Clarissa Tan

“call me ASAP.” Kate’s text comes in on July 7, 2022, 7:54 p.m.

When we start the FaceTime call, Kate greets me with a wide, playful grin on her face. She’s framed with her face up close to the camera. As always, I instantly pick up on Kate’s magnetic excitement. “What’s up?” I ask, smiling too. “Exciting news?”

Kate giggles. She slowly backs up in the FaceTime frame, revealing a crimson shirt, and eventually, Harvard written across her chest. “I’M GOING TO HARVARD!”

I let out a squeal — an honest first for myself. We scream and we laugh and we cry. After she hangs up to head to work, I send her an additional 17 texts, bursting with giddy pride. Admittedly, I even exclaim Harvard’s merits — which I’ll never repeat again, of course. But at that moment, there was no rivalry, only my friend’s accomplishment. Kate’s perseverance and resilience at last and so deservingly rewarded.

When Kate and I first met, I would never have expected to be one of her first calls with such life-changing news. And one of her only calls — in the most spectacularly Kate fashion, she revealed her Harvard news to most with a gender-reveal-esk announcement at her graduation party. Confetti cannons were popped, a flag was rolled down and the Harvard alma mater played over the loudspeaker. It was absolutely over-the-top and nothing short of sensational.

Kate and I first met in junior year of high school. Her parents’ work forced her from the romantic beauty of Lyon, France to Madison, Wisconsin. That Kate lived in France is one of the first things you will know about her. That she is not from Wisconsin is an important second. Kate came to my small class of 40, a class used to its normative characters and dynamics — loud, opinionated and boldly individual. Her hair was dyed jet-black, her outfits carefully coordinated, all of them distinct, monochromatic pairings. She shamelessly acknowledged that she had a polarizing personality. She declared her judgments with firm conviction, never shying away from an argument. Kate was fully and beautifully herself.

I, on the other hand, was more compromising: always working to bring my class together, to be friendly and agreeable to everyone around me. While Kate found joy in asserting her individualism, I found satisfaction in being a connector. Kate’s boldness — her commitment to being herself, for herself — took me off-guard. At first, it was discomforting; With time, it was captivating. Kate’s vitality and spunk were magnetic. 

By senior spring, Kate and I had become incredibly close. Our personalities came to compliment each other: Kate empowered me to be bolder, while I softened Kate’s edges. And so, the fateful night of March 31, 2022 — Ivy Day — we were both rooting for each other, too. Kate knew Yale was my long-held dream; I knew Kate’s top choices were Harvard and Barnard — and as Barnard had waitlisted her, tensions were particularly high that night.

After decisions came out, Kate was first to text: “how did you do? I was waitlisted at Columbia and Harvard.” I waited a few minutes to respond, wanting to be honest about my excitement, but respectful to my friend. When I shared my news, her eagerness was clear: all caps and seven exclamation marks. I saw her later that night, and she brought me into a huge hug, exclaiming her excitement and pride. 

Despite Kate’s daring individualism, despite her contentment in living for herself, she knows when to just be there too. She cheers on and uplifts those she holds close. 

To her own news, Kate wasn’t distraught, but determined. She persisted and was accepted to Harvard, becoming the first person from our high school to ever get in. 

Kate’s triumph was fabulous. Of course, after my initial giddiness at her acceptance, jokes of the Harvard-Yale rivalry ensued. My comments on her Instagram announcement echoed both my pride and “Huck Farvard” sentiments. When we traveled together later that summer — a last hurrah girls trip — Kate noted how fun it was when people would be impressed at the name Yale, but then doubly impressed when Harvard was dropped; I rolled my eyes. Meeting up in New York City this fall, we both wore our school’s respective merchandise to tease each other.

But really, rivalry aside, I know that Harvard is lucky. Lucky to have one of the most exceptional people I know in its student body. Lucky that someday, Harvard can tout Kate’s impact on the world on its alumni list.

And I have to admit, I’m even grateful to Harvard. Thanks to Harvard, one of my best friends is only two hours away.