Student Spotlight: Harshini

In this series, we spotlight a student who worked with Vanguard on their college admissions process. Here is our interview with Harshini, who applied to college for the fall of 2024 and was accepted to Carnegie Mellon University, amongst others!

What were you most nervous about going into the college process?

Probably writing all the essays. Even when I started writing with my Vanguard Essay Specialist, I was a little scared about how my essay was going to work and about the brainstorming process. There were just so many ways to approach it and I didn’t know what option was right—it made everything so much more nerve-wracking. 


Why did you choose Vanguard to work with you during the college process? When did you start the process with us and what programs did you participate in?

I chose Vanguard because one of my friends had come to Vanguard for SAT and ACT help and mentioned that you had a College Counseling service too. I came to an Info Session at the end of my junior year to check it out and thought it was a pretty cool opportunity. I realized that it would be helpful throughout the college process to have Vanguard guide me. 


What was your experience like in Vanguard’s College Counseling program? 

My College Counselor was very helpful! Mainly we worked on crafting my resume and building a college list. I didn’t know how to go about finding colleges for my list since there were so many schools and choices. Having someone with me building my college list was really helpful because I could narrow schools down to places that really interested me.


How did your College Counselor and Essay Specialist help you through the process and with the anxieties you had going into the college process?

I remember right before the November 1st deadline I found out that I had an extra supplement that I needed to write; it might have even been the day before the deadline! I sent her a message and she immediately responded and we got on a call that day to figure it out. Personally, I feel like if it wasn’t for her I would have been so stressed out. It was just all the little things that she was always there for, being a guiding force, that really was so helpful through this process. 


Was there anything else Vanguard helped you with during the college selection/college counseling process that you would like to highlight?

The way things were structured worked really well for me. I had my Essay Specialist and Counselor to help out before things got passed on to higher-ups to check it and give final approval. It made me feel good to have more than one set of eyes on everything I was writing.


What was essay coaching like at Vanguard?

My Essay Specialist was really, really helpful. She led me through the whole process and I don’t think I would have gotten through everything without her. I was already so stressed out going into the process because I didn’t know how to go about it. She helped me organize and kept me on track with deadlines, which I thought was super helpful. 


If you are willing to share, what did you end up writing your college essay about and how did the end result turn out? How does the essay you wrote with Vanguard compare to what you would have written about on your own?

I’m majoring in business, so I really wanted my essay and supplements to focus on an introspection between fashion and business, since I’m really interested in both. We did that with a lot of my supplements, which I liked, but for my narrative essay we did something different. 


I like to paint, so in my narrative essay I wrote about a painting. Each part of the painting I described in my essay was something that I hold dear to me. For example, the first paragraph was about the background of the painting and described my grandpa and how his love for me, his determination, and his passion for science was ingrained into me when I was young. Using the background to talk about my background, if that makes sense? I used a painting that I had created as a way to talk about myself and structure the essay—I was explaining my passions through something I enjoyed. 


It took a lot of tries to get right but I think it came out really well. At the very beginning of the process I did write my own narrative alone and I hated it a lot. I didn’t like the way my first attempt was structured and it felt kind of corny. It wasn’t something that I would have wanted to send to colleges. By the end of the process, though, we worked hard on it and now I’m very happy with what I ended up with.


Do you feel your writing abilities improved because of your time with Vanguard?

For sure! I think at the beginning I was struggling with condensing what I wanted to write about and I had a lot of redundancies. It would take me a couple weeks to write a single essay but after working on Vanguard I learned to make writing a much less stressful process. Going through this process with someone helped me learn new skills that made the essays a lot easier to work through. 


Have you accepted any offers yet from Colleges? If so, what are you planning on majoring in?

I think so. I’m probably going to commit to Carnegie Mellon for business this week, actually. 


What are your future goals with your degree?

I want to get into investment banking, but in the future I do want to go to law school, which my business degree would help me with. At least, based on what I’ve heard so far!


Essay Specialist Barbara F.

Swarthmore College

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