Woman admitted to Harvard with essay about former principal's plagiarism scandal

By Binh Minh   April 17, 2024 | 09:01 pm PT
Woman admitted to Harvard with essay about former principal's plagiarism scandal
Nguyen Lan Anh during a hiking in Nepal in 2023. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Lan Anh
A Vietnamese woman has been admitted to a master's program at Harvard University after saying she could contribute her skills to solve media crises, such as the recent plagiarism scandal of the former principal.

Nguyen Lan Anh, 27, graduated with a degree in Communications from New York University in the U.S. in 2019 and currently works at the Development and Strategy Office of Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) in Ho Chi Minh City.

After four years of working at the school, she realized her passion for education and decided to pursue a master's degree, aiming to get into a top U.S. school.

In March, she won scholarships to study at the master's program of three schools: University of Chicago, Pennsylvania and Havard University.

She decided to choose the Education Leadership, Organizations and Entrepreneurship Program at Harvard.

According to the QS World University Rankings 2024, Harvard stands 4th in the world, with tuition fees of over US$54,000 per year.

In October 2023, Lan Anh started preparing her application.

She said that among the four schools she applied to, Harvard had the most complex requirements, including two essays. In her 1,500-word essay, she talked about her educational purposes and how the major would benefit her and her future career.

She was born into a family that values education, with a grandmother being a professor at one of the biggest universities in Vietnam that later became the Vietnam National University, so she has been interested in education since childhood.

Working at the FUV, she has witnessed many students in disadvantaged conditions but thanks to financial support, had the opportunity to study, get good jobs after graduation, and change their lives.

At the university, the office where she works is responsible for fundraising from companies and individuals to sponsor students who are admitted to the school but are in difficult circumstances and need financial support.

Lan Anh noted that in Western countries, there's a strong culture of donating to education, particularly to universities, but this practice is still not widely embraced in Vietnam.

She also wants to look at the bigger picture of the country's economy. Vietnam is moving towards a service economy, and education is the key to improving the quality of human resources to achieve this.

"I want to study educational management to bring high-quality educational opportunities to students, contributing to improving the education and economic situation," she said.

The 250-word essay for Harvard asked what benefit she could bring to the Harvard community.

Lan Anh said that a school is not only concerned with academics but also with other aspects that need to be managed, such as branding and image.

She cited the example of Harvard University facing a plagiarism scandal of former president Claudine Gay in January, which led to her resignation.

She is willing to contribute her knowledge and skills in communication, preparing solutions for similar future incidents.

Anh said Harvard did not choose the best candidate based on academic scores and achievements but looks for the most suitable candidate with its motto of "Learn to change the world."

She was able to reflect that when she talks about the picture of Vietnam's economy and the role of education. She also hopes to contribute her strengths in communication, right on the issue the school is concerned about.

To complete the application, Lan Anh had to work in the evenings.

The application needed consistency not only in work but also in hobbies and extracurricular activities.

She participated in a charity fund to build bridges for provinces in the Mekong Delta since studying in the U.S., with the desire to contribute to society. Before that, she also fundraised for heart surgery for pediatric patients in HCMC.

Dam Bich Thuy, the former founding president of Fulbright University, wrote the recommendation letter for Lan Anh.

"Lan Anh has interesting qualities. She has the persistence and determination of Gen X [born between 1965 and 1980], the openness of Gen Y [1980s to mid-1990s], and the passion for activities that have a social impact of Gen Z [late 1990s-early 2010s]," she said.

Thuy said that Lan Anh handed her teammates the glory of victory several times but steadfastly defended the right thing when many around her wanted to compromise.

"This is one of the essential qualities of a leader," she said.

Looking back on her journey, Lan Anh believes that when working, one should not think only about work but should have activities that help change yourself and society.

Candidates need to understand what they want to develop in the best direction and consider this before taking any time off to study.

She said she was lucky to have the support of her family, friends, and colleagues, which has helped create more motivation to apply for the master’s program.

At the moment, Lan Anh is climbing Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and when she returns, she will prepare for a 1.5-year study abroad trip in the U.S. in July.

"I will return to Vietnam after graduating and continue working in education," she said.

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