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What makes for an excellent application?

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Most mentors look at applicants who picked their projects as a first or second choice, and sometimes at applicants who picked projects in related areas. What is most important to a mentor varies greatly. Some emphasize previous coursework, good grades, extracurricular activities, or relevant work experience, where as other mentors look for a student with excellent potential but in need of a first research experience. The one area all mentors agree is invaluable is the personal essay as a discussion of the applicant's background and his/her interest in the projects offered in this year's program. Avoid submitting a generic essay with the theme that this would be a good internship experience for you or that it will help you get into graduate or professional school. Instead, pick your projects carefully, then spend time using your personal essay to explain your selections. The best applicants spend time perusing the Harvard Forest web site and craft a thoughtful essay about their individual interests, why they have picked the projects listed, why the Harvard Forest in particular interests them, and how this internship program will help them further develop their career goals. This of course takes more time, but investing an hour or two in research and writing your essay often makes an application stand out from the rest, and significantly increases your chances of being interviewed.