Road to Harvard - the competition

The “Road to Harvard” initiative in Germany celebrated the last weekend of June with the conclusion of a competition between talented German high school students vying to win a trip to visit Harvard University this October. The competition attracted students from all over Germany, including those whose parents never even dreamed of graduating any type of university. These young pupils, specifically, are discouraged from dedicating themselves to any study because of the lack of available scholarships. Here at the Harvard Scholarship Foundation Germany e.V., we are aware of Harvard’s praiseworthy financial aid rewards. Our mission is to inform and motivate these German students to believe that Harvard, if they excel tremendously on their end, is in reach. 

In the first year of our competition, nearly 80 young men and women submitted insightful essays addressing relevant the political topic of “Fake News” and persuasive letters that shed light on their personal motivations for further study. From these students, we selected 25 finalists who then received an invitation to be interviewed by members of the various Harvard Clubs of Germany. These finalists came from various socioeconomic backgrounds. One student’s parents are refugees from Sri-Lanka, while another student volunteers her time caring for children at refugee camps.

On the evening of June 24th, we chose six stellar winners from these 25 finalists.  In October, these six students will journey to Cambridge and immerse themselves in the culture of Harvard University.  After their voyage, we hope they will return to Germany with more knowledge about the opportunities that Harvard offers and the options that are available for them to continue their studies.

The students will be accompanied by members of the Harvard Scholarship Foundation Germany e.V. and supervised locally.  All travel expenses are financed through generous donations and membership fees.  Initially, we planned on announcing only five winners but on the evening of the ceremony an anonymous donor became inspired by the achievements of the finalists and generously donated 20,000 Euros to our foundation.  This enabled us to fund a sixth student on her “Road to Harvard.” 

Theodore Roosevelt’s (A.B. 1880) aphorism “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground” exemplifies the spirit of our mission.  It is imperative that young Germans appreciate the opportunities available to them at Harvard as well as the selection criteria.  It is in our common interest for all students to strive to achieve such high standards.  Many will fall short yet still find themselves in a promising position due to their efforts.  The best and brightest can be assured that financial support will be available to them. 

The goals expressed in the students’ personal letters are aligned with the opportunities that Harvard can provide.

Jessica Detta’s interests range from hard sciences all the way to gender studies.  At Harvard, she would have the opportunity to explore and master both areas. 

Annabel Zoepke passionately composed her own English scripted movie but can only dream of continuing her creative development at a German University because these programs are so expensive. 

Luca Ünlü manages to juggle and excel in all his wide-ranging interests.  They include training at the American Heart Association, teaching first responder courses, designing layouts for his school’s bilingual newspaper, participating on his school’s MUN team and playing competitive hockey.  His trip to Harvard will allow him to explore Harvard’s extensive programs to continue practicing and ultimately mastering his extracurricular undertakings. 

Ailie Gieseler, an editor and designer in her school’s literary magazine, claims that the opportunity to listen in on lectures, appreciate the beauty of the campus and gain knowledge about the application process will allow her to broaden her horizons and realize ambitions that never seemed obtainable.

Mieke Müller founded a refugee integration program at her school and continues working with refugees in Bulgaria this summer.  Thus, she has demonstrated a unique and compelling outlook on worldwide affairs and it is evident that her experiences will lead to meaningful discussions with current Harvard students and faculty. 

Lea Ebert has had an infatuation for Math ever since her primary school teacher drove her to solve difficult problems and to place out of a year’s worth of math.  She shed light on her desire to visit Harvard by explaining how grateful she would be to immerse herself in Harvard’s environment and gain exposure to advanced mathematics.

The Road to Harvard experience will help shape these bright and motivated students as they go on to make their marks in society.