The Harvard Three

It's not every day that three students from a small Catholic school in Brownsville get into Harvard at the same time. It's even more amazing when they all decide to go to that school, start the same Fall and excel tremendously. But that’s exactly what Carolina Vela ’21, Sebastian Herrera ‘21, and Sean Teo Ong ’21 have done!

It was the happiest of coincidences when it all happened. Sebastian got in on early decision, then Sean and Carolina followed. They are now embarking on their third year with the prestigious Ivy League. “I didn’t want to apply but my parents encouraged me. As an institution, it just seemed so far-fetched and I didn’t want to expend the energy. But when I got in I was super happy. It was this weird twist of fate,” Sean said. To say Sebastian was surprised is an understatement. He fully intended to go to Harvard once fully accepted. He was Valedictorian that year after all. Sean was Salutatorian. Sebastian's classmate and friend Jose Marin got into Yale. So he said, “I got to get this. When I opened the acceptance email, digital confetti popped out and I was like “Let's go!”

The Harvard Three pictured with Mr. Abrego's Science Class

Just like SJA, Harvard is a close-knit community. Sean and Carolina live across the hall from each other on campus, while Sebastian said he sees the others regularly on campus and also lives in the neighborhood. Sebastian, who is a Human Development and Regenerative Biology Major, and Vela, a neuroscience major have had some classes together. All three are never far away from each other. “I felt extremely lucky, If I had gone up there alone I don’t know what would have happened. It's just like the universe saying, you get to go here and you're not going to be alone. That was extremely fortunate,” Vela said.

When they got to Harvard, they did meet a couple of other kids from The Valley and were instantly drawn to making a connection with them. “It’s a really niche area, The Valley, and when you hear about them, you immediately want to meet up with them,” Sean said.

Now that all three are going into their Junior year. The time has come to focus more on their major course material. This past Summer, they each focused more on their studies by doing internships with various organizations.

Sebastian spent his Summer doing lab work in preparation for the MCAT, an exam that students take as a requirement for Medical School. Carolina and Sean were both in Washington, DC. Carolina was at the DNC over the Summer. Even though she is currently pursuing a medical degree, she still holds an interest in her former major, government. “I thought I was going to do pre-law and then I got there and changed completely. But part of me wanted some of that policy experience and exposure,” she said. Sean, an Economics major was doing HR Consulting and says he is leaning more towards a more corporate or finance future.

However different their paths or interests, the one thing that is consistent is that they were academically prepared for Harvard and Saint Joseph Academy helped them do that. They note that the support of their teachers, the Counseling Department, Ms. Martin, and Ms. Irwin in particular were especially helpful when it came to the admissions process. “If you’re thinking about applying to Harvard or any school, start now, work on those applications, resumes, and essays. It's going to be hard to find the time later on as you get farther into the year,” Sebastian said.

“The essays are so important because that’s the only way for a school to really know who you are, like as an individual,” Sean said.

“Do your research, talk to people and alumni, visit the campus if you can, learn as much as you can, so you know more about the dynamics of student life.”