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Best thing about Harvard: the people, definitely, and the amount of resources that you learn to take for granted. It's phenom...
Best thing about Harvard: the people, definitely, and the amount of resources that you learn to take for granted. It's phenomenal. One thing I'd change: the weather. The constant gray and freezing temperatures of Cambridge in February are absolutely unbearable. Size: I think Harvard is ideal for me. It might be too big or too small for other people. Reaction: People tend to be like "oh my God" or "you must be really smart" or whatever else...but I just mention it, not brag about it, and they see me as fairly normal so it stops being awkward after a few minutes (with some exceptions, of course). Where do I spend most of my time on campus? My dining hall. I study in there because there's free caffeine and friends to talk to. Other than that, probably walking back and forth through the Yard on the way to classes...most of which are in William James Hall (otherwise known as Siberia because it's so far away from everything). College town: Cambridge is a pretty urban area, and Harvard Square has a ton of stuff to do/eat/shop for/etc. However, Harvard is right on the Charles River, so there's nice jogging trails and you can walk around the Business School campus across the river, as well as some beautiful residential neighborhoods to explore. Harvard's administration: I mainly pay attention to the administration at the House level and the academic level (such as new programs being implemented etc.). As for the larger Harvard Corporation's actions in the world, I try to keep up-to-date on them but am not really involved in Undergraduate Council or other groups that remotely act on those things. Biggest recent controversy on campus: Uh...the women's only gym hours? I'm not actually sure... Is there a lot of school pride? I think that Harvard students tend to be wrapped up in their own lives and the lives of their close friends, but we do tend to band together over things like Harvard-Yale (and only Harvard-Yale...other schools don't count. Seriously.) Is there anything unusual about Harvard? Aside from the huge amount of resources, the amount of tourists is unnerving at first. Also, the fact that they touch the John Harvard Statue's foot...which people pee on (and which I would not admit except in the hopes of stopping people from touching the thing...) One experience I'll always remember: I don't know. There are far too many. One experience, I guess, was staying up all night freshman year talking with my blockmates and then running around in the snow at 6 in the morning when the sun was barely rising and everything was blue and pink and white... Most frequent student complaints: Too much stress (not only from the work, but from extracurriculars etc.), not that great of food (I think it's fine...and it's FREE...)...and I think that's about all. Oh, and the weather sucks for about 4 months each year.
I think that Harvard is an incredibly diverse and respectful place; I have several very close friends who are LGBT (most of my core group, actually) and am in the lowest end of the socioeconomic spectrum, though my friends fall from the low end to the high end. I feel that after freshman year, diversity becomes a familiar backdrop for students' lives and something that they learn to appreciate and will miss after graduation. I think that someone who is not open-minded about diversity would have a problem with being at Harvard. Anyone else (even poor students, of which I am one) would probably be fine. Also, someone who is not willing to "go it alone" (you have friends to support you, but ultimately you are responsible for your own education in the fullest sense of the word) would be better off going elsewhere. Clothing: Students tend to dress slightly better here than, say, on the West Coast, but that's a function of Boston/city living and not of Harvard's supposed pretentiousness. Interaction: different types of students definitely interact daily, although your core group(s) of friends may be more similar to you. Four tables of students in the dining hall: (1) Blocking group and pseudo-blockmates (those who have been "adopted" into the core group of best friends/roommates). Loud and laughing about some ridiculous joke that may or may not be an "only at Harvard" (i.e. overly intellectual and still funny) one. One is probably sitting with his or her laptop intently working while firing back comments on the conversation; another is probably drinking her 5th cup of tea/other caffeine for the day. A third will have a huge stack of books and a fourth will be relaxing without homework for the afternoon. (2) Random student organization meeting, probably with Nochs Pizza. (3) A group of several students, none actually with the others, independently studying while a pair at the end has a conversation. (4)??? The dining hall's pretty varied... Where are most Harvard students from? I have no idea. Mostly the US, and mostly larger cities, I think, but there is a large international population. Financial backgrounds: Middle class and up, with a few from the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum. Politically aware/active? Extremely (not all, but most). Left/right/center? I'd say pretty evenly split, but not really sure. Future earnings: No, not really. People are more concerned with grades and activities now and what their first job will be. I don't think they openly discuss earnings, but of course they hope for high-paying jobs so they can live wherever they want.
Pretentious: some. There are definitely students who are full of themselves, and some elitist groups (finals clubs, for example), but most students aren't like that. Study all the time: No. We just tend to overburden ourselves, which leads to us studying when we don't have anything else to do. Rich: Somewhat. The socioeconomic range is pretty big. Very difficult: Depends on the classes you take, and how many. Generally we overburden ourselves with other things (extracurriculars) and that's what makes things hard...classes can vary from easy to extremely difficult. Fantastic living space: Ha. Beautiful outsides of the buildings. Not so great rooms, depending on which House you end up in. Immensely talented and brilliant: Actually, this one is true (I speak for the general population--there are a few exceptions, haha). I've learned more from Harvard students than from most other things on this campus.
Professors: Yes ,they can learn your name--they're approachable if a bit intimidating at first...TFs (teaching fellows, almost always grad students) can be great and really helpful people who make a difference in your academic experience here. Favorite class: History 10b (Western History from 1628 to the Present), taught by Niall Ferguson, made me look at history and life in general from a different perspective (literally), asking us to consider things like whether the Allies won in WWII or the Axis Powers lost (yes, there is a difference). Least favorite class: Life Sciences 1b (Genetics), which should NEVER be taken as a Core, especially not when the premeds think it's difficult. Argh. How often do students study? It varies, but most study a couple of hours a day at least. Intellectual discussions do happen outside of class, depending on the group you're with...again, the people are the best part about this place. Competition: it depends on the situation. Everyone (almost) at this school is competitive; it's how we got here. However, there's not really a need to compete unless the class's grading system really calls for it...people tend to help each other more than hurt each other. It's nice to do group projects where everyone will actually do their part. Most unique class I've taken: Probably Anthro 1685. An Anthropologist Looks at Science Fiction. It was fantastic. Major/department: Social Anthropology is a very close and friendly department. I was a Social Studies major before, which is considered the big "intellectual" concentration (major) at Harvard, and the department was impersonal and overly intellectualized for my taste. The Anthro department has been incredibly helpful and I have loved my experience this year so far. Yes, I spend time with some of my professors outside of class. I think that the older you get, the more you communicate with professors (because the less intimidated you become by them--they're just people too, and you do NOT need to have something brilliant to say to talk with them). Harvard's academic requirements are perfectly satisfactory to me. Its advising system is (thank God) improving markedly--that's one problem with this place, because you really are expected to "sink or swim". I think that the education at Harvard helps you to get a job, but that's what things like student organizations and the OCS (Office of Career Services); the Houses do a good job of providing panel discussions etc. as well. The education at Harvard is fantastic and all that I could have hoped for--you do not learn solely "information", but how to approach information and work with it, and that's the most valuable thing that an education can offer.
Popular groups/organizations/clubs/teams: I think it's really to each their own. People tend to get involved in their own Houses (House Committees), and athletics (especially crew) are pretty popular. Other than that, people tend to join things that will make their resumes look good, as well as things they enjoy. Group I'm involved with: The Harvard University Choir is the only salaried music group (that I know of) on campus; we sing every Sunday in The Memorial Church and do other special performances as well throughout the year. Athletic events: I don't really know. Harvard-Yale is the only thing lots of students care about. Guest speakers: pretty popular. Often the IOP (institute of politics at the Kennedy School of Government) Forum has to lottery tickets to speaker events, which can include world leaders (I saw Queen Rania of Jordan). Theater: for those who are interested, there is a great theater scene here, both for audience and performers. Dating scene: hook-ups or "almost married", in the words of my friend. Not too good, unfortunately. How did I meet my closest friends? In the freshman dining hall. Like I meet everyone (in the dining halls, that is). On 2 am on a Tuesday, if I were awake (unlikely) I would probably be either writing a paper due the next day, on YouTube because I'm not really tired, or talking to friends. Traditions/events each year: depends on the House. University-wide events include Commencement (of course), Harvard-Yale, Freshman Parents Weekend, Junior Parents Weekend, and more. Partying: People party every weekend and during the week as well, depending on how much work they have. Houses host Stein Clubs (beer and pizza parties) weekly. Fraternities/sororities: I think we have one or two of each; they don't have their own residences and primarily are service organizations, from what I understand. The "frats" are called finals clubs and are elite male clubs that tend to be severely sexist and disrespectful towards women. What did I do last weekend? Went to a conference for my job/organization and did lots of homework. I'm going to a performance and a huge afterparty this weekend. Saturday night/no drinking: party without drinking (haha), go into Boston, rent a movie, hang out with friends, go to BerryLine or Herrell's or another ice cream/tea/etc. shop, etc. What do I do off campus? Usually I go into Boston or go walking with friends.
*Pretentious *Study all the time *Rich *Very difficult *Fantastic living space (apparently in Korea "Harvard" is like a big palace) *Immensely talented and brilliant
I'd like a more personal feel. I feel almost forgotten as an undergrad. Everyone who doesn't go to Harvard thinks this school...
I'd like a more personal feel. I feel almost forgotten as an undergrad. Everyone who doesn't go to Harvard thinks this school is really hard or that I'm really smart for being here, but it feels overrated (except fot he housing). School pride only shows up, for me, at Harvard Yale games, but I'm sure it's there at sports games.
The campus is incredibly diverse. That was the first thing that struck me about Harvard when I arrived. There is no typical Harvard student; the body is like one giant high school with a more complete spectrum of people, all a considerable notch higher in terms of education than the average person. Most students are liberal, most have been active in community service at some point, a lot play sports, many will try totally new things. Oddly enough, Harvard students DO NOT look nerdy on the whole. There's a small subsection, of course, but for the most part, they're confident and good-looking young men and women.
I'm taking strict "education" with a grain of salt now. Something about coming here made me take school much less seriously, while becoming more active in things like dance, choreography, work (cleaning bathrooms and dorms). I'm much more hands-on now, relative to school work, and I want to see results, not just more grades in classes that are barely even relevant to the real world. I don't feel like I'm paying for an education, but for a degree, and some time to sit on my ass and learn social skills (the most useful part of college) for another two years.
About one in five stereotypes are probably true.
Classes are getting dumbed down. It's easy to make a B, but in subjective classes, it's really hard to get an A. My favorite class was a literature class by Stephen Greenblatt that followed 3 imaginary ships in the 17th century as a premise for reading literature and articles from a variety of different places, many of which were primary documents. I've been completely turned off of math, due to the poor quality of the professor, the inconsistent quality of the TFs and the uncertainty of the level of difficulty. They weren't engaging, and I didn't feel compelled to enter the math department. I feel that professors are difficult to approach (they are, after all, /Harvard/ professors). Intellectual conversations outside of class take place from time to time. The general level of conversation is higher intellectually. Some groups, like math and physics groups or HRSFA, are much more likely to hold technical or nerdy conversations. It's difficult to perceive a real striving for better education in general.
We don't know how to have fun. We're all uberbusy. We'll all get high paying jobs. We're all really rich.
There's lots of dancing and music. The IOP is the big political center and PBHA is the hub for community service. Smaller groups are largely discovered by word of mouth. A number of people play IM or varsity sports, but it's a small group. The athletes stand out as almost separate from the rest of the student body, while the IM sports players are scattered, with most people only playing a few games, or a season, or intermittently. Theater is fantastic and common, guest speakers are always coming and going for variousl groups, there are few fraternities/sororities, such that they're activity is peripheral to the social scene here. Off campus, I generally will be going to a restaurant or out shopping or to a museum or such.
You will find those type of people everywhere, I haven't found them particularly numerous here on campus.
You will find those type of people everywhere, I haven't found them particularly numerous here on campus.
People think we're an elitist institution and that students have a sense of entitlement. They also view Harvard students as snobs and being stuck up, super wealthy, preppy.
Best thing: opportunities. Being at a school with such a large endowment makes almost anything possible. The size is pretty g...
Best thing: opportunities. Being at a school with such a large endowment makes almost anything possible. The size is pretty good. At times I feel like it's too big, but I can say 100% that whenever I walk to class (or anywhere) I see a few familiar faces and say hi to a couple of people, so it's big in a manageable way. When I tell people I go to Harvard, there's often that "H-bomb" effect, like the "Oooh, so you go to Harvard?" look on their faces. I mean, it does not mean I'm a genius, it really means that I was lucky enough to be favored during the admissions process. I spend most of my time doing homework, in meetings, or rehearsals (I do a lot of performing arts). Free time is usually spent just hanging out with friends, sometimes going into Boston. School pride, yes. School spirit, no. Frequent student complaint/controversy: food SUCKS!
To some extent, however, the university is so big and diverse that those statements can not and do not apply to the majority of students here. Yes, people are competitive, but no more so than at any other ivy.
They know your name if you make the effort to meet them (in big classes - sciences and economics). In smaller classes, they do know your name. Students study a lot, but it's definitely a work hard, play hard environment.
Competitive, snobby, etc
Harvard is wonderful. I love every minute of my life on campus, from going to class, hanging out with friends, eating in the ...
Harvard is wonderful. I love every minute of my life on campus, from going to class, hanging out with friends, eating in the dining hall, and taking in my experience. Most of my friends feel the same (they love Harvard) but there are a surprising number of people who are unhappy here, and I'm not sure why. I personally love the size, the houses (Kirkland!!!), and the Cambridge neighborhood. The one thing I would change is that I wish there were more school spirit and school pride. Harvard students like to complain about a lot of things, whether or not they are truly bothered by it, and that undermines a lot of pride they might have in their institution.
Not really, although to some extent. People study a lot, but socialize and party a lot too. Athletic ability, social skills, and attractiveness stereotypes are mostly false.
The quality of academics at Harvard is overall very good, but can vary depending on the class. Small classes like language courses or seminars are very intimate and you can develop a close relationship with your professor. In larger courses, though, there is definite alienation between students and the teaching staff. My least favorite class, because of this reason, was LifeSci 1a, which was huge, impersonal, and intimidating. I have loved nearly all of my other classes, especially my Spanish classes (Ca, Cb, 30, and 36), Lit-Art A-92 and ESPP10. They have all been very engaging and I have gotten to know the professors well. In terms of studying, Harvard students do it all the time--it seems to me that they feel guilty when they aren't studying. Competitiveness, however, hasn't been a problem. Students are hard on themselves and push themselves very hard, but not at the expense of other students.
They study all the time, are very nerdy and intellectual. Harvard students don't have the best social skills, and are poor athletes. They're also not very attractive and don't have great fashion sense.
People are really nice here but it is difficult to have deeper relationships.
People are really nice here but it is difficult to have deeper relationships.
The student body is very varied.
I am in a small department where even the administrators know who I am.
They are obsessed with their work and themselves.
Harvard is really fun, has nice people who bond, school size is small and just right. If you drop the H-bomb and tell others ...
Harvard is really fun, has nice people who bond, school size is small and just right. If you drop the H-bomb and tell others you go to Harvard, you get praises to your face and whispers behind your back. I spend most of the time in cabot or in my room. Science center for most of my classes and section. Cambridge is the cutest college town, I LOVE the environment. Complaints: expos (writing class) sucks, Orgo really really sucks, but overall I LOVE Harvard!
lots of religious groups, dominantly Christian, but has Hillel and other groups too. Students wear anything from sweats to suits. Students for all backgrounds, lots of international students. Feels like all the TFs and Research Grad students are foreign and have a heavy accent. Students are all varied; some are very very political, participating in dems and republican races, Student council, and some could care less. Econ students always talk about money - iBanking and recruiting are HUGE for frosh to seniors, summer or career.
Nerdy - mostly no, though there are some who are amazingly nerdy Sex-deprived - eh, no, thin walls make for interesting background noise every year without fail Super Smart - yea, mostly true Stuck-up - not at all
Favorite class - Music 93r and First Nights. Class participation is common. Harvard is the best place for intellectual convo, inside and outside class. Students are competitive in premed classes, but internally. No bitching or catfights. Just intensely competing against self and against the grade curve. Professors come eat at house dining halls sometimes, very accessible. Academic requirement - kinda hard, demanding, more than prepares you for med school. Education geared towards learning more than job, although there are a lot of advising at the OCS for career prep.
Nerdy, Sex-deprived, super smart, stuck-up
HRO (orchestra) is completely wild, not your average nerdy musicians. HRO afterparty involves heavy drinking (HRO punch = 1/2 vodka and 1/2 sugar), lots of dances and grinding. Awake at 2am on Tuesday or any other night, I'm working on my pset or cramming for midterms (btw are not MIDterms, I have 2-3 "midterms" per class). Saturday nights - going to concerts. Classical concerts, dance concerts, choir concerts, Chinese banquet, there are million things to do on the weekends. Off-campus, working with MIHNUET - performing music in nursing homes and hospitals around Boston.
The people. The housing and the food. Just right. They think one is a god/goddess and stop acting natural. My room. "Wha...
The people. The housing and the food. Just right. They think one is a god/goddess and stop acting natural. My room. "What college town" Too complicated. Don't remember. You kidding! Who doesn't feel proud of going to Harvard! Is there anything usual about Harvard? My roommates. "I'm tired, I'm busy"
I love my religious group, they are my best friends. As an international, I can say that a lot of int. students would feel lost if it were not because we can rely on other int. students. The culture shock is striking. Clothes (jk). Normal clothes, and sometimes stupid "Harvard" t'shirts/jackets (don't worry boy, we know you go to Harvard). Sometimes. Latinos, black americans, people (including possible Lat/Bl.Am.) with their laptops, and other people (including Lat./Bl.Am) who want to eat. MA, NY, CA, TX. I'll say financial aid people. Don't know, I don't understand politics. Ditto. Not really (we know we might eventually be rich)
NOPE (...well maybe the last one is 50-50)
Yep. I love language classes. I hate those math classes where the professors just think we're all stupid. Some of them always, most of them before the midterms, all of them in reading period. Of course. Idem. One I'm taking with the "god" of the field. They're nice...sometimes...ok, most of the time. Kind of. They want us to die. Getting a job (I know, it's sad)
Latino groups, community service groups. In HIMC we play videogames. NO. Don't know, never go. I heard of them, don't go neither. Do we have theater? Harvard girls are more difficult to understand that regular girls (and regular girls are already impossible to understand, so...) Roommate. Finishing a paper. Freshman week, Housing day, Commencement. I've heard that frequently. We don't have. Study for a midterm. Finishing another paper. I don't recall leaving campus.
They all are smart, rich, and don't know the meaning of the word 'humble.'
I enjoy it a lot here. Not just the prestige, but the history. I just wish I had a spare moment to enjoy it sometimes.
I enjoy it a lot here. Not just the prestige, but the history. I just wish I had a spare moment to enjoy it sometimes.
People here seem fairly normal, and you can talk to people regularly for weeks before discovering in an offhand way that they're grand-prize winners at international science competitions, or world-famous concert pianists, or children of presidential candidates, or just in some other way ten miles smarter than you.
To some extent -- yes, there are people like that; no, not all of them are like that.
The two people who ask questions in lecture can really intimidate the other forty into thinking everyone else is smarter than them.
Students: Pretentious, arrogant, self-serving, preppy, exclusive; intelligent, professional, I don't know, things like that.
There are many people here with active social lives. I have never been one of them.
“Mother Harvard does not coddle.” --what I was warned in San Jose, CA, as a high school senior decided upon coming here F...
“Mother Harvard does not coddle.” --what I was warned in San Jose, CA, as a high school senior decided upon coming here Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers: “’Year after year we seem to deny the laws of mathematics. Here’s how we do it. We survey the freshmen, and we ask them, do you think you’re in the top half of the class or in the bottom half of the class? About 60 percent say that they’re in the bottom half of the class. We also survey seniors. Are you in the top half of the class or are you in the bottom half of the class? And almost two-thirds say that they are in the top half of the class. It’s really quite remarkable what we are able to do for you.’ Perhaps at first it will be hard and you will be discouraged, Summers seemed to say from his perch. But by the end of four years you’ll be one of us: the confident, the elite, the educated.” --Liz Goodwin ’08, Harvard Magazine Harvard, journey that it has been, is a true college adventure. Never before in my life (and never afterward, I suspect) have I been so intimidated yet empowered, surrounded by resources yet shut up by work. I am amazed by my professors and classmates, amazed by the opportunities that the brand name (and its money) brings, amazed by the obsession some outsiders accord to this place. Being a student here means you are a success; it also means there is a formidable amount of pressure on you to constantly keep succeeding. Studying here often means being inundated with work, but it’s the life lessons I’ve picked up and the things I’ve learned about myself that are far more memorable than anything I’ve been taught in class. I’ve loved being here, I’ve wished to God I weren’t here, I’ve tried to escape, I’ve realized there’s nowhere else I want to be (and a lot of people share this love-hate relationship!). Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier anywhere else, and I wouldn’t be the same person anywhere else. Yet Harvard is like those AP textbooks that condition you to the material by testing tougher than the exam itself: whatever my apprehensions about the future and the real world, I think to myself, “it can’t be much more difficult than this.”
The student body is both the best and worst thing about Harvard. The variety of people that can be found here is literally breathtaking; as a Harvard student, my fellow classmates are pretty much the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Harvard students as a whole are incredibly intelligent, talented, passionate, and dedicated. They’re good at identifying what they want and zeroing in on that goal until they get it. They are the most active people imaginable, tireless in their academics and extra-curriculars, constantly tapping Harvard’s resources and making the absolute most out of everything they’re handed. The student body includes Olympians, royals, children of prominent politicians, published authors, nationally-recognized scholars, Time Magazine honorees, etc. These are people who have patented inventions, started websites worth millions, played violin internationally, broken records, so forth. And the best thing about them is that they’re all completely normal. No one brags about who they are or what they’ve done; it’s not until you happen to sit down with someone and ask them what they do for fun that you discover “I play a little soccer” means they’ve actually won multiple international titles. More than anything else, Harvard students are incredibly unique, and none of them are even remotely like the rest. As is often said, there is no “average Harvard student.” This can make for some really interesting conversations (as you begin to learn who a person is and where they’re coming from), but it also means that it’s hard to find niches, or groups of people like yourself on campus, and everyone at one time or another feels slightly out of place. People’s interests are myriad—a single sit-down with a friend can broach everything from politics to religion to technology to economics. The University as a whole is a pretty liberal place, and while there are always open-minded people ready to listen and learn, conservatives do talk about how persecuted being in that particular minority can feel. Students hail from everywhere from Swaziland to Nepal, and there’s someone to call every one of the fifty states home, but a surprising amount of people are from California, New York, and Massachusetts. The average Harvard student comes from a six-figure-income home, but no one really cares how rich or poor anyone in particular is (famous cases are a little bit of an exception). One of the best things about Harvard is how democratizing it is: everyone lives in the House system, so you can’t judge a person by how swank their pad is. The T takes you everywhere you want to go, rendering a car (and judgment of how nice it is, or if a person can afford one) more or less completely unnecessary. Everyone has the same meal plan, everyone is entitled to the same classes, etc. That being said, people who all went to the same prep school in Connecticut do tend to hang out, just as minorities kind of gravitate toward each other. Once in awhile, the students here can make Harvard miserable. One of the things I hated most about high school was how people seldom participated in activities they actually liked, and instead gauged everything they did by whether or not it would get them into college. I had hoped Harvard would be different—unfortunately, it’s a lot of the same. For the most part, students join extra-curriculars because they’re genuinely interested and find them a lot of fun. The classes people take, the concentrations they declare, and the processes they go through (e.g. e-recruiting), however, are too often only in pursuit of top graduate schools or six-figure-salary jobs. Neither competition nor peer pressure are ever too hard to find: if everyone’s doing e-recruiting, you feel like less of an achiever if you’re not vying for the same. On a campus where the world-renowned musician is also a math genius who edits for the Crimson and volunteers at the homeless shelter, it can be hard to feel adequate, and there is always pressure to turn that Harvard degree into fame and/or success. As a result, students can become myopic and get caught up in the “Harvard bubble”—overly concerned about the next paper or p-set due, and oblivious to the things that really matter or the bigger issues impacting people around the world. Most unfortunately for the students themselves, many of them don’t realize that they are suffering from the same dissatisfactions as everyone else, and consequently make situations worse in thinking they’re alone.
For the most part, no, though the extent of how accurate they are does vary according to which social circles you run with. Contrary to public opinion, Harvard these days is much more diverse and egalitarian than its blue-blood puritanical past. We have international students, athletes, people from rural Kansas, and classmates with no apparent academic merits whatsoever. Not everyone who belongs to a final club is rich, and few people are so wrapped up in their studies that they?re constantly locking themselves up in their room.
Classes at the College, in my opinion, are actually pretty bad. Even when you realize that Harvard is a medium-sized school where large classes and little face time with professors are inevitable, it’s hard to square off the expectation of what a Harvard education should be with what it actually is. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with classes here: the professors here are world-class, the material is interesting and the readings very good. Yet one still expects more out of a premier institution. I’m only on my fourth semester here, but for the most part, when it comes to the meat-and-bones-textbook-and-facts part of my education, I’ve learned little. The material taught (multiplied four or five times over depending on how many classes you’re taking) is thrown at you at a rigorous enough pace that a lot of it doesn’t actually sink in. Classes are not so much an academic pursuit as they are requirements to be checked off in the drive toward a Harvard degree, just as discussion of the material, i.e. in section, is less about reasoned debate than it is about racking up participation points. Furthermore, for people who made it past the most strenuous admissions game in the world, students don’t always possess the intellectual curiosity that marks thoughtfulness and makes for the sophisticated kind of world citizens you want to be surrounded by. The Harvard admissions brochure will tell you there’s a ridiculously high percentage of classes with fifteen students or less. Between seminars, tutorials, sections, language classes, etc., the number is probably true, but misleading. Between Cores and intro courses like Ec10, Justice, and Life Sciences 1b, there are a multitude of classes that enroll anywhere from a hundred to over a thousand students, which makes for a drudging sense of nonidentity and/or feeds an already competitive culture. I’ve seen friends turned off by the fields of study they came to Harvard to pursue because of overcrowded classes, impersonal professors, or competitive classmates—especially in the sciences or economics, where competition exists most. Solutions would include expanding the Core curriculum, offering more fun and popular classes, and giving students more options among intro courses, but Harvard is only beginning to get the ball rolling on this. I say a lot of this because I’ve taken one really good class here and know what a world-class education should be like. In the spring of my freshman year, two of my dormmates and I teamed up to enroll in a lab at the Kennedy School of Government, where our project for the semester involved developing our own non-profit. This was the class that made my Harvard experience, and transforming school from an interesting experience to a place I loved. The class was hands-on and practical, teaching us how to network; everyone there was incredibly inspiring in their personal mission to save the world, the professor and teaching staff truly cared about us and kept themselves updated on our project, and having a chance to work so closely with Harvard friends I respected led to some of my most memorable moments here. So again, there’s nothing actually wrong with academics at Harvard; one just expects it to be better, and it should be.
The last time I saw the number, the count of student organizations on campus was above four hundred. There is seriously something here to interest everyone, and something exists to respond to every student need. There are groups that teach you how to be successful (Women in Business), political organizations (Institute of Politics, Dems and GOP), a cappella groups, dancing troupes, volunteer missions (PBHA), pre-professional clubs, advocacy groups, ethnic organizations, publications, etc. (I’m sure I’m leaving a hell of a lot of things out). A professor of mine once compared students here to those of a rival institution (let’s call it Winceston) by saying that while we were intellectually similar, Harvard students were involved with so many more activities and found so much more to do in our spare time. College is the time to meet new people and try unfamiliar things out, and a lot of students take this to heart. This weekend I attended a Cultural Rhythms dance show, where performers representing traditions all over the world shared dance, music, and food with the school. Not only was the breadth of the show impressive, but many of the performers were not actually from the culture they were presenting, having only picked it up for fun while at Harvard. Parties here widely vary in shape and size, from private gatherings to Happy Hours to dining-hall extravaganzas. People throw parties because they feel like it, clubs and sports teams throw parties all the time, small (and not so small) groups of friends get together to drink, and the College subsidizes the large, official parties that are excuses for students to mass-gyrate in different dining halls. Socializing is also where finals clubs and sororities come in (fraternities and female finals clubs also exist, though they’re slightly less-well-known). Greek life at Harvard is popular, but restrained, since the House system means people don’t actually live with their sorority sisters, etc. And partying in finals clubs is said to be classier and more fun than hanging out at larger parties, but it comes with political connotations given the elitist and sexist nature of said clubs. For those neither interested in partying nor drinking, there are theatrical/musical/dance performances happening just about every weekend, for affordable prices and in support of student groups. Boston is always a short T ride away for those willing to commute. And some of my most fun weekends have been spent just sitting around our common room, watching a movie, playing a game, or just laughing with roommates. The story of the dating scene is probably encapsulated by, “what dating scene?” This is not to say that people don’t have significant others—many do (2/4 of my suite, for example). Love lives on campus, however, tend to only encompass the “marrieds”—longstanding couples who spend a good deal of their time together—or the “hook ups”—people who meet each other at parties, hook up, and don’t really bother to see each other again. Between these two categories and the fact that Harvard students often have their mind on other things, people don’t really date (i.e. get together occasionally and see how things work out) around here. Lastly, I feel that any mention of social traditions should include a uniquely Harvardian one—blocking. The freshman-year concept of choosing the seven people guaranteed to share your House for the next three years is an infamous—and unnecessary—one. Every year, tears are shed, blame is leveled, and relationships ruined as friends unfortunately discover that their friends don’t want to live with them. Just about every blocking group has some harrowing story of the drama that went down before blockmates were picked. Blocking forces freshmen to constantly gauge and re-gauge their friendships as they hope that those they like, like them back. Freshman year is enough of an adjustment, and Harvard students are often already overstressed. While giving students the choice of who they want to live with is commendable, I feel that the Yale system of housing (where Houses are assigned before college starts, and everyone in your freshman dorm is also in your House) is the superior one. Many students block with freshman-year dormmates anyway, and being spared such an inevitably-offensive-but-necessarily-strategic choice would be beneficial to a lot of Harvardians.
Rich, white, WASP-y, and old money; elitist, entitled, and snobbish; collar-popping and arrogant; smarter-than-thou with 4.0s and perfect SATs (but no social graces). No wonder I’ve rarely received positive responses when telling strangers that I attend Harvard ;)
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