Welcome to College Confidential!

The leading college-bound community on the web

Sign Up For Free

Join for FREE, and start talking with other members, weighing in on community discussions, and more.

Also, by registering and logging in you'll see fewer ads and pesky welcome messages (like this one!)

As a CC member, you can:

  • Reply to threads, and start your own.
  • Post reviews of your campus visits.
  • Find hundreds of pages of informative articles.
  • Search from over 3 million scholarships.

A question to all Harvard students here.

luna1234luna1234 Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
edited January 2008 in Harvard University
What attracted you to Harvard? What in Harvard made you fianally there instead of Stanford, MIT or any other IVY, ect..?

Don't give me words like, "excellent faculty", "smartest students"... We all know that's common of any school in top 20. Give me something substantial or personal, not just its fame. BTW, how many Harvard students are there JUST for its fame? (The kind of students who got all As and piled up ECs simply for the top universities.)

Did you go there to pursue your determined major or to explore? Are you now really satisfied? After getting admitted, have you compared yourself to students in other top universities who pursue the same interest as you do? Do you think you are now more advantaged? I wanna hear your insightful voice.
Post edited by luna1234 on
«1

Replies to: A question to all Harvard students here.

  • lotf629lotf629 Registered User Posts: 703 Member
    I went to Harvard because it had a) lightweight rowing and b) a huge number of course offerings in medieval literature.

    I am happy with my decision, having graduated in 2002.

    *More* advantaged? Kind of, yeah, because my academic specialty is a little weird. I am an early medievalist, and Harvard offers several courses in medieval Latin (as distinct from classical Latin), a sequence in Old English, one in Old Norse, and. . . should I ever have time. . . about six varieties of Gaelic. Plus any number of relevant courses in history, religion, literature, art history, etc.

    That's a really good thing about Harvard that distinguishes it from most other places: it has classes in a ridiculous number of subjects. While most schools might offer one or two classes in a given arcane subspecialty, Harvard may have 8 or 10. So if you are really crazy about, say, Serbo-Croatian culture and civilization, but you want to go to school in the U.S., Harvard might be a good bet.
  • caramelkisses06caramelkisses06 Registered User Posts: 311 Member
    I came to Harvard ultimately because had an amazing time at my pre-frosh weekend. For me, it was between Harvard and Duke (where I also had a great time), but when I came here and saw that all the stereotypes about Harvard being no fun weren't true, there was no reason NOT to come. Also I was partial to Cambridge, since I wouldn't need a car as I would have in Durham. That said, I certainly was not oblivious to the doors that the Harvard name would open (even compared to Duke), and that certainly factored into my decision.

    There's no way to know how many students are here just for the fame - I personally don't know any though. As for me, I wasn't even going to apply here in the first place, and certainly didn't spend high school piling up extraneous ECs just to please admissions officers.

    I didn't know what my major was going to be when I started, so that didn't play a role at all. In general I don't spend any time comparing myself to other students pursuing my interests ... it's pretty well-known that in many (most?) fields, the Harvard name will initially give you an advantage (however small or perhaps unfair) over students from lesser-known schools - so there's no reason to spend time thinking about it, I guess.

    I love it here, and have never even once second-guessed my decision to come. :)
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,687 Senior Member
    As compared to its peer schools, Harvard was first for me because of the House system; the fantastic location; across-the-board academic strengths including psychology, history of science, linguistics, and East Asian studies; and a couple of individual professors I had admired for years (especially Stephen Jay Gould, may he rest in peace).

    "BTW, how many Harvard students are there JUST for its fame?"

    I don't think there is anyone there just for Harvard's fame. Harvard is famous as a great university, and it earned that reputation. Think of other famous brand names, like Ritz-Carlton. Do people stay at the Ritz just because it's famous and prestigious? That plays some role for some customers, but it's mostly because Ritz became famous for running really, really good hotels. People have confidence that when they choose that brand name, they're going to get a quality product every time. There are other brand names -- like Motel 6 -- that are equally famous, but they are NOT known for the highest quality products.

    Looking at the label as one factor when you judge a product is not the same as going ONLY for the label. The fame can be a tip factor for kids choosing between HYPSMwhatever, but that's not the same thing as going to Harvard for the fame. I think we can all agree that there is no wrong choice among Harvard and its peers, so if you love them all and you have to pick, choosing the most famous name makes at least as much sense as flipping a coin.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,143 Senior Member
    I chose Harvard because I wanted to be in a city, I liked Boston, my favorite aunt and uncle were in the Boston suburbs, family tradition and I figured I could study anything. (Turned out architecture wasn't one of them though!)
  • luna1234luna1234 Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    Thank you guys! I do appreciate your answers.

    Loft629, your reasons are powerful. And I think that's because you do know Harvard has something that you can't find in other schools. I have no doubt you've got your right choice.

    caramelkisses06 , thank you for your reply. But I do have some questions about your answer "In general I don't spend any time comparing myself to other students pursuing my interests ...".I didn't mean the kind of the narrow-minded competition. I mean comparison within the globe. Say, if someone majors computer programming, even he's in Harvard, I doubt if he can leave behind all other students' progress and does his own business. As I know, a lot of American companies have transfered their programming work to India and it is a trend that won't stop. If one doesn't keep an eye on what's going on there, what is the use of all his efforts in studing so hard? Maybe my example is an exception since Harvard is leading trends in many fields. But I do know that many universities are catching up in a world wide. Can you assure yourself that as long as you are a Harvard graduate you'll excel anyway?

    Hanna, thank you for your analogy. I do see the wisdom of a Harvard student from you. I agree with your words that "People have confidence that when they choose that brand name, they're going to get a quality product every time." But I'll have to say that's where my concern lies. Once people rely on the brand name and totally trust it will bring them the best, they may probablly get into trouble. I can give you many examples that happened around me. One is NESTLE, it's a famous brand and when it came to China, Chinese parents blindly trusted its quality. Their trust generated the company's complacency and resulted in the descent of the quality. Chinese babies became the dierct victims as they drank the over-iodine milk of NESTLE's product. Not only NESTLE, but also many other oversea companies lowered their qualities and fooled the innocent customers. Their self-absorption and excessive complacency made them degenerate here. They can't see so many ambitious Chinese companies are now secretly trying to catch up with them. They just believe that they are the best ones and the customers will still stupidly choose their products without any discretion. How pathetic! Maybe I irritate you by comparing these companies to Harvard. Harvard is different since it is always creating and I do believe it won't easily get degenerate. But it has been the best for so long and I worry it will descend due to its complacensy and the students' wholehearted trust. I do see how glorious it is now, but I also worry for it even though I'm not a Harvard student. Can you get my meaning, Hanna? A label can undoubtedly bring boons to customers, but it can also bring degeneration for both the customers and itself. That's why I asked in the first place, "have you compared yourself to students in other top universities who pursue the same interest as you do? Do you think you are now more advantaged?"

    THE WORLD IS FLAT. I wonder any of you has ever read this book by Thomas Friedman. Are you really aware that you are competing with all the smart students globally? The world is so different now. Maybe there is right an Indian peeking on your job you are so confident to get. I made a mistake in asking you to distinguish Harvard from other elite universities in America. My real intention is to suggest my concern of well-renowned universities in America, not just Harvard. Harvard is just a token.

    I agree that "there is no wrong choice among Harvard and its peers, so if you love them all and you have to pick, choosing the most famous name makes at least as much sense as flipping a coin.", but can we really learn the essential skills in this more and more competitive world? I do love Harvard as I love other prestigious American Universities. But I also worry that the prevailing satisfaction in a school will deviate my attention from the facts that there are so many people in this FLAT world are surpassing me by use of the internet or other cheap devices. One can get excellent education anywhere in any way. The world is not like it is before. I can't imagine that I may gradually fall into illusions that I'm absolutely the most qualified human kind in my chosen area while actually i've fallen behind others. How pathetic!

    If my words seem unreasonable to you, please don't mind. I'm new here and I just want to share some of my opinions with you. I'm very willing to correct my wrong ideas if you tell me the truth there. I too, hope that what I am concerned doesn't exist.
  • xjayzxjayz Registered User Posts: 1,654 Senior Member
    Before I attempt to answer your questions, I would like to say that your thoughts do seem a bit unconnected in the sense that they are definitely uninformed, especially in your usage of analogies. Here are my answers, and the alumni are more than welcome to chime in.
    As I know, a lot of American companies have transfered their programming work to India and it is a trend that won't stop. If one doesn't keep an eye on what's going on there, what is the use of all his efforts in studing so hard? Maybe my example is an exception since Harvard is leading trends in many fields. But I do know that many universities are catching up in a world wide. Can you assure yourself that as long as you are a Harvard graduate you'll excel anyway?

    I have several points I want to make here:

    1. For better or worse, Harvard is a liberal arts institution. Therefore, we don't have programs that will directly translate into practical training for the workplace. For example, one of our most famous alumni is Yo-Yo Ma, a world-renowed cellist. One would believe that he should have gone to a conservatory, since he was sure that he wanted to pursue music as a career. However, as he mentioned in the admissions video, his training at Harvard provided him the tools to read any piece of music from anywhere in the world. This is the core of a liberal arts education, in which the education you receive transcends practicality; in other words, it will help you critically analyze anything in this world from different perspectives. In essence, you develop a "toolbox" that will serve you well for your life. I think the philosophy of a liberal arts education is lost or misunderstood these days.

    2. I don't think Harvard particularly helps us excel. The admissions office takes special care to choose students that WILL excel, so the causality argument that you present is faulty. However, the Harvard name gets us through the door. As many alumni on this board have mentioned again and again, after "getting through the door," it is up to us to "prove ourselves." In some sense, my friends in the workplace now relate to me that they feel that they are held to a higher standard by virtue of their undergraduate institution.
    A label can undoubtedly bring boons to customers, but it can also bring degeneration for both the customers and itself. That's why I asked in the first place, "have you compared yourself to students in other top universities who pursue the same interest as you do? Do you think you are now more advantaged?"

    Hanna would be more well-versed in answering this question, as she entered Harvard as a transfer student. First, I have some qualms about this statement, especially your usage of the word "degeneration," "label," and "advantaged."

    1. Degeneration: First, this word implies that we are experiencing a backwards trend. This term was first coined in the field of psychiatry in which doctors tried to explain mental illness by asserting that mentally ill patients were somehow more "backward" and "less evolved" than the current society. I hardly think that this is the case for a company or an institution.

    2. Label: Yes, labels are powerful -- after all, the labelling theory is quite influential in the field of sociology and psychology. However, a label also implies that there is an association that occurs. For example, when I say "salt," you automatically know the characteristics of "salt," since you know English. However, if I said "salt" to a non-English speaker, he/she would have no idea what I was talking about, in part due to the fact he/she did not speak English. This can also apply to Harvard. For example, again, if you view Harvard's admissions video, Mira Nair, a famous filmmaker, says that she was shocked that Harvard commanded such a respect, especially among Americans who grew up with the myth of Harvard. In her native India, "Harvard" was not associated with a "rich and powerful" place, but rather just a "good school."

    3. Advantaged: I think this is your true question. Perhaps Hanna will be more well-versed in answering this question. As my only undergraduate institution that I have attended is Harvard, it's hard for me to compare apples to oranges. Moreover, being "advantaged" can be viewed from many different angles. One might be viewed as more "advantaged" in one's physical looks (height, etc.) Another might be viewed as more "advantaged" by coming from an old-money family. Being "advantaged" is all about perspective. However, Harvard is a powerful name, and commands much respect. However, with respect comes freedom -- but again, as the old cliche goes, with freedom, comes responsibility.
    Are you really aware that you are competing with all the smart students globally?

    You specifically cite Thomas Friedman's "The World Is Flat." He argues that America has to "wake up." However, realize that this kind of thinking has been around for centuries when one views the history of education. For example, we have the mental hygiene movement in the 1960s in which children were to learn healthy habits so that they would not be prone to mental illness in the future. We had the GI Bill to provide education to tons of people. Now, we have federal scholarships for students who study science and foreign languages.

    I do also take qualms with your stating that "Harvard is just a token." I don't think it's just a token, and by virtue of your questions, you don't seem to think that it's a token, either.
  • luna1234luna1234 Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    xjayz, thank you for your replying. First I wanna say sorry for my misuse of language; please do pardon a foreign student who didn't even know what "qualm" means until reading your post. And please excuse my saying "Harvard is just a token", I hope you know that my real meaning is "Harvard is a token of the best-renowned universities in America." My intention of putting the sentence there is not to emphasize that Harvard is "just a token", but to complete the sentence preceding it, to emphasize that I concern for the not only Harvard.

    I do love Harvard and that's why I'm not with my classmates cramming up the examinations for colleges in my country but here writing "unconnected" words. I said I was new here and I didn't know what is supposed to say. If this forum is meant to attract students to Harvard and show them every best facet of it, I'm truly sorry I contributed so many meaningless words. I know a lot of students will see this thread hopefully to know more bright sides about Harvard and I really don't want to misdirect them or just waste their time. So please tell me when I should stop

    As you mentioned Harvard’s liberal arts education, I do have something I found to share with you.
    Here’s an article written by a Crimson editorial editor, an economics concentrator in Quincy House. Here’s the link: The Harvard Crimson :: Opinion :: How Undergraduates Get Shafted
    I wouldn’t write any comments here. It is a relatively old article (written in 2004), I do wish to hear your words on what improvements about Harvard’s undergraduate education have been made up to now.

    Maybe it’s because of my limitation of expressions, I think you didn’t really get my point since you said, “The admissions office takes special care to choose students that WILL excel, so the causality argument that you present is faulty.” You seem to be quite confident that you will win in the global battle anyway. But according to your answers, I don’t think you really have a really clear idea about the potential rivals you will face. Besides, the students that the admissions office takes special care to choose are the ones with biggest chances to excel, but not those who WILL definitely excel. As for your answer about “advantaged”, I don’t think you really answer my question. It’s true that “Being ‘advantaged’ is all about perspective”, but I had posted out my perspective in the sentence “have you compared yourself to students in other top universities who PERSUE THE SAME INTREST AS YOU DO?”

    I mentioned THE WORLD IS FLAT not to discuss America, but Americans. I hope you still remember Thomas’ premonition of the coming competition the unaware American students will face soon. I do appreciate that America has tried so hard to educate people. But the policies are far not enough for next generations to keep on top. If you think my words are just nonsense, you may go and find proofs in the book.

    Label, well, I don’t plan to elaborate on it any more. I’m still a senior in high school and it was really stupid for me to talk about this when I’m not admitted to any university at the moment. I have to apologize once again for my words that may offend you, I didn’t mean to. As I said in the first place, I came here to share and discuss with you, not to declare or insist. I didn’t mean to make the thread so “uninformed”, I just wanted to speak out my thoughts, though seeming unrelated to admission or application so many people here concerned with. I want to stretch further beyond just getting into a really fabulous college. If this is only a place to request “chance me” (It seems so), I’m sorry about my foolish behavior and I will stop right now and do something practical.
  • polskapolska Registered User Posts: 201 Junior Member
    you ruined your own thread with this nonsense
  • luna1234luna1234 Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    I've never tried to make my thread glorious. I'm here to discuss. If you can't even tolerate a friendly person who just has some questions, I can only say that I'm very disappointed here. But make it clear, I'm disappointed with the forum, not Harvard, though the forum does shadow something.
  • AileyAiley Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    xjayz makes a very good point when he mentioned Mira Nair and the view of Harvard globally - I too am an immigrant, and Harvard, Yale, etc are just (rightly) seen as 'good schools' and no different in that sense from Cambridge, Oxford, MIT, Stanford, CalTech, etc though different schools have some different specialties. I find the near-veneration some of these names seem to command in some quarters puzzling, and somewhat akin to the 'view from Manhattan' map that used to be popular when I first came to the US.....
  • luna1234luna1234 Registered User Posts: 40 Junior Member
    I'm not an immigrant, but a student outside US. I know quite clearly about the power of Harvard's name here in my country. It is more than a myth... People in my country regard Harvard students as GOD. I was one of the poeple until I visited ****.com . That's where I find the link I posted in front. It is written by a Harvard student and it does show something negative about Harvard's education. Hence I come here to look for truth.

    But I hope you understand, to find an ideal college is just like to find a spouse who doesn't need to be perfect in all the standards(which is also impossible), but whose merits are greatly appreciated and shortcomings can be tolerated. So it is important for the applicants to know about the college's relatively negative sides. It is also wrong for a college(including those who advocate for the college) to try every effort to show only bright sides. If they insist on it, I doubt a really happy marriage bonding.

    Some may value Harvard's name more than others factors. They go to Harvard and successfully graduate. With the help of Harvard's name, they can easily find a well-paid job and spent their lives enjoying other things. They may consider this kind of life successful. There's nothing wrong with that, it's their choice. But I want more than just the name. Actually I'm afraid that a good name will become a burden for people to go further--people can easily grow satisfied with the extant good conditions and give up striving better.(That's a global rule) It is especially dangerous(only in my standard) for one to think that he/she is the best and need not care about competitions at all. Though xjayz made it clear that "Harvard only gets us 'through the door' and it is 'up to us to prove ourselves'", people can change when they go through the door. A glorious door may obstruct people's eyesights of the outside danger, and a too convenient passage may make one vulnerable to the setbacks in the future. Notice that I use "may" in my saying, and I just want to seek confirmations or persuasive rejections here.

    Did I make it clear this time?
  • CuddlySheepCuddlySheep Registered User Posts: 68 Junior Member
    The World is Flat really wasn't my favorite book...at all...I thought it was kind of misguided.
    I liked xjayz's answer, though. It's true; if you're talking about living in a global world, Harvard does fit the bill. Its "brand name" will probably even get you somewhere in Djibouti (although why you would be in Djibouti with the intention of using the "brand name," I have no idea).

    And Harvard really is an amazing school. Don't underestimate the education its undergraduates receive (not that I can speak with ANY authority on this subject).
  • AileyAiley Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    ^^
    I'm not sure what you're looking for, but yes, you can't go wrong at Harvard. You also can't go wrong at a good many other schools I can think of... I think you are making rather too big a deal out of choosing a college, for all the reasons others have pointed out, but anyway, why don't you apply to a few, and then worry about Harvard vs anything else after you have some concrete choices in hand.
  • transferapp07transferapp07 Registered User Posts: 157 Junior Member
    this is a nice example of one of these threads that degenerates into a mishmosh of only tenuously related things. (get it.....i used degeneration too...lol)

    having had experience at another college as well as harvard i'll give you my input.

    you can receive the same education almost anywhere...in fact, using one of my favorite lines from a movie - and wholly appropriate to the situation - [you can get a $200,000 harvard education for only a $1.50 in late fines from the public library] -from "Good Will Hunting")

    this is more or less true, as far as undergraduate CLASSES concerned, you can buy and read the books and you will have the same knowledge base that most any harvard course will provide you.

    what you won't have though is the experience. harvard's strength is not its classes (the same material, excluding less common subjects, for the most part is equivalent at most any college in the USA.) however, classes are only a tiny part of college, where you learn the most is from the "competition" (as you call it), from being around other students who are just as capable as you, or even more. its about the academic environment, about learning from the people around you.

    harvard has arguably the best - or for the nitpickers out there, amongst the best - students in the country, in the world even. its from being around these students, being able to interact with, collaborate with and learn from them that you reap the largest benefits of a harvard education. this is not something that can be replicated at other colleges on such a high level.

    obviously, there are all of the research opportunities and guest speakers that come to the school etc..... and this is important too, though other schools may have similar opportunities, nobody has as many or as substantial ones as harvard - this is another area in which we stand out.

    also, luna, you mention growing complacent in a good situation and forgetting about competition and ultimately falling behind. harvard's environment does not permit one to do this because one is always exposed to the amazing things other people are doing and feels pressured to keep up. if this is not enough of a motivator for you then what better alternative do you propose? surely going to another college would make one less aware of competition -- so where does you argument hold water?

    ps. i didn't really like Tom Friedman's book, it was horribly redundant - in fact, for anybody who hasn't read it, just read the first 20 pages and you will have absorbed all of the salient material in the book.

    but getting back to you, i think you misapplied his argument here. globalization/aka flattening doesn't affect people doing the most complicated of tasks first, it affects those lower down the ladder doing easily trainable tasks.

    xjayz also made a great point about a liberal arts education vs. a vocational one. apart from the usa, most countries focus on professional education rather than learning for learning's sake. as long as this continues to remain the case, americans will largely be innovators and other countries will be focused on teaching the skills to allow their citizenry to reproduce that which americans create.

    i'm in college to learn as much as possible, just for the hell of learning. im not really focused on preparing specific skills for a career, but i know that when i graduate I'll have many options available and I'll be well qualified, by any standard, to pursue them.
  • AileyAiley Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    transferapp007, from a silicon valley vantage, I would have to point out that this point of view -

    "...as long as this continues to remain the case, americans will largely be innovators and other countries will be focused on teaching the skills to allow their citizenry to reproduce that which americans create"

    is at least 30 years out of date, and all the Venture capital firms here know it... not to mention that considerably more than half of the new companies founded even here in the Valley are started by people educated elsewhere.

    Your comments about the importance of peer group are right on, but this particular belief is not supported by demonstrable facts....
«1
This discussion has been closed.