It's a university that's taught the likes of Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Natalie Portman.

Now Hastings' very own Chantel Slade will also walk Harvard's halls.

She had nothing to lose but everything to gain when she applied for a psychology scholarship to the famous US college while studying at Victoria University in Wellington.

The 21-year-old's fascination for the subject started by watching television shows such as Criminal Minds as well as teaching young children dance while she was a Karamu High School student.

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"When I taught them, there were a few kids who were a little bit different in terms of their behaviour and I was really interested in that."

Her school counsellor suggested that Slade look into education psychology courses at Victoria University.

"The course focused on childrens' learning difficulties and behaviours - so I thought I'd give it a go as it sounded really interesting and combined both of the things I was interested in studying."

Slade learned of the scholarship while working at the Wellington Club, as it was holding a special dinner for scholarship recipients.

"I remember thinking 'wow', it's just amazing, these people are just doing such great things and one of my managers told me to go on my university's website and see if they've got any scholarships going for a masters degree."

She saw one offered by Harvard University, but thought it would be too far out of her reach - yet with encouragement from friends, family and tutors, she applied.

"It's called the Frank Knox Scholarship and I had to complete the application and write a small essay on why I thought I should qualify.

"This particular programme got my attention because I was interested in how the American educational institutions work in terms of incorporating ethnic minorities and the teaching approaches that they take.

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"New Zealand is such a diverse country and I'm part Samoan so my culture definitely came into it in terms of wanting to learn more from other places to see how New Zealand is doing in comparison."

After completing an intense four-hour exam in Auckland, Slade's application was a success.

The scholarship pays for Slade's tuition, health insurance, accommodation and living costs and she'll be travelling to America in August to start her course in September.

The course will last 10 months and if successful, Slade will come out with a Masters in Human Development and Psychology.

"I just wanted to thank everyone for supporting me," she said.

"I had a lot of self doubt, but everyone has just been so supportive and that means a lot to me."