Rico is Heading to Harvard!

Posted January 28, 2021

Senior Rico Givens-Padilla recently learned that he’d been accepted by his first choice school, Harvard University!

Click here for a Fox31 News story about Rico’s accomplishment.

Of the more than 57,000 applicants to the Harvard Class of 2025, 10,086 students applied early action and just 747, including Rico, were accepted. Those numbers mark a record-high number of early applicants and a record-low acceptance rate — 7.4 percent — for the early admissions cycle. Harvard deferred roughly 80 percent of early applicants to the regular admissions round.


Please read on for a Q&A with Rico. Our thanks to Rico for taking the time to respond to our questions and CONGRATULATIONS!

Who is your favorite teacher or staff person at North and why?

I’ve had many great teachers at North, but if I had to chose it would be Ms. Cariño. She is always playing music, making jokes, and most importantly trying to create a more inclusive and diverse classroom. This can be difficult to do when teaching about the U.S government but she makes sure that all perspectives are heard.

What has been your favorite class at North?

My favorite class has been French. I’ve gone from French 1 to AP French with the same group of friends and Ms. DeWitt as our teacher. It has been a great experience learning with each other and about all of the French-speaking cultures of the world.

Why is Harvard your first choice for college?

Over the summer I took an Introduction to Criminal Law class through Harvard. I was in a class of mostly BIPOC. For the first time in my academic career, I had a black instructor. Although I had 4-6 hours of homework per night and 3-hour long classes, I loved the experience. I was surrounded by hardworking and brilliant students, empowered by the school’s resources, and challenged by an instructor who looked like me. Of course, Harvard’s reputation was a factor—after all, it is one of the world’s leading institutions— but I was drawn by the people that I met and how the University can help me make change for communities of color. 

Also, it looks like Hogwarts and they have nice waffles.

What are some tips for high school students wanting to attend a highly selective college or university?

I think we assume that you need to be a perfect student to attend a highly selective institution. I am not. I have failed many tests; AP Chemistry and Calculus have been humbling experiences. However, it is important to accept that you don’t have to be great at everything. If you find “your thing” and work towards it then you are as great an applicant as anyone else. My “thing” happened to be social studies and politics, so I got involved with student council, political campaigns, and all of the most rigorous courses in that area. It was evident that I had a passion. Trying to be excellent in every class, extracurricular, and moment of the day is draining, if not impossible. However, working towards something you are passionate about is energizing, and colleges will see your work as a reflection of your genuineness.

Why do you think you’re so successful academically? 

Growing up with my mom and sister as role models has shown me what true hard work looks like. I remember my mom leaving for work before I was even awake and coming home in time to make dinner. My sister worked two jobs at times to help support the family. And, as a kid, I never seemed to notice our struggles. Their sacrifices ensured that I was untouched by the obstacles we faced. I realized early on that I did not have a reason to slack. Everyone in my household was pushing for something better and that is what I needed to do. School seemed to come naturally to me, so that is where I put my focus. I honed the skills I knew I could master and when I faced something difficult I worked through it or asked for help. My mom and sister were always there for times like that. It is important to acknowledge that my support system has been a major factor in my achievements.

What major are you thinking about studying? 

I’ve declared a Government concentration with an emphasis in political science and a double minor in African American and Latino Studies.

What career path are you interested in pursuing? 

I want to be a lawyer in the criminal justice system.

What are you most nervous about regarding going off to college?

One of the things I’m most nervous about is burnout. I have seemed to go through high school relatively unscathed. I have performed at the top of my class and grades have never been a problem. But I know that I will be going to a school with some of the brightest minds in the world and that is terrifying. Many of my professors will be leading experts in their respective fields. It will definitely be a change of pace but I am looking forward to it. On a brighter note, I’m very worried about food (because I’ll miss my mom’s cooking), shared bathrooms, and East Coasters (they do not seem to be very… patient).

What are you most excited about?

I will be the first in my family to leave the state, so that’s exciting. Harvard also has really cool traditions. For example, after your Freshman year, you are sorted into a house (like Harry Potter) where you will live for the rest of college. The Houses compete in tournaments and have their own mascots, dining halls, and secret traditions.

I’m also excited to make friends from around the world and to live in a major city.