Brains 'not enough' to secure Harvard success
Ong Chin Huat
Being an over-achiever is just one quality you need to graduate summa cum laude from Harvard.
You'll also have to be driven, motivated and a keen participant in extracurricular activities - not to mention having excellent grades.
So say Karen Kim and Tom Chalberg, tour managers of Harvard singing groups the Harvard Krokodiloes and the Radcliffe Pitches. The groups recently performed at the Regent Hotel as part of their world tour.
The Krokodiloes and the Pitches are Harvard's oldest a cappella singing groups and each summer they travel the world delighting audiences with their rich harmonies.
But for Karen and Tom, their singing is only part of their extracurricular activities.
Karen also plays tennis for the Harvard tennis club and works in a lab assisting in Aids research. She graduates next year majoring in biochemistry and plans to become a paediatrician.
Tom was on the Harvard water polo team and has just graduated, landing a job with a bio-technology consultancy company.
'Harvard teaches you what you are good at and makes you aware of your shortcomings,' says Tom, who adds that in Harvard you have to drop any attitude of superiority because 'there is always someone better than you'.
For Karen, the exposure to different issues, people and current events has accelerated her learning curve.
Although the atmosphere at Harvard is intensely competitive, it isn't negative. 'You learn to identify what your goals are and then you motivate yourself to achieve them as fast as possible.' And does a degree from Harvard automatically land you a plum job? 'Nothing is guaranteed - you go out and get it,' says Tom - although he admits a Harvard degree is a powerful tool.
Karen adds: 'If we get good jobs, it's because we have worked hard.'