'I am thrilled': Joburg matriculant who is going to Harvard shares what this means to him

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Johannesburg matriculant Sazi Bongwe has secured admission to Harvard University for the 2022 academic year. Photo: Supplied/Sazi Bongwe.
Johannesburg matriculant Sazi Bongwe has secured admission to Harvard University for the 2022 academic year. Photo: Supplied/Sazi Bongwe.

Johannesburg matriculant Sazi Bongwe has secured admission to Harvard University for the 2022 academic year, which kicks off in August.

This eighteen-year-old, who was the Head of School at St. John's College in 2021, bagged nine distinctions in his final matric examinations with an average of 95.9%, on top of the impressive extracurricular portfolio that he built throughout his school career.

Read: 'I have a huge amount of respect for these students': Reddford House schools produce excellent results

Making it to the Ivy League

We spoke to Bongwe about what this achievement means to him and how he prepared for it. 

Harvard University is known as an Ivy League school, which, according to the World Scholarship Forum, is an American collegiate athletic conference consisting of eight private research universities in the North-Eastern United States.

These schools are also defined beyond the context of sports to refer to the 'ancient eight' schools that are a group of elite colleges associated with academic excellence, selectivity in admission, and social elitism.

Bongwe shares that he applied to two other top universities, including Harvard, knowing very well how competitive and selective their admission processes are, and that he was accepted to Harvard without issue.

"I'm thrilled to be going to an Ivy League school because I know I'll be surrounded by this insane caliber of impressive, passionate people and have opportunities I won't get anywhere else. While I don't attach self-worth or self-value to my application, it's very validating," Bongwe tells us.

"Especially coming from a South African context, where we're often looking at the rest of the world – in particular the US and Europe – in a glamorised light. To know that I can be competitive in that pool of students and succeed feels good," he says.

Bongwe says that it is heart-warming to see people taking an interest in his story because he knows that for some young people seeing him getting into Harvard is an indication of endless possibilities for them.

Also read: 'The end of the road?' How to cope with disappointing matric results

Exploring his interests

Bongwe says that he will be starting his studies in August 2022, but in the meantime, he wants to explore his interest in journalism.

"Journalism is something that feeds an impulse in me. I'm hoping to write for a South African publication that is producing real, credible journalism," he tells us.

"My friends and I are also still managing our online platform Ukuzikuza, and we're looking to publish a print magazine version of this. I'll also go into tutoring so that I can help other people who want to study overseas and share the lessons I've learned while I'm still here," he adds.

The teen worked extremely hard to be part of the Harvard family, sharing with us that "this started with a rigorous research process into the universities I might be interested in, both locally and abroad. I had to make considerations about what environment I saw myself in and where I wanted to go, and eventually settled on Harvard."

Must read: Here's where to find the 2021 matric exam results

The application process

In terms of the application to Harvard, Bongwe says, "I feel like this was 18 years in the making. Throughout school – especially high school – I involved myself in extracurriculars that were meaningful to me and that I knew would be rewarding to me and committed deeply to them."

When it comes to the application process, Bongwe was assisted by Crimson Education, and he applied to Harvard, Stanford, and Yale University.

But before sending the application, he had to spend a lot of time doing some introspection to give admission officers an authentic image of himself through his application essays.

To the class of 2022, Bongwe says, "Invest yourself and your time into things that you are passionate about – because this is going to help you show your authenticity in your application."

He believes that doing what you want in high school and writing about what you want in your application is very important.

"Take care of yourself during the application process. It's very psychologically taxing, and you need to be mindful of your mental space as you go through it," he stresses.

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