Ché Applewhaite: Harvard-bound!

Sixth-Former Ché Applewhaite is heading for Harvard this summer after winning an unconditional offer of a place from the Ivy League university. 

Ché’s success is representative of a growing trend in recent years for QE boys to venture beyond the UK for university, especially to élite American institutions.

""He plans to leave for the US the day after receiving his A-level results, which means he will start at Harvard at the same time as Sahil Handa (OE 2009-2016), who is currently on a gap year. Both Sahil (pictured right) and Ché will be reading for a Liberal Arts degree: Ché had initially been interested in a place at Stanford in California but opted for the east coast university after talking to Sahil. He was also inspired and helped by Ramsey Kobeissi (OE 2003-10), the first-ever QE pupil to go to Yale. Ramsey gave Ché advice about the application process, and Ché took away not only practical tips, but “the view that it is possible”.

Ché settled on Harvard in part for its reputation in the arts, humanities, economics and politics. The Liberal Arts course itself was a big draw: “The ability to explore and then specialise, to find your own path through your degree, was particularly attractive,” he said.
He is excited, too, by the “amazing landscape of extra-curricular opportunities”. He hopes to get involved with the Harvard Crimson student newspaper and the international relations committee. He values the opportunities for international study and the way in which everyone at Harvard is encouraged to take a foreign language: Ché is enjoying his French A-level and is keen to carry on with language studies.

The wide range of extra-curricular involvements will mirror his experience at QE, where he has thrown himself into activities such as the School Choir, debating (having been part of the School team in the annual dinner debate against the Old Elizabethans) and the symposia held with other schools. “It all gives you confidence…and universities such as Harvard like people who aren’t afraid to express their views and are articulate.”

""Ché (pictured right collecting his prize for Leadership and Involvement at the School's Senior Awards ceremony last term) set up QE’s Forward Thinking Society, where boys discuss new ideas or current social issues. Its guest speakers have expatiated on topics from sexism (Laura Bates) to trans-humanism (Warwick’s Professor Steve Fuller) and the refugee crisis (Nicholas Millet, OE 2001–2008). “The School gives us the opportunity and the space to do that – allowing us to do things of our own volition.” Ché also set up a Food Bank at the School, with assistance from staff. 

Overall, Ché believes QE has been instrumental in his success in gaining a place: “Harvard requires you to have a mature insight and I feel my offer is a testament to the quality of education, to the teaching and support, I have received here.” Indeed, QE has been crucial in broadening his horizons and in developing his aspirations even to apply to such an institution, he explained.

""A huge amount of work goes into an application and Ché set out some of the specific help the School had given, including:

  • Assistance in preparing for the US universities’ Standardised Admissions Tests (SATs) and for his application essay
  • An information session on US universities at which Head of Year Liam Hargadon had arranged for alumni studying in the US to come into School and had set out a clear timeline for the process
  • Facilitating conversations with two education students from the University of Connecticut who were on placement at QE in the Autumn Term.

""Ché urged other QE boys to apply, saying that he felt the US universities liked applicants from grammar schools. “My advice is that research is key. Look to see what you like and how others have done well, whilst not comparing yourself too closely. Ultimately, do something because you want to do it, because it excites you.”

In this, Ché has long followed his own advice. For example, with his QE peers, he set up the political blogging website Whippersnapper through which he quickly had to learn how to manage a team as well as talk to politicians. “At Harvard, they want to see that you have invested yourself in something and done well in it.”

In his first few days at Harvard, Ché will join other international students as they are helped to acclimatise.  “We will do practical things like get set up with a new phone and a bank account as well as have lectures in American culture. It will be interesting to see what they say in that! I think it may be easier coming from the UK than some other places.”