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Harvard - Tell All

whatupwithyouwhatupwithyou 4 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
edited October 12 in Harvard University
Hi everyone! I am a current student and Harvard and I’ve gotten random questions from tons of family, friends, and even strangers about what Harvard is actually like.
I am, very open and candid about my experiences, the good, the bad, and the busy, and am more than happy to explain and talk about my own personal experiences with this well known university.

Some of the things I get the most questions about, to name a few are:
Campus
Social Life
Blocking groups
Final clubs,
Exclusivity,
Elisitsm,
Legacies
Classes,
Houses,
Acronyms,
Financial aid,
Diversity,
Etc...
I feel like it's important to mention, I’m not doing this for attention but because I think Harvard is in and of itself a very ominous entity, I would like to lower many of the barriers that prevent people from fully understanding Harvard and what it's actually like; it was a complete enigma to me before I got here. I also feel like a majority of the info about Harvard is diluted to be really positive (or like breaking news that is negative: admissions lawsuit and Sullivan) but if you were to go on a tour of campus, everything is rainbow and sunshines. Especially for interested and prospective students, I’d love to give students a real insight of what campus life is actually like and I think CC is a great way to do that. Please feel free to ask me almost anything about the school or about my experiences here and I'll do my best to answer, but remember although this is a first-hand account, you could ask 100 Harvard students question about their time here and you would get 100 completely different answers. Thanks!



MODERATOR'S NOTE: Anyone is free to ask or answer questions in this thread.

edited October 12
8 replies
Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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Replies to: Harvard - Tell All

  • GalaxyWarpGalaxyWarp 34 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    are u happy @ harvard
    are school wide programs hard to get into
    would u make same decision to attend knowing what u know now
    how does public opinion of ur school influence ur life
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  • collegeready33collegeready33 301 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    What is social life at Harvard like? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Also how is diversity at Harvard? Thank you so much for doing this.
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  • compmomcompmom 10762 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Are you sure you attend Harvard? Can you explain this: "I think Harvard is in and of itself a very ominous entity"?
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  • whatupwithyouwhatupwithyou 4 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @galaxywarp Sorry for the almost month late response...
    1. To answer, am I happy... First-year was rough... I really felt like a fish-out-of-water, especially coming from a public school. Harvard can be a really intimidating place and that combined with difficult roommates led to a difficult first year. It was initially really hard to find a community, hard to transition to such a new place, and hard to feel like this was an resemblance to a home... I actually did think about transferring on a couple of occasions... but now i absolutely love it. I think it takes time to adjust to going to any school, and especially now being a sophomore, there are a lot more perks that I didn't realize. I can't imagine going to a different school, and I think it was largely due to self-discovery and becoming more aware of myself and my surroundings -- to make a long story short, I am really happy here and I have been able to find a great community, exceed extracurricularly and academically, and enjoy my time a lot more this semester.

    2. Things on campus are fairly competitive. Academics, are usually not competitive. Not competitive meaning everyone is very willing to help and support you (not that classes are easy or there aren't some uber competitive people) but I have never been in a situation where I needed help and people wouldn't help me. It's usually just that people want to succeed for themselves than they want to beat you.
    As far as extracurriculars go, a lot of the pre-professional programs go, a lot of them can be very competitive. A lot of the on-campus consulting clubs, pre-law, government clubs, research, jobs, leadership clubs, some writing clubs, etc. you really have to apply intensely into them, and some of them involve a good amount of luck and/or connections. This can definitely be a culture shock coming from a high school where you may have excelled at everything. These tryouts are called "comps". Some comps standing for competition while others stand for completion.
    With that said, there are a lot of clubs on campus that accept everyone as long as you complete the comp. These tend to be better organizations for community building since you are able to be a more inclusive environment, and I assure you, there is a lot of clubs to join, so you will find both competitive and non-competitive clubs on campus.

    3. Knowing what I now know, I hands-down would choose Harvard again. I am still not sure that Harvard is as good as the reputation of "Harvard" merits (at least where I'm from), but I don't think there's any college that doesn't have its flaws... I just think Harvard's flaws are rooted in a good amount of elitism and are also shown on a grand scale. But Harvard is such an amazing place because of its reputation and because it is able to attract the best and brightest from around the country (dont ask me how I got in haha), but the opportunities here are almost uncomparable.
    For me, however, the best thing about Harvard is the self-growth that I have been able to see in myself. I have learned a lot about who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do, etc. that I know I would not have been able to get at another university. With that said, i think I would have also loved and grown at other universities and for some people, other schools definitely might be better fits for their specific aspirations.

    4. It's really crazy to think how often Harvard becomes a poster child for elite American universities. I mean, Harvard is constantly in the news, referenced in Netflix movies, and a pioneer of college-based decisions. I would say the biggest effect of this is the hyperawareness of the news on campus. Because harvard has an expectation to be " a leader" as some might put it and is constantly in the news, it makes students more aware on campus. but for the most part, I'd say the public opinion is something that is dormant in most students' minds, but doesn't necessarily impact their day to day lives outside of an expectation to succeed.

    Hope I answered this well, and please lmk if you want to know more or need an elaboration!!!
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  • whatupwithyouwhatupwithyou 4 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @collegeready33 Social life at Harvard is very interesting... It is really objectively not good and caters a lot to wealthy white, east-coast, legacy, men for the most part. But there is definitely a lot of space on campus for other people to go out and be social.

    I think there is a significant amount of students, probably like 50-60% that don't go out on weekends. By go out, I usually mean like attend parties and consume alcohol. There are not a lot of party spaces on campus, and the inclusive ones are usually rampant with freshmen and typically crowded. As a result of limited social spaces, final clubs have a significant role on campus. As a guy, it is very difficult to get into a final club as a guy if you aren't in the club or know someone well. As a sophomore, I'm in the midst of punching... punching is the equivalent of rushing in a frsternity or sorority but a lot worse because it's very exclusive, elitist, and can often just be mean. While Harvard is "trying" to make these spaces more inclusive by encouraging them to go co-ed, their prominence on campus is still very significant given the fact that the secrecy and elitism is very attractive for a lot of students and this feeds the cycle. However, the lack of social spaces does encourage a lot of clubs to build good communities, and there are often a lot of parties thrown by clubs, which is a great way to be social, and also a relative amount of dorm parties/kickbacks on weekends.

    I'd say in general, I go out typically once a weekend, and the other night I stay in and work or watch a movie with some friends... however, this can fluctuate depending on if it's a fun weekend or if I'm super busy.

    Diversity at harvard... that's an interesting question -- I think this answer would vary significantly on who you ask, but as far as racial diversity, I think Harvard tries to do it's best to have the most diverse and interesting class they can. The amount of different people from different backgrounds is one of my favorite things about Harvard... with that said, the diversity of legacy and often athlete students is predominantly white and wealthy, which contributes a lot to a sense of elitism on campus... There is also, in my opinion, a lack of geographical and educational diversity. I would say one out of every two students is from MA, NY, or CA and it feels like the amount of kids that went to wealthy prep schools on the east coast is disproportionately high. For example, some Boston and NYC schools send 20-25ish students to harvard every year, which in my opinion, is way too many to be from one school.
    I think Harvard does it's best to take a holistic approach and cast a diverse and well-rounded group of students for each year.

    Please let me know if you have any other thoughts or comments or if you want an elaboration on something!
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  • whatupwithyouwhatupwithyou 4 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    @compmom Excuse me... I do go to Harvard, thank you very much... Not sure why you're gonna insult my intelligence, but anyway.
    That statement implies that as someone who wasn't planning on going to Harvard their entire life, I knew almost nothing about the school outside of its prestige and academic success. Coming to Harvard, I learned a lot about the social construct and dynamics of the school that I thought would be interesting to share... That is what I meant about it being an enigma; if you aren't aware of or haven't attended or known someone who attended the school it is completely foreign and unknown.
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  • NascarFedexNascarFedex 25 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @whatupwithyou For a moment I thought you are my kid, as he would say exactly the same things as in your long post, but there are few minor differences at the end that I doubt my son would state here. But who knows ...
    He is a sophomore now as well, and after a really hard time his first 2 months at Harvard as a first-year, he found himself changed and enjoying himself there.
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  • compmomcompmom 10762 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Believe it or not, there are people who come on here and pretend they go to Harvard. As a prank. It has happened many times. I did not mean to insult you and apologize. It's just that your language is a bit imprecise.

    I actually asked about this phrase: "I think Harvard is in and of itself a very ominous entity."

    I hope you understand that Harvard isn't just "encouraging" clubs to be co-ed. It has taken aggressive action with consequences for those who choose to joinsingle sex final clubs. Educate yourself on this while you are punching in case you don't want to suffer those consequences.
    https://harvardmagazine.com/2017/12/harvard-final-club-sanctions-fallout

    Harvard has been working to provide more gathering spaces. Dining halls at the houses have always been places to socialize and experience community. The new Smith Campus Center is a big improvement on campus. I hope you are enjoying it.

    If you don't like elitist activities, you might be happier not trying to be part of a final club. You can "find your people" elsewhere, through your department or house. Social life often involves house events, but also small get togethers in rooms/suites.

    Visiting before applying can only offer limited insights, so it is nice of you to try to help.
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