June, viewed 26 April 2018, <www.website.com/blog/articlethree>.

Dissertation or Thesis

  • Print version:
    Reed, C 2013, ‘The experiences of leaders who took their lives in their hands’, PhD Thesis, The University of Modern Education.
  • Retrieved from the Web:
    Johnston, AC 2017, ‘A study of nursing leadership styles in the today’s clinical setting’, MSc Thesis, The University of Contemporary Nursing, viewed 25 April 2018, <www.website.edu/dissertationone>.
    Note: Do not forget to specify what type of thesis it is (BA Thesis, MSc Thesis, PhD Thesis, etc.).

Motion Picture (Movie)
The lord of the rings: the return of the king 2003, motion picture, Imagine Films, Auckland, NZ. Produced by Steve Pyke; directed by Peter Jackson.

Television Program
Stateline 2009, television broadcast, ABC TV, Canberra, 4 September. Presented by Chris Kimball.

Radio Broadcast
The book show 2009, radio broadcast, ABC Radio National, Melbourne, 19 November.

Essay Writing Help From Our Writers

When it comes to citing things using Harvard style or author-date style, it is crucial to check the specifics of this style with your instructor. Unfortunately, there is no official way. There are a couple of different schools that cite it such as the University of Western Australia and Cardiff University. In case your instructor is unavailable and can not provide you with the needed information, my advice would be to check out their websites and make sure you’re doing it right. No matter how you decide to do your citations, make sure to stay consistent in your formatting. In the Harvard citation style, you have more freedom to format your work the way you like. Choose the way you want to do it but stick to the point! Make safe choices when it comes to formatting your paper. For example, as the article states, using Times New Roman is recommended, but students can also choose Arial or Calibri. Best of luck with your essay!

Script Hero , from Essay Pro Writing Service

Struggling to master the Harvard referencing system?

After countless hours of putting together a compelling list of resources, most students lack the energy to structure them accordingly. Feel free to try our high quality writing service for such tasks.

Try EssayPro

Huge 33% Discount On All Services

The more pages you order – the bigger the discount you get







order an essay

Essay Writing Guide

  • How To Write an Essay
    • Topics
    • Title
    • Outline
    • Format
    • Introduction
    • Conclusion
    • Samples

Types of Essays

  • Types of essays
    • 1000 Word Essay
    • 5 Paragraph Essay
    • 5 Paragraph Essay Outline
    • 500 Word Essay
    • AP English Essay
    • Argumentative Essay
    • Cause and Effect Essay
    • Classification Essay
    • Compare and Contrast Essay
    • Creative Essay
    • Critical Essay
    • Definition Essay
    • Descriptive Essay
    • Essay About Yourself
    • Explanatory Essay
    • Expository Essay
    • Extended Essay
    • NHS Essay
    • Informative Essay
    • Lab Report
    • Narrative Essay
    • Narrative Essay Topics
    • Nature vs Nurture Essay
    • Personal Essay
    • Persuasive Essay
    • Persuasive Essay Topics
    • Process Essay
    • Reflective Essay
    • Scholarship Essay
    • Synthesis Essay
    • Thematic Essay
  • Analytical essays
    • Character Analysis
    • Critical Analysis
    • Literary Analysis
    • Poetry Analysis
    • Process Analysis
    • Rhetorical Analysis
  • Essays by subject:
    • Nursing Essay
    • Psychology Essay

Types of Academic Writing

  • Academic Essay
  • Article Review
  • Case Study
  • Coursework
  • Dissertation
  • Research Paper
    • Starting Research Paper
    • Research Paper Topic
    • Research Paper Outline
    • Research Paper Format
    • Research Paper MLA Format
  • Literature Review
  • Research Proposal
  • Term Paper
  • Thesis Statement

Tips for Writing an Admission Essay

  • What is Admission Essay
    • College Application Essay
    • College Application Essay Format
    • Admission Essays Topics
    • Medical School Personal Statement
    • Statement of Purpose

Essay Format

  • Essay Format
    • AMA Citation Format
    • APA Style
    • ASA Style
    • Annotated Bibliography
    • Chicago (Turabian) Style
    • Harvard Style
    • IEEE Citation Format
    • MLA Style

Custom Writing

  • Essay Writing Service
    • Custom essay writing
    • Write My Essay
    • Buy An Essay
    • Essay Writing Help
    • Essay Writer
  • Admission Essay Writing
  • Term Paper Writing
  • Research Paper Writing
  • Dissertation Help

Other Articles

  • Book Review
  • Do Homework Fast
  • Procrastination
  • PowerPoint Presentation

Essay Banner

Share This Article

Essay Writing Prices

Read more about the services supplied
by our essay writers.

Writing $8 – $12/page

Rewriting $7 – $10/page

Editing $5 – $7/page

Learn more

Share This Article

Related Articles

How to Write a Paper in IEEE Citation Format

How to Write a Paper in IEEE Citation Format

IEEE citation format is used in the field of information technologies and computer science. Here is our guide. …

May 29, 2018

AMA Citation Format Guide to Cite Your Medical Papers

AMA Citation Format Guide to Cite Your Medical Papers

This post describes the basics of the citation format offered by the American Medical Association. …

May 17, 2018

APA Style Essay Format: It's Time to Master It!

APA Style Essay Format: It's Time to Master It!

This guide corresponds to the latest edition of the manual released by the American Psychological Association. …

Apr 24, 2017

  • Essay Writing Service

    Click here to see how our academic service helps college students all around the world with various types of assignments!

  • EssayPro Writers

    We have tested thousands of candidates to present you with the best writers available. Click here to meet them!

  • How It Works

    Learn the simple process of getting yourself a well-written custom essay! Visit EssayPro for a step-by-step guide!

stay update

Get the latest news from EssayPro


Tag cloud

Admission essay Essay Writing Guide Essay writing tips Standard Essay Format Student Life Types of Academic Writing Types of essays

Fast Company

  • Menu
  • Newsletter
  • Subscribe
  • Homepage

  • Co.Design

  • Technology

  • Leadership

  • Entertainment

  • Ideas

  • Video

  • News


  • Recommender

    The apps, books, movies, music, TV shows, and art are inspiring our some of the most creative people in business this month

  • Strong Female Lead

    The struggles and triumphs of prominent women in leadership positions

  • Platform Wars

    The major tech ecosystems that battle for our attention and dollars

  • Tech Forecast

    What’s next for hardware, software, and services

  • Most Innovative Companies

    Our annual guide to the businesses that matter the most

  • Most Creative People

    Leaders who are shaping the future of business in creative ways

  • World Changing Ideas

    New workplaces, new food sources, new medicine–even an entirely new economic system

  • Innovation By Design

    Celebrating the best ideas in business

  • FastCo.Works Studio

    An award-winning team of journalists, designers, and videographers who tell brand stories through Fast Company's distinctive lens

Newsletters Innovation Festival Current Issue

Current Issue

Follow us:
  • most creative people

Use These Two Words On Your College Essay To Get Into Harvard

AdmitSee crunched the data in 15,000 essays from the admissions files of successful college applicants. The findings are fascinating.

Use These Two Words On Your College Essay To Get Into Harvard
[Source Photos: Flickr users Mxttgl , and Guillén Pérez ]
By Elizabeth Segran 5 minute Read

Getting into an elite college has never been more cutthroat. Last year, Harvard’s admissions rate dipped to a record low, with only 5.3% of applicants getting an acceptance letter. Stanford’s rate was even lower, at 5.05%.


These days, it takes more than impressive grades, a full roster of extracurriculars, and a deep commitment to community service to get into a well-ranked school. Experts say that a stellar essay is the linchpin that will win the admissions department over. But what is less well known is that different colleges favor particular topics and even specific words used in essays.

This is a key finding from AdmitSee , a startup that invites verified college students to share their application materials with potential applicants. High school students can pay to access AdmitSee’s repository of successful college essays, while college students who share their materials receive a small payment every time someone accesses their data. “The biggest differentiator for our site is that college students who share their information are compensated for their time,” Stephanie Shyu, cofounder of AdmitSee, tells Fast Company. “This allows them to monetize materials that they have sitting around. They can upload their file and when they check back in a few months later, they might have made several hundred dollars.”

Lydia Pierce Fayal, and Stephanie Shyu, cofounders of AdmitSeePhoto: courtesy of AdmitSee

Shyu says that this model has allowed AdmitSee to collect a lot of data very rapidly. The company is only a year old and just landed $1.5 million in seed funding from investors such as Founder.org and The Social + Capital Partnership . But in this short time, AdmitSee has already gathered 15,000 college essays in their system. Many are from people who got into well-ranked colleges, since they targeted these students first. The vast majority of these essays come from current college students who were admitted within the last two or three years.

AdmitSee has a team that analyzes all of these materials, gathering both qualitative and quantitative findings. And they’ve found some juicy insights about what different elite colleges are looking for in essays. One of the most striking differences was between successful Harvard and Stanford essays. (AdmitSee had 539 essays from Stanford and 393 from Harvard at the time of this interview, but more trickle in every day.) High-achieving high schoolers frequently apply to both schools—often with the very same essay—but there are stark differences between what their respective admissions departments seem to want.

Harvard’s Widener Library

What Do You Call Your Parents?

The terms “father” and “mother” appeared more frequently in successful Harvard essays, while the term “mom” and “dad” appeared more frequently in successful Stanford essays.

Harvard Likes Downer Essays

AdmitSee found that negative words tended to show up more on essays accepted to Harvard than essays accepted to Stanford. For example, Shyu says that “cancer,” “difficult,” “hard,” and “tough” appeared more frequently on Harvard essays, while “happy,” “passion,” “better,” and “improve” appeared more frequently in Stanford essays.

Students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful across the board.

This also had to do with the content of the essays. At Harvard, admitted students tended to write about challenges they had overcome in their life or academic career, while Stanford tended to prefer creative personal stories, or essays about family background or issues that the student cares about. “Extrapolating from this qualitative data, it seems like Stanford is more interested in the student’s personality, while Harvard appears to be more interested in the student’s track record of accomplishment,” Shyu says.

With further linguistic analysis, AdmitSee found that the most common words on Harvard essays were “experience,” “society,” “world,” “success,” “opportunity.” At Stanford, they were “research,” “community,” “knowledge,” “future” and “skill.”

What the Other Ivies Care About

It turns out, Brown favors essays about volunteer and public interest work, while these topics rank low among successful Yale essays. In addition to Harvard, successful Princeton essays often tackle experiences with failure. Meanwhile, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania tend to accept students who write about their career aspirations. Essays about diversity—race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—tend to be more popular at Stanford, Yale, and Brown.

Based on the AdmitSee’s data, Dartmouth and Columbia don’t appear to have strong biases toward particular essay topics. This means that essays on many subjects were seen favorably by the admissions departments at those schools. However, Shyu says that writing about a moment that changed the student’s life showed up frequently in essays of successful applicants to those schools.

Stanford’s Hoover Tower

Risk-Taking Pays Off

One general insight is that students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful across the board. One student who was admitted to several top colleges wrote about his father’s addiction to pornography and another wrote about a grandparent who was incarcerated, forcing her mother to get food stamps illegally. Weird formats also tend to do well. One successful student wrote an essay tracking how his credit card was stolen, making each point of the credit card’s journey a separate section on the essay and analyzing what each transaction meant. Another’s essay was a list of her favorite books and focused on where each book was purchased.

“One of the big questions our users have is whether they should take a risk with their essay, writing about something that reveals very intimate details about themselves or that takes an unconventional format,” Shyu says. “What we’re finding is that successful essays are not ones that talk about an accomplishment or regurgitate that student’s résumé . The most compelling essays are those that touch on surprising personal topics.”


Of course, one caveat here is that taking a risk only makes sense if the essay is well-executed. Shyu says that the content and structure of the story must make a larger point about the applicant, otherwise it does not serve a purpose. And it goes without saying that the essay must be well-written, with careful attention paid to flow and style.

Shyu says that there are two major takeaways that can be taken from the company’s data. The first is that it is very valuable for applicants to tailor their essays for different schools, rather than perfecting one essay and using it to apply to every single school. The second is that these essays can offer insight into the culture of the school. “The essays of admitted students are also a reflection of the community at these institutions,” Shyu says. “It can provide insight into whether or not the school is a good fit for that student.”

A final tip? If you want to go to Harvard and write about your parents, make sure to address them as “mother” and “father.”





The mystery of the missing $400,000 GoFundMe money deepens


This little robot swims through pipes and finds out if they’re leaking


The “Night Loo” keeps refugee women safe from hazardous bathroom trips



Sony PlayStation uses a blockbuster ad strategy for new Spider-Man game


Survey says Nike’s brand image has dropped because of Colin Kaepernick ad


So… it looks like the “Veep” creator’s Trump movie might actually happen?



People don’t trust autonomous vehicles, so Jaguar added googly eyes


Ikea’s head of design steps down


Volvo’s new concept car is basically a first-class airplane cabin

Fast Company


Sony PlayStation uses a blockbuster ad strategy for new Spider-Man game


Nike controversy or no, NFL ratings will probably keep falling


The mystery of the missing $400,000 GoFundMe money deepens