To say Hill Harper values education would be an understatement. The veteran actor, author and Ivy League graduate views academic learning as a top priority, and a necessary tool for success.
Harper digs intelligence via academia so much to the point that he took a break from filming his new series, “Limitless,” in hopes of educating youth (and parents), about the importance of education.
“For me, it all started with my education,” Hill recalls when asked what sparked his successful career. “I went to a pretty average public high school in California and was blessed with people who encouraged me to seek higher education.”
As an ambassador for the National Honor Society’s “Honor Your Future Now” campaign, Hill was eager to speak with JET about the importance of educating yourself, what parents and students can do to be successful and how to take control of your future.
JET: How did you get into acting and writing books?
Hill Harper: I got accepted into Brown University [and] once I was immersed in that kind of environment and focused on education, I got involved in theater and the arts. I joined a repertory company in Boston, but I [also] wanted to go to grad school. I applied for the Sloan Fellowship to help pay for grad school. So it all started for me in high school and that’s actually when I became a member of the National Honor Society (NHS).
JET: Let’s talk about your involvement in NHS. This year, you are acting as the voice of the “Honor Your Future Now” campaign, one that puts the spotlight on education.
Hill Harper: Yes. It’s really a call for students to honor their futures now. Your future starts right now. What you want to achieve in life starts right now. You can honor it by making great choices. By being successful. By really living the key pillars of the National Honor Society, which are scholarship, character, leadership, service and citizenship. That’s really critical because by excelling in all of those areas in your life, you will be able to build a foundation that’s thick enough and big enough to support a great life.
JET: That makes sense. I know you also do a lot of work through your Manifest Your Destiny Foundation as well.
Hill Harper: Yes and what I like about what the NHS is doing is that they’re offering resources and advice for young people. On their website, [you can find information on] scholarships, college admissions and financial aid planning, a customized scholarship search tool for students [as well as] different types of student development and leadership resources. All of that stuff is valuable to young people. College might not be for everybody, and that’s okay, but you need a higher level of training in some area besides high school. It could be some kind of vocational skill. You could be a plumber, you can decide to be a college professor, lawyer or doctor. All of these qualify as higher education, which I define as education beyond high school.
JET: Research reveals a disconnect between what students believe is needed to get into college and what college admissions offices are really looking for from students. What is it that college students should be focusing on?
Hill Harper: A lot of students are misinformed because the number one place they go for information on college admission is not a professional, but their parents. A lot of parents are misinformed. Folks think that if [they] don’t have great grades or great standardized test scores, then they can’t get into college. It’s just not true. Admissions offices are looking for well-rounded students. They want someone who has exhibited high character. Someone who has shown that they serve their community. They want a college campus of diverse, good people and they wanna build a community for that. Obviously, they want young people to do as well as they can, but if you have shown leadership skills or served in different organizations or extracurricular activities, all of those things are looked at by colleges.
Another thing is misinformation around money. A lot of people hear these horror stories from their parents that they can’t afford it and never look into what’s available for them. A lot of people can do what I did and look into student loans, grants, scholarships and get an education by paying for it in multiple ways. Folks say, “I can’t afford to go to college.” You can’t afford not to go to college and there’s a way to figure out how to pay for it no matter who you are or where you’re from.
JET: Any advice to help students get into the college of their choice and prepare for future success?
Hill Harper: I am a big proponent of preparing for standardized tests. I believe that standardized tests don’t necessarily test your intelligence, they just test your ability to take the tests. And a lot of students just go into a standardized test thinking, “This is gonna test how smart I am.” It’s not going to test how smart you are. You have to actually learn the test. There are different classes on standardized test preparation. Books, online things you can do to actually learn how to prepare to take the test. I recommend that you excel in your studies and one way I suggest that is study groups. Once I started using study groups, I saw my grades go up a great deal. The way you study is just as important as what you study and how you study.
Extracurricular wise, I’d say get involved in things you’re passionate about. Don’t sit back and not get involved. It’s important to show that you’re not a one-dimensional person. Show that you’re interested in things outside of yourself, particularly the areas of service and extra curricular groups.
For more information on the “Honor Your Future Now” campaign and for useful tools related to college readiness, visit www.honoryourfuturenow.org. Be sure to catch Hill Harper on CBS’ “Limitless” every Tuesday at 10p ET/9p CT.