How did this Erasmus University student get into Harvard?

Jason Stokker, 22, third-year medical student, going on exchange in 2017 to Harvard University
Jason Stokker, 22, third-year medical student, going on exchange in 2017 to Harvard University

Graduates with international experience have better career prospects than those without. Erasmus University students share their secrets about how they got into some of the best schools abroad. Today: Jason Stokker, 22, third-year medical student, going on exchange in 2017 to Harvard University, USA.

‘When I graduated from high school, I was offered a scholarship to the USA because I played American football at a high level. But it came too early for me: I was really determined to study medicine.

'I started out as a student in biomedical sciences at the University of Amsterdam, and was grateful when I was offered a place at Erasmus University. The universities have very different approaches. In Rotterdam students are offered a lot of opportunities to develop themselves, there are extra-curricular projects like the VCMS funding, the association of surgery for medical students. Last but not least, the Rotterdam mentality differs from the one in Amsterdam. Here it’s “Work your ass off”, but that’s exactly what makes me tick.’

Like Baking an Apple Pie
‘I wanted to enhance my experience by going abroad, and when my brother brought back a Harvard University sweater for me from his holidays, everything fell into place. I couldn’t wear that sweater if I’d never studied there, so I knew that Harvard would be the university to go for.

'I compare arranging your exchange to baking an apple pie: you need a recipe in order to do it successfully. It’s a process, and if you follow the steps it all becomes clear and you’ll find what you’re looking for. But it all starts with the simple decision: yes, I want to go abroad to study for a while.’

A Valuable Experience
‘I knew I wanted to go to Harvard from day one, but getting accepted was another thing. For inspiration I listened to experiences from fellow students, and that made it more feasible. Also I was aware that a surgeon I know, who works in my field of interest, teaches at Harvard and happens to be a strong advocate for students going abroad. He guided me through the process and was a strong supporter to get me into Harvard.

'Studying abroad, especially at an Ivy League university, doesn’t come cheap. I took several jobs, saved money, and also applied for scholarships. If you want to apply for a scholarship, make sure you get the dates right because, at the end of the day, it’s all about deadlines. Show a pro-active attitude and take care of the practicalities in time, like applying for a visa. Imagine what you’ll learn, not only once you’re there, but during the process of getting accepted.’

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