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What subjects are Harvard bad at?

theconcernedkidtheconcernedkid 30 replies13 threads Junior Member
edited June 24 in Harvard University
I am asking this question because I am genuinely just curious. Whenever I look up what colleges are good for _____ (enter subject here), Harvard appears at the top of the list. What subjects are Harvard bad or at most average at (i.e. economics, English, engineering just for examples, I'm not sure if they're bad at those)?
edited June 24
15 replies
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Replies to: What subjects are Harvard bad at?

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 30391 replies59 threads Senior Member
    Right now all in line , so everything.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3421 replies77 threads Senior Member
    I would not send DD there for engineering or computer science. They aren't bad, per se, but there is better out there.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2112 replies15 threads Senior Member
    Engineering and CS.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2542 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Income equality...

    In general, if it isn't part of the classical Liberal Arts education, it is either missing, or not that strong. That is not only true for Harvard, but for most of the most popular colleges which were established to provide an education for Young Gentlemen.

    Colleges like Cornell or Stanford, as well as almost all of the public universities (William and Mary being a rare exception) were established to provide education to a wider population. MIT and Caltech were established to provide an education in technology, and were aimed at the middle class. Engineering or science as a career was a solidly middle class occupation - a gentleman did not make money by creating stuff. They could dabble in it, but not do it for a salary.

    So most of the Ivies, and many other "prestigious" private colleges and universities focus of stuff the a well rounded gentleman (and later woman) should know. These are also the things at which these colleges excel. However, a professional education, excepting medicine and law, were for the middle class. All very British.

    I think that Harvard has had a tension between wanting to be a teaching university, educating the scions of the ruling class by providing a classic liberal arts education, while, at the same time, to be a top research university.
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  • theconcernedkidtheconcernedkid 30 replies13 threads Junior Member
    @MWolf Interesting! Wasn't expecting them to be bad at this element!
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  • compmomcompmom 11731 replies81 threads Senior Member
    edited June 28
    Harvard has been addressing income inequality for years with a phenomenally generous aid policy. 20% go for free, 55% on aid, no loans, average parental contribution $12k. Students are hardly the scions of the ruling class, though there is an element of that of course.

    The fact that it does not have vocational programs does not mean it is ignoring economic inequality. Instead it still operates on the belief that a broad education, with depth in one subject, with the attendant skills in reading, writing, analyzing, researching, can lead to good jobs in many areas. And that is still true. For middle class, lower middle class, everyone.

    It leaves the more vocational aspects of education for grad school, business, law, medicine and the grad programs in humanities and arts.. The "top research" programs at Harvard are doctoral and post-doc.

    edited June 28
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83338 replies741 threads Senior Member
    compmom wrote: »
    Harvard has been addressing income inequality for years with a phenomenally generous aid policy. 20% go for free, 55% on aid, no loans, average parental contribution $12k. Students are hardly the scions of the ruling class, though there is an element of that of course.

    55% on aid means that 45% pay list price, which would mean family income and/or wealth from the top few percent. So the scions of wealth, including whatever the ruling class is defined as, are very overrepresented there (and some of the "hook" categories in admissions are there to help admit them).
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  • jzducoljzducol 811 replies15 threads Member
    Harvard financial accessibility is better than most of its peers; the real problem is its limited number of seat whose large portion goes to the well connected.

    Also, the stereotype of Harvard educating "a gentleman" who "did not make money by creating stuff" is just as outdated as engineering/CS being "only a career of a solidly middle class occupation". Harvard's engineering was non-existent until recently because it had been happy to let MIT offer those classes to its students. IMO, Harvard College's real strength lies in its letting its students explore all options, being vocational or just liberal art.

    But Harvard's CS program is by no means bad or to be avoided if one wishes to study the subject at its best institutions, as popular belief would have it. H College students enjoy unparalleled internships and startup opportunities in CS that other schools could only envy. What can be a better mode of CS education in real world applications---that Harvard is supposedly not good at---- than letting a student run his/her own multi-million dollar software company? Each year, there were dozens of students starting companies while in college. Of course, many of these companies will flame out but many went on to become great success. And the "internship" of running your own software company can be a priceless education experience. After all, the nation's top two CS companies Microsoft and Facebook were started by Harvard College kids from middle class families. Harvard's accommodating polices of leave of absence for college students and its abundant resources for early ventures foster a climate of pursuing CS education in the many real world senses---what's better to test how good your knowledge and ideas are than trying to find a market for it.

    If you are a top CS talent with big ambitions Harvard may be the perfect fit. If its good enough for Zuckerberg and Gates its probably good enough for most CS students.
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  • JennibcJennibc 174 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Bill Gates was NOT from a 'middle class' family. His father was a partner at law firm in Seattle and he attended Lakeside High school. They were well to do.
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 2112 replies15 threads Senior Member
    Interesting points re: the classical education. One thing that is true: The long history of classical education makes it a good fit for a student who is truly an intellectual rather than someone looking for a brand name. Many students can find tough classes at many schools but the intellectual bent isn’t at every school. And many schools educate for a career rather than for life.
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  • privatebankerprivatebanker 6883 replies170 threads Senior Member
    edited July 1
    Zuckerberg too. He attended Phillips Exeter. Full pay. Lol.

    Not exactly rags to riches. More like riches to billions. But good for him. His sister was nice while there I was told. She had a nice singing voice.

    Subjects that are bad = equals zero though.

    I would say that about nearly every top 100 Forbes list school. Some aren’t their best or tops in the world. Bad. Nah.

    They do seem to be pretty uncomfortable with any criticism though. Lol. With the non stop worship that it’s earned over the years you think a post or two might just be left alone. The school needs no defense.
    edited July 1
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  • Data10Data10 3337 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2
    jzducol wrote: »
    After all, the nation's top two CS companies Microsoft and Facebook were started by Harvard College kids from middle class families.
    ..
    If its good enough for Zuckerberg and Gates its probably good enough for most CS students.
    Both Zuckerberg and Gates did not graduate from Harvard. They may not have even been CS majors. Harvard didn't offer a CS major back when Gates attended in the 70s. Instead Gates applied to Harvard as pre-law. Zuckerberg only made it to sophomore year before dropping out, so it's not clear whether he had declared a concentration. Rather the strength of Harvard's CS program, I expect their successes more relate to a combination of ability and their unique family and personal connections/background, which includes coming from wealthy families. The latter also includes connections made at Harvard, particularly for Zuckerberg.

    For example, Bill Gates' parents enrolled him in an elite private school in 7th grade, which was full of kids with from wealthy families, like Gates. Though those wealthy private school connections, he and his future Microsoft founding partner Paul Allen received free access to the computer cluster on University of Washington. This type of computer access was rare and valuable in the 1960s. Other persons without that special connection would have had to pay the inflation adjusted rate of ~$300/hr for the access. In most areas of the country, there would be no comparable option, regardless of wealth. As I recall, Bill also found a way to get unlimited time through a hack of some type. By the time Gates started at Harvard, he and Allen probably had more CS experience than nearly any Harvard grad. Coming from a wealthy and supportive family also contributed to being able to take a risk and drop out of Harvard, to start the company.

    edited July 2
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  • MWolfMWolf 2542 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Sigh. Just why so many people believe that Harvard needs defending always confuses me.

    It is especially interesting when these defenses just prove my point.

    The very characteristics that people here point out to as being the advantages of Harvard are what was always advertised as the key points in a "gentlemen's education".
    compmom wrote: »
    Harvard has been addressing income inequality for years with a phenomenally generous aid policy. 20% go for free, 55% on aid, no loans, average parental contribution $12k. Students are hardly the scions of the ruling class, though there is an element of that of course.

    Thinking about people who are making more than the median income as "lower income" is EXACTLY what I mean.

    Harvard still has only 30% of its students from the bottom 80% of the population. The fact that kids from the top 20% by income require financial aid in order to attend Harvard just means that Harvard is expensive, not that they are low SES families which Harvard is helping emerge from poverty.

    As @ucbalumnus stated, 45% of the students come from families which make enough that they can afford to attend Harvard without any aid. According to Harvard's own website, these are families which make more than $250,000 a year, meaning families in the top 5% of the population.

    Let us stop for a moment and contemplate that: 45% of the students at Harvard are from the top 5% by income, 67% are from the top 20%, and 80% are from families with income which is above the median income.

    But they are "taking steps". According to "The Crimson", the class of 2017 had 14.5% whose family earned less than $40,000. For the class of 2023, that amount had risen by a, umm, sorry, had dropped to 13.1%. Yes, they are taking steps. Unfortunately, sometimes those steps seem to be backwards...

    The percent of student attending Harvard from from the bottom 20% has remained more or less the same for the past decade+, and has only increased moderately from earlier decades.

    Harvard's primary mission is Harvard. That comes before the students, before the alumni, before the faculty, and even before the administration. They don't accept poor students because they care about helping poor students. They do it for A, PR, and B, a small side investment. Every student is accepted based on how much Harvard thinks that person will enhance the Harvard brand, either as a student or as an alumnus.

    It's a fair-enough transaction, BTW. The students also benefit, making a Harvard degree a good deal for most students.

    Neither Microsoft nor Facebook were innovative in any sense, engineering-wise. Their success has to do with their business models which was to steal ideas that had already been implemented by other people and find better ways to sell them.

    Harvard's school of engineering is not at the level of those of UIUC, U Michigan, Berkeley, UMD, UCLA, UT Austin, and UNC CH, not to mention MIT, Caltech, Stanford, Cornell, HMC, or Duke. It may make the top 30, but only because people give Harvard a break because it's Harvard.

    It's also not because of MIT - Harvard's School of Engineering was established over a decade before MIT was, and 20 years before UIUC was even established. They established a school of engineering a long time ago, but never really "got" engineering until it became obvious that engineering graduates could end up as wealthy and as famous as business, political science, physics, or biomedical sciences majors (physics got its push during the 1920s).
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  • websensationwebsensation 2132 replies40 threads Senior Member
    Cracks me up calling Gates and Zuck's families "middle class". Middle class is by definition families which cannot pay full tuition and need financial aid to send their kids to Harvard. lol
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