‘Surreal,’ ‘Thrilled’: Applicants React to Admission to Class of 2026


Torn between two schools, Ashley J. Vasquez Romo poked a hole on one side of an eraser and decided that the “poke” side would be Harvard, before throwing it up in the air.

“I said if [the eraser] lands on the side with the ‘poke’, I’m going to apply to Harvard early, and if it landed on the other side I was going to apply to Stanford early,” Vasquez Romo said.

Last Thursday, March 31, Harvard College admitted 1,214 applicants to the Class of 2026, joining the 740 admitted in the early round in December. The 1,954 students were chosen from a pool of 61,220 applicants — making for a record-low acceptance rate of 3.19 percent, down from 3.43 percent the year before.

Students admitted to the Class of 2026 expressed shock, excitement, and disbelief upon receiving their Harvard acceptances.


Vasquez Romo, a prospective member of the Class of 2026 from Las Vegas, said she felt her college application process had high stakes because her family members have not attended college.

“Was I going to continue the cycle, or was I going to be one of the first to break it?” Vasquez Romo said.

After receiving her acceptance in December, she said her family’s reactions made her certain her work had “paid off.”

“My dad — he never cries, but he started tearing up and he had this huge smile,” she said.

A veteran admit from Delano, Calif., Ryan D. Garcia feared that being five years out of high school would hurt his chances of admission.

“It was a little bit different going through [the admissions process],” Garcia said. “It seemed like I was planning on climbing an uphill battle.”

Garcia said the moment he received a likely letter in mid-March was “surreal.”

“Being first-generation military, first-generation college — [Harvard] was the dream school,” he said. “That was the American dream — my parents came, and that was the school that they thought we would be able to find success in.”

Julia Santos de Alvarenga, an international student living in Texas originally from São Paulo, Brazil, said that it was a “very stressful process, especially as an international” applicant.

“None of my family members attended college here in the U.S., and my aunt was actually the only one who attended college back in Brazil,” she said.

Alvarenga said despite the process’s stressful nature, she found it “fulfilling.”

“I learned a lot about myself and about the people around me, how I relate to them,” she said.

Student activist and founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks Marley E. Dias found it “socially validating” to be accepted knowing that her essays mentioned wanting to make change at institutions like Harvard.

“I hope to be an important voice for the changes that can be made in all institutions, particularly in predominantly white and predominantly incredibly wealthy and well resourced and less diverse communities,” Dias said.

“To know that they read that and were like, ‘We want her’ — it made me so happy because I wasn’t trying to shy away from my goals in disrupting things,” she added.

Mia A. Russ, a senior from Somerset, Mass., found her college application process “wild and crazy stressful,” but was “thrilled” when she got her acceptance.

It wasn’t until about 24 hours later that Russ said “imposter syndrome” set in, but she added that she tries to remind herself that her Harvard experience will be about more than just academics.

“I don’t know how I’ll measure up to these people in a classroom setting, but it’s just nice to know that everybody’s human,” she said. “We’re not all these robots who are really good at school — everybody has a personality, everybody has a story.”

Looking back on the experience, Dias said she learned to “remain confident in my capabilities, regardless of the outcome.”

“Now that it’s over, I feel a real contentment with who I am, what I’m capable of, and the communities that are out there for me in the future,” Dias said.

—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at

—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at