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What is NOT so great about Harvard?

astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom 4160 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
edited May 2013 in Harvard University
Most of the posts between now and next spring are all about "How can I get in?" Unlike some other specific college threads where there are questions from people trying to decide whether or not they want to go there, here it is (obviously?) a foredrawn conclusion that Harvard is the be-all, end-all.

So, is there another side? What are the downsides? What are the things about Harvard that students don't like? When is Harvard not the right choice for a student who gets accepted?
edited May 2013
217 replies
Post edited by astrophysicsmom on
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Replies to: What is NOT so great about Harvard?

  • danstearnsdanstearns 414 replies8 postsRegistered User Member
    A few things that might make H a less-than-perfect fit:

    If you will have a problem going from being the smartest kid in your HS class to being an average student, H might not be for you.

    Cambridge is a busy, crowded quasi-urban environment. If you are more comfortable in rural or suburban setting, H might not be for you.

    If you want a student body all dressed in Crimson, filling the football stadium every Saturday in the fall, H might not be for you. There are some quality athletic programs, to be sure, but the student body tends not to be all rah-rah (except the Harvard - Yale game).

    The stereotypes of cutthroat competition, inaccessible professors and a student body composed of arrogant rich kids, however, have not proven to be true in my experience.
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  • HarvardParentHarvardParent 181 replies3 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Adcom people always talk about the easy access to Boston and all greeat things in the greater metro area, the reality is that Harvard students simply don't really venture out of campus that much :-). They do not have time :-).
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  • fauvefauve 3499 replies26 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Housing: dorm and house rooms can be incredibly small with peeling paint, smelly carpeting, and miniscule storage space.

    The system of blocking groups for freshmen applying for soph housing can cause major hurt, headaches, and isolation. Example- the maximum number of students form a group, then are assigned a house where there is only room for 5 or 6 in a suite. The extra students are put with random people. They must wait a year to apply for a house change.

    No hot breakfasts in houses. Must trek to Annenburg from Quad or river houses for a full morning meal.

    Not enough on-campus social spaces. The occasional all-campus dances are crammed and fill to capacity early in the night.

    Teaching fellows (TFs) run many classes, do the test creation, test grading. Many are internationals with limited English skills, and may be helping with subjects outside of their majors. Thus grades can be dependent on who is TFing your class section.

    Final exams in the spring continue until the night before the day a student must be totally moved out of the dorm. Thus, s/he must be packing and ferrying boxes to storage during study hours. There is limited summer storage, and you are warned if you do not get your boxes into storage early in the week, it may be all filled. For the many international and out-of-state/region students this is a definite academic and logistical burden.
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  • astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom 4160 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    These are good...keep it coming. I think it is always helpful to make sure that people are seeing all the positives (as well as any negatives that may be there...)
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  • HarvardParentHarvardParent 181 replies3 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I would recommend a trip during the Visitas before making the final decision.
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  • astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom 4160 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Why HP? What might change someone's mind then?
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  • gadadgadad 7471 replies301 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    As a double Harvard parent over the past six years, I have to say that all of the above input sounds pretty much on target. I'd also say that I have two daughters who have never regretted their decision to go there and would choose it again without hesitation.
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  • SheepGetKilledSheepGetKilled 1035 replies68 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    the bums that congregate at H because it is famous.
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  • astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom 4160 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    But gadad , given the chance, what would your Ds have changed about Harvard? Anything?

    My D's both attend(ed) the same public university and both would also say that they "have never regretted their decision to go there and would choose it again without hesitation," with my younger D frequently speaking to h.s. seniors and she has worked in the Orientation office on campus for 2 years. That said, however, there WERE ups and downs about the university. I find it curious that there is very little discussion about the things that people don't love about Harvard. I'm a casual observer to this thread now....next year some of the incoming students may be D1's students, as she is a grad student there now (I promise she will be an awesome TF!!!).
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  • coureurcoureur 11196 replies190 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Things I didn't like: the freshman proctors were also their academic advisers - which I thought was ridiculous because it meant they were advising a very diverse bunch of kids with many different concentrations. Does any one proctor know enough about all the different concentrations and courses at Harvard to give good advice about each of them?

    Things my daughter didn't like: the constant streams of tourists trooping through campus. It sometimes made her feel like an animal on display in a zoo and made the sidewalks crowded.

    But having said that, she absolutely LOVED Harvard and considers having gone there one of the best decisions of her life.
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  • SheepGetKilledSheepGetKilled 1035 replies68 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Also the cockroaches aren't that fun.
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  • gadadgadad 7471 replies301 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    But gadad , given the chance, what would your Ds have changed about Harvard? Anything?

    Neither liked the fact that there isn't a true Student Center. Both thought there were campus elements that were lame such as some of the Final Club bros. D1 loved/es the Harvard-Yale Game ambience and wished that other home games were as enthusiastically attended (though D2 is one of those who it's hard to get to even go to the H-Y Game). And that's about it. On the front end of the experience, I'd have been concerned about the standard list of Harvard stereotypes - snobbery, elitism, large classes, disinterest of star faculty, university priorities for graduate schools - but no manifestation of any of those for either daughter (actually, quite the opposite for all of them).
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  • gadadgadad 7471 replies301 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Also the cockroaches aren't that fun.

    Oh but they can be! I used to work at a campus in Charleston, SC where they're so huge that the locals call them "palmetto bugs" to make them sound more quaint. The students catch them and paint numbers on their backs (like miniature stock cars). Then they draw chalk circles on the sidewalk, put their raceroaches in the middle, and have them race to the chalk circle. Great fun!
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  • astrophysicsmomastrophysicsmom 4160 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Ewww! I HATE those little buggers.
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  • EnoughAlreadyEnoughAlready 227 replies10 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Wait, a palmetto bug is a cockroach!!!???!!! I've read a ton of southern literature in which palmetto bugs were mentioned, but I've never know this.

    I've been reading this thread, and the one thing that I would strongly agree with is how idiotic the freshman advising system is. My son's adviser for freshman year was a museum curator who knew absolutely nothing about the sciences, but two of his advisees were future science concentrators (physics and chemistry). He was less than useless, and he could never get their names straight. Still, I've never known my son so happy as he was at Harvard.
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  • HparentHparent 87 replies1 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Yeah right - "... who have never regretted their decision to go there and would choose it again without hesitation." Who won't? And, who ever really had a chance to attend two or more different colleges and could say that based on a comparison???
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  • xrCalico23xrCalico23 4661 replies12 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If there's ever a "Like" button on CC, I would click it for all the points raised in this thread. Haven't heard about any cockroaches in my dorm yet, and hopefully will never see or hear about them!

    I've always felt that the school worked very hard to accommodate the needs of students of very different personalities and backgrounds. Any problem or complaint that pops up usually gets sorted out impressively quickly: someone said the cobblestone street was too bumpy, and those sidewalks were all re-paved over the summer; the tourists coming into the Science Center can be annoying, and now there's a sign up on the doors asking visitors to stay out of the building; a course receives low rating, and they always try to restructure it the next year. Objectively speaking, I think we are pretty spoiled ;) I'm trying hard here to think of something to add to astrophysicsmom's thread.
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  • LottieMLottieM 105 replies3 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    I attended Harvard for a year then transferred to Berkeley. Never regret that decision. Harvard- full of dull legacies- like myself- and our siblings (my sister was there, 2 years ahead of me; she had a weird boyfriend who attached himself to her like a barnacle. He wasn't a legacy, but still dull.) I was told check out Adams House, check out Dunster, you will love it. Adams House: it's Saturday night; let's drink some absinthe, and put on an Alfred Jarry play and dance around and speak gibberish! Dunster House: don't bother me, I am a 10th level Druid! Let's go to the Lampoon castle- ooh, look at me with the little jester's hat and why are the chairs so big-(pause while everyone snorts some coke). A gal at Dunster killed her roommate and herself; my dad said " when I was there they were called "the Dunster Funsters"- I guess they aren't so fun anymore. "
    Got out of there like a bat outa hell. Was assigned Dunster and didn't want to end up with a knife in my chest.
    Positives: freshman roommate is best friend still (I thought the old guy moving her into Weld was her boyfriend- I'm from LA. They were horrified when I asked " what's your boyfriend's name". It was her mother's boyfriend....) Drinking with Seamus Heaney- I did a semester abroad at Trinity and got to chill with him some more. The food they served at the Union was good! But I was raised by feral wolves- who did not cook and ate everything raw. Oh, and the ice-cream - they still have that? A cool museum with all sorts of dead insects pinned to things.
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  • BayBay 12456 replies43 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    In my D's 4 years at H, I never once heard her mention the word "dull."

    For D, the biggest negative was the weather (she is from the West Coast), but that was only after 2 years. I honestly can't think of any other negatives that she mentioned. She has graduated and told me she privately cried on move-in day this fall, because she wasn't getting to go back.
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  • coureurcoureur 11196 replies190 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    ^^I agree. About the last word my daughter would use to describe Harvard and especially her fellow students would be "dull." Harvard isn't perfect but it most certainly is not dull.
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