Imagine getting a text from a friend wondering how you are doing and asking if you had heard from Harvard University yet, because Harvard has sent out that all important email telling applicants if they were accepted or not. At that moment of the text you are standing in your high school gym playing in the pep band while your fellow students battle it out on the court. What do you do? Thousands of applications pour into Harvard University every year. This year was one of the largest application years for Harvard with about 44,000 applications that were sent in and only about 5.4% of those will get that acceptance letter stating that they have made it into one of the nation's most prestigious schools.
Weiser High Senior, Mikel Davies was one of this year’s applicants and while standing with instrument in hand, was desperate to know if he made the cut, “I was pretty tense all week, but I wasn't expecting to get in. I thought it was a pretty far reach for an Idaho kid from a small town such as Weiser. I scrolled through my email to find it so I could log in. I couldn’t remember my password so I had to reset the password so it took another five minutes. I was just shaking, tense as all get out. I had to go through the admissions portal and then to the status button. I remember I was all, I don’t even want to click on it, but I did eventually. When I did there was this congratulations and fake confetti. In my head I was like, “why are they congratulating me on not being accepted.” Then I read through it and I was so surprised! It stated, “Congratulations on being admitted as part of the class of 2020.” I was like wow. I am in the middle of a song. I am playing with one hand and doing this with the other. When I read that, I kinda just stopped playing and Mr. Forton yelled at me and said Mikel you gotta keep playing. I was like, okay. I finished the song and then leaped out of the stands and went and told my dad. I then had to go back and play another song. I didn't want to because I was so tense, but I was committed to it.”
Mikel finished that song and then called his mother, who when Mikel called, could hear the emotion in his voice. She asked him what was wrong, is he okay and Mikel stated, “ I am so good! I got accepted into Harvard.” Mikel continued to play with the pep band that night and shared that later he watched as his grandparents entered the gym and his father shared the good news with them, “I was able to watch my grandparents reaction. My Grandma and Grandpa’s jaws just dropped, it was just crazy. Again I just leaped out of the stands and went and spoke with them. They were just so proud of me. It was a cool thing. All this hard work and time I have put in had finally paid off. It was really cool.”
Being accepted to Harvard University is just a step in Mikel’s future plans. He intends to go to Harvard Medical after he finishes his undergraduate. Mikel is looking into the field of Biomedical Engineering, “I thought that would be a good meld of my interest of medicine and my interest of physics and chemistry. Engineering has always been kinda of tantalising so I thought it would be good as well. I also think that this would help distinguish myself when I go to apply to medical school. This would be kind of a unique approach to getting into medical school, I think that may help with my application later on.”
Mikel is most excited about the unique community of Harvard. Mikel was able to visit the campus of Harvard University this last spring break. He shared how much he loved the community there, “All the Freshman dorms are around Harvard Yard. Pretty much all year long we are together all in the same place, all in the same classes. We have a good opportunity to make friendships. Most of the students are not from Boston, they are from thousands of miles away. The set up is just a really good way to build these friendships and create a really good bond and community. I think this is really unique. About 98 percent of the students at Harvard live on campus. The upperclassmen live in one of thirteen houses. It’s like Harry Potter with the house cups. They do intramural sports and other things to earn points. It's just a really unique community all about intense academics, high quality athletics and has such a wide variety of things going on.”
Medical school has been Mikel’s goal since about third grade, “When I was in third grade my mom had West Nile really bad. She was bedridden for about seven months and couldn’t really do anything. It was at that point that I saw that and wished there was a way I could do something for her about this.” Attending Harvard University could possibly help Mikel when he reaches the point to apply for Medical School, especially when he is wanting to attend Harvard Medical School specifically, “Just in of itself, attending Harvard University has opportunities that are just limitless. You have the opportunity to grow in so many unique ways.”
How To Distinguish Yourself
Mikel shared some of the things that he feels helped him be successful on his path to Harvard. “From a young age be intellectually curious, I think that's an important thing. My parents can attest to this, but I was probably an annoying kid to have. I was always asking questions and nagging them about things. I always wanted to know how things worked. I think reading is important too. I love to read. It just opens doors, broadens your vocabulary and opens your mind to new ideas and opportunities.” Mikel continues “I think you need to start at a young age. You can’t do all these things just in high school, it needs to be a lifetime devotion. You want to learn, be engaged and hold yourself to a higher standard. You have to be driven and its hard. There are so many nights that your friends want to go out and do stuff, but you are wanting to finish a project or assignment. You know you could put it off and be fine, but if you do it before hand you know you will do it better.” Mikel recommends that if there is an early application to submit it, “I think by doing the early application its a good way to distinguish that you really are interested in the school.” For Harvard, Mikel only had to submit essays on two questions and then one personal essay, “I think they were looking at quality, not quantity. They want to see how well you present yourself in a brief way. I think it’s a unique approach.” Mikel feels that in order to present yourself well you need to be passionate about the things you do, “It’s not just doing things so they look good on a resume. It’s doing things with a passion. Things you actually care about. You need to have passion for the things you do. It’s evident when you write if you actually care about what you're doing or not.”
Mikel’s faith could be considered one of the things Mikel does with passion. Mikel and his family attend the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Ontario, Oregon. At one point in his life Mikel considered becoming a minister, “I was an assisting minister and at that point in my life I was considering going to Lutheran Seminary.” Mikel is very active in his church; he has taught adult Bible study, helped with Vacation Bible School and frequently volunteers with his church in the local community. When visiting the campus of Harvard one of Mikel’s stops was to find a local Lutheran church, “It was like fifteen feet off the campus. We went to Easter service there. It was so amazing. My whole family was so welcomed there. I kinda felt like their church family already.” For one of the three essays Mikel needed to write, along with his application to Harvard, he wrote about his seven years experience at a Bible Camp in the Sawtooth Mountains. “I did probably the most menial jobs you could imagine. I raked composting toilets, I wrote about this. About spraying it with water and laying cedar chips on it. I washed about 500 people’s dishes every day, I mopped and swept outside. I think this essay was more humbling. It was a good opportunity.”
Mikel has a passion for the community of Weiser and chose to write his personal essay about Weiser, “I like my little Idaho town, I really do. My essay was about growing up in Weiser and the unique opportunities I had in such a rural town. I think I have really gotten to do some really unique things here.” Mikel feels that this essay helped set him apart from other applicants. Mikel also participates in a local youth group that gives service in the community. The group has volunteered at the nursing home and has made cards for the residence for different holidays. Mikel has also helped deliver meals for the Senior Center during the holidays.
For the last essays Mikel wrote about “The Hunt” that Nathan Eliason made, “From the first year I have been able to be a part of it. I had to learn how to code for it, it was awful. I am not computer savvy in that way. It was a struggle, but I worked through it. It was such a cool experience to get to help with that.” Mikel thinks that through these two essays he was able to show that you can do a lot even from a small town.
Mikel shared that he has done a lot of things with passion, because he really enjoys a lot of things. Some of those things are the clubs and organizations Mikel belongs to at Weiser High. Mikel has been in the Science Club all four years and has really enjoyed it. He says it is a really active club. Recently the Science Club hosted a Dodgeball Tournament to help raise money to support a local teacher who was diagnosed with cancer. Mikel is also a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Health Occupations Students of America, a member of the Student Council, W Club, Idaho Drug Free Youth, Cross Country, Weiser Track and Field, Weiser High Jazz Band, Chamber Choir, Future Farmers of America and The Future Hispanic Leaders of America. Mikel shared that it was by accident he became a member of the FHLA, but for the last two years he has gotten the opportunity to learn more about a culture that is a part of the community. Mikel found a passion for this culture and even became the club's Vice President.
Even with Mikel’s well rounded involvement with sports, school clubs and community service, he knows his grades had an important part of his acceptance. With Mikel graduating from Weiser High with 73 credits , well over the allotted requirement of 48, it is apparent that Mikel has a passion for learning as well, “It frustrates me when others say school sucks. I think they are making it hard on themselves. It’s hard to enjoy school when you are making all F’s. If you put the effort in, it can be enjoyable. I think kids sometimes blame others, but with a small correction in themselves they can be successful.” Mikel continued, speaking about what he thinks is a big key in being successful, “Take advantage of opportunities you are given. Even in a small school like Weiser you have so many opportunities. Every school has opportunities and if you go after them, take advantage of them with heart, then you can be really successful. I think people kind of dig on small towns. They think you won’t be able to do anything special, but there is so many people who have gone on to do great things from our town. “He admits that there are a couple of things you may need to sacrifice if you want a chance at school similar to Harvard, sleep and an active social life, “You are doing a lot and it’s hard to have an active social life. Sometimes your friends get frustrated because you are always busy.”
Mikel had many people in the community that he gives credit to helping him get to where he is today, “Thank you isn’t enough. When I got a letter back from my admissions counselor, she wrote about how cool it was to learn about such a unique small town. So, thank you isn’t enough. I have loved everyday in Weiser. I get to wake up with a smile on my face and go do great things with a lot of great people. The community has really been the ones who have made this possible. If I could, I’d give them all a big hug. There are so many who have supported me and the different things I have done. They made it possible. If I had grown up in a larger city I don’t think I would have been able to do as much as I have. I don’t think there’s anyway I can repay them for what they have paid into my life.”
Mikel feels that every teacher he has ever had was perfect. He remembers something he learned from each, “In Kindergarten I had Mrs. Seward, she was just phenomenal. I remember she was so kind and taught us to love ourselves. In First Grade, I had Ms. Lukehart, I remember that was the year I really found a passion for math. She taught me math in a unique way that got me excited about math. In Second Grade I had my mom. How much better can it get than having your own mother as your teacher. In Third Grade I had Mrs. Michael. We learned about geology and rocks. I think that's where my respect for the environment stems from. In Fourth Grade with Mr. Courtois I learned so much about Idaho History. I had not realized until then how unique Idaho is. I liked that because I grew up in such a special state. In Fifth Grade I pretty much had half a day with Mrs. Mulligan and half a day with Mrs. Kerby. With Mrs. Mulligan we did a lot of reading and I think that along with others helped my love for reading. With Mrs. Kerby it was the first year I did an advanced math class. There was a lot of opportunity to really grab onto the hard things. It was the first chance to really push myself. Park School is probably my favorite two years of school. In Middle School you get so many teachers! Mr. Horton was my homeroom teacher and we spent so much time talking about current events, that was really interesting. It makes kids aware of what's going on around them. Mr. Hurley Science class was great. With Mrs. Toennis it was the last year we were really asked to read, but she never really had to ask us. There were just so many great teachers in Middle School. In Mrs. West’s class we learned about health and being physically fit. It’s probably about then that medicine really was an interest in my life. Mrs. Bergquist, she was so kind. I feel like Middle School can be rough and she was just so kind and supportive. In eighth grade I had Mrs. Hall, man she was one of the best teachers I have had. I still talk to her. She took me under her wing. Pushed me to be better and asked me to do a lot. It was a time of a lot of independent growth. When I got into High School there was just so many teachers that were amazing. Mrs. Bruce is the best math teacher, I never had my dad as a math teacher so I don’t really know about him. This is hard. Every teacher at the High School is so invested in every student’s success. I have spent a lot of time with Mrs. Overguard and Mr. Maxfield. I feel like they really have paid into my education and wanted to see me be successful. I really want to give a shout out to them, because they have done way more than would be expected of a teacher. No teacher here is bad. They all are so prepared and invested in what they’re teaching, whether it's Mr. Hiner in Earth Science or Mrs. Rux talking about the Civil War. You can really see passion in them. They really love getting to teach us, they really care about us. I have enjoyed every day of high school.” After sharing about the influence of his teachers, Mikel stated, “I think every teacher has taught me something important about myself.”
Mikel graduates with his fellow class members this Sunday, May 20th and then will attend Harvard University in the fall. He is the son of Holly and Dave Davies. Learning about Mikel’s road to Harvard it is very clear that he takes life’s opportunities and jumps in with all the drive and passion he can. We wish him good luck on his journey to Harvard and beyond.