Up Front and Personal

Keeping the Faith Going Into Harvard

Harvard University (Photo: Getty Images)

by Fiona Brennan

For high schoolers, the college application process is daunting. It seems that every year, getting into college becomes more difficult, increasing the stress level of juniors and seniors.

With most early application deadlines in October and November and regular application deadlines in January, the early months of senior year are filled with extensive talks with college counselors, long hours in the library writing essays and late, coffee-fueled nights spent completing applications.

During those stressful weeks, I welcomed weekly chapel service at my school (Marymount School, Manhattan) as a time to clear my mind and engage in prayer. Chapel provided me with much-needed relief from my constantly busy senior year and helped me relax when my to-do list seemed impossibly long.

After chapel, however, the work continued. Completing my college list took months, and it wasn’t until early October that I decided to apply early to Harvard. While I knew that I was almost certainly setting myself up for failure, I couldn’t help but think, what if?

In the weeks after I submitted my application, it was hard to stop myself from imagining what would happen if I were to get accepted. I tried my best to distract myself, but that question remained — what if?

Mid-December — decision release time for early applications — finally arrived and brought with it a whirlwind of emotions. Tears of joy accompanied tears of sadness as people heard back from their dream colleges. On the day my decision was released, I could hardly sit still as I waited anxiously for my application portal to be updated.

When the time finally arrived, I opened my updated portal. I stared at the screen for a long time before I could fully register what I was seeing.

I had been admitted into the Harvard College Class of 2023.

I immediately called my mom to share the news, and soon after I was sitting in a restaurant with the rest of my family to celebrate. Now, a different question consumed my thoughts — did that really just happen?

In the following weeks, I continued contemplating that question, taking time for reality to set in. Recently, I have begun to not think not just about the fact that I did get into Harvard, but about how I want to spend my time there.

I have thought about what I want to major in and what career I might want, but I don’t have a con an answer yet for either. The only thing I know for sure is that I want to use my education to continue to serve others, because thanks to my Catholic upbringing and education, service has always been a part of my life.

My family got me involved in volunteering at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s soccer league, where I coach young kids from Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and beyond. The league fosters a sense of community and is a space for people of all different backgrounds to come together and have fun.

The Catholic schools that I attended provided me with many opportunities to get involved in service. In high school, I volunteered at a senior citizen center, where I got to learn the value of simple acts of kindness.

The message of Jesus to love and serve one another is central to the person I have become. It is especially important in our often chaotic and hate-filled world today that we remember to live out this lesson in any way possible, from lending a helping hand to a neighbor, to supporting organizations that protect human rights, to everything in between.

As I contemplate my next four years at Harvard, one thing I hope to never forget is that lesson, which pushes me to be empathetic, selfless and kind, and motivates me to serve others in any way that I can.

Brennan is an intern at DeSales Media Group, publisher of The Tablet.

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