An Exeter College student is set to jet across the Atlantic to study with Harvard University after being offered a place with the world-renowned Ivy League university. 

Charlie McNamara, 18, is currently in the second year of her International Baccalaureate with Exeter College and, after a lengthy application process, has been one of around just 5% of applicants to be accepted to study with Harvard. 

I was so happy when I found out that I just burst in to tears,” said Charlie, who will be studying for a Liberal Arts degree. 

“I logged in to the system to find out and I just read ‘congratulations’ on the screen and burst in to tears as all my work had paid off. It was a huge challenge to even make the application and I didn’t make any assumptions about getting in but I knew I wanted to try and I’m so glad I did.” 

Charlie, who has lived in Devon all her life, has been successful in applying for financial aid with the University, which will see the world-renowned institution pay over 90% of her expenses around tuition, accommodation, travel and subsistence. Harvard tends to only accept around 2,000 applicants in a year, making Charlie’s achievements even more remarkable. 

It has been a long road to Harvard for the 18-year-old, with the application process taking around a year to complete and significant exams, interviews and forms to fill out along the way. 

“Harvard was always the dream – my absolute first choice,” said Charlie.

“I started working on how I could do all this over a year ago. I had to take the American SAT exams and their application process was a lot more personal than here in the UK. They asked for a lot of information on my background, my hobbies and my interests, as well as my education history.”

With successful SAT results behind her, Charlie then had to make her case to Harvard in a process that is notoriously difficult to get through. With support from the Exeter College Reach Academy, staff members and her family, Charlie had everyone backing her to make a success of the application.

Charlie continued: “Everyone was wonderful in helping me get in and I’m just so grateful to have this opportunity.

“I’m incredibly proud of myself and I can’t thank people enough for helping me.”

It could have been a very different education journey for Charlie. She originally applied to study A Levels with Exeter College but was convinced at her enrolment appointment to consider moving to the International Baccalaureate as a way to continue studying the subjects she enjoyed most and gain an internationally-recognised qualification. 

Charlie heeded the advice of her lecturer and never looked back, studying six subjects within the IB as well as a core unit. Her studies saw her take on English, Maths, French, Global Politics, Psychology and Environmental Science as well as spend time on creative, active and community-focussed projects. 

The former West Exe student said“When I arrived at enrolment the lecturer asked me to think about the International Baccalaureate as an option because of what I was saying I was interested in. I decided to try the IB for a few weeks but once I started I didn’t even think of doing anything else!

Speaking about her time with Exeter College, Charlie said, “The teaching here is really good. I enjoy the style we’re taught on the IB. It’s very interactive and they allow for personalisation within the classroom.

“The teachers seem to enjoy teaching and that makes it more fun for us. It’s a very challenging course, with a lot of work, but everyone is so supportive.” 

Charlie will find out her results on the IB this summer and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the College’s last year of IB results, when 100% of students passed and over half of students achieved the grades requested to study at the University of Oxford.

Charlie’s Exeter College Tutor Clara Rodriguez said, “We’re incredibly proud of Charlie and what she has achieved. To get an offer at one of the best, if not THE best, universities in the world is huge accomplishment and we’ve all been smiling since we found out the good news.

“Charlie has been an exemplary student and we can’t wait to see what she achieves going forward.”

Charlie’s four year study programme at Harvard will start in September 2021 after she takes a year out to spend some well-earned time with her family. She will get the chance to specialise her Liberal Arts degree at Harvard during the course, and one day hopes to move in to humanitarian aid or international relations as a career.