Poor treatment for undergrads?

<p>So I've heard that despite being an amazing U, Hahvad tends to allocate few resources to its undergrads and professors tend to prioritize the needs of its grad students. I've heard also that this is particularly true for econ majors. How accurate and in what acses are these statements true? Thanks.</p>

<p>With two Ds at Harvard, we've found quite the opposite. Lots of personal attention, open doors from faculty, remarkable opportunities. I've found that most of the stereotyped preconceived notion I had about Harvard before my kids went there have been disproved.</p>

<p>OP - nothing could be further from the truth. Go talk to some undergrad kids for yourself. Just curious, what are your sources? Your math teacher who visited one summer while a post teen? ;) :)</p>

<p>No, but one thing I've heard is that in the econ department grad students, as opposed to professors in places like Princeton, read senior theses.</p>

<p>Freshman D feels amazingly supported in everything she does from academics to sports to service clubs to social activities. Besides classes and sessions, she attends dinners, workshops, seminars and many, many programs that enhance her education. When considering colleges she found out she could take a class from her hero which sealed the deal. She is in that class now and spends hours at this world renowned expert's office hours. She can't believe the access she has at Harvard!</p>

<p>False! I took a freshman seminar with one of the world's most famous people in his field. It's totally not my field, but it was fun to get out of my zone and do something else. Freshman fall, I took an undergraduate-graduate mixed course for which I was just barely prepared/qualified...and then all the other undergraduates dropped. The six/seven graduate students in my class were really nice to me, and Professor J and I still catch up over coffee a couple times a semester. (I don't have the first clue why he likes me, to be honest; I'm not convinced I said a single coherent thing that whole fall!) I also took one of the art history introductory conference courses: Introduction to Western Art or something similar. They have a professor rotate through to teach oh, five hundred undergraduates, for one week, and that's all they see of you. In the week I found the topic most interesting, but thought that the professor left some questions unanswered, I hung out after class (completely bed-headded and kinda grungy that day, actually) and was like "So I have a couple questions." He then sat down and talked to me for fifteen or twenty full minutes before his next appointment, which was one of the most illuminating twenty minutes I had all semester. </p>

<p>From those three stories, you can see that in two of the three cases, I pretty much did the chasing down. Only Professor J went out of his way to get to know me, rather than vice versa. So if you want your professors chasing you down to get to know you, that's less likely at Harvard than at Amherst. But if you're confident enough to go to office hours even once, almost all of the professors I've met have been incredibly kind and helpful, and so pleased that you're interested in them. I'm not in gov or ec; I think those are harder for the first couple years (although once you get to the high levels of gov, the IOP/Kennedy School offer some absolutely incredible opportunities). I'm still in one of the biggest 5 departments, though, and I feel very supported.</p>

<p>I guess it's also that most students at Harvard and other schools in that league are ready to take the intitiative to find professors. But is the experience for sucha t Harvard different from that at other top colleges?</p>

<p>"No, but one thing I've heard is that in the econ department grad students, as opposed to professors in places like Princeton, read senior theses."</p>

<p>You're thinking about thesis ADVISERS. Not readers. Theses are almost always invariably read by more than one person. There's usually at least one professor involved, even if the adviser is a grad student or post-doc. You could actually even ask/petition someone/an expert not affiliated with Harvard to be your adviser esp if you're doing research on a sub-discipline that isn't covered by someone on the faculty (or if a faculty member is on leave). </p>

<p>Economics is one of the most over-subscribed concentrations at Harvard; it's not really fair to use what happens there as a barometer for the rest of the school. (And to be fair, the department has taken some measures to remedy some of the issues underlying the complaints)</p>

<p>As with opportunities in general, Harvard probably has more resources than most places. The number of grants, fellowships, funding for extra-curriculars or individual projects in quite substantial, and in some cases, underused. Many of these are specifically allocated for undergraduate use.</p>

<p>I was just asking since I would concentrate in econ, so what specifically has the econ department done to help people with econ concentrations?</p>

<p>My D1 was a Government concentrator - not Econ, but also one of the largest on campus. Among her experiences was getting her way (minus airfare) covered for three weeks in Shanghai to teach in a youth leadership seminar, getting funding for three Latin American trips (on the one to Argentina, she got a hug from La Presidenta on her second day in the country), and helping to lead Harvard Model Congress, a completely student-run conference to which HSs from around the country send their students. She too had lots of one-on-one opportunities with star faculty and she had two House Masters in her residential college - one was a Nobel prize winner, one was named to Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World." She used to dog-sit for the latter and he's still a Facebook friend with her. That's far from a comprehensive list, but those strike me as some of the "Only at Harvard" opportunities.</p>

<p>gadad wrote:

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I've found that most of the stereotyped preconceived notion I had about Harvard before my kids went there have been disproved.

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</p>

<p>So true. Nearly everyone I spoke with prior to D's enrollment (none of whom had any direct experience with Harvard, mind you) gave us all the standard warnings about inaccessible profs, grad students teaching all classes, arrogant student body, cutthroat / mean-spirited academic competition, etc. Thankfully her reality has been far different.</p>

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<p>Not in my experience. One of the my daughters went to Harvard and the other to Dartmouth. Dartmouth is one of the top ranked universities in the country for having "undergraduate focus." Yet I can see no significant difference between the experiences of the two girls in terms of professors" availability, willingness to help, "caring" about undergrads, etc. As far as I can tell both schools are doing just fine in that regard. The only difference I can see is that many people, who never went to Harvard, have "heard" from vague sources that Harvard is lousy in this respect (and that Dartmouth is great). I'd rank them both as Very Good.</p>

<p>I guess there are definitely some of those "only at Harvard" opportunities...To what extent does the fact that Harvard is often seen as #1 really play a role for job prospects compared to Princeton, Stanford, Yale etc.?</p>

<p>"#1" in job prospects? Most of the students who graduate from these schools are generally hardworking and intelligent--most will go on and do fine in life. </p>

<p>I'm really just not sure what you're trying to compare. You can take something like mid-career median salary as a benchmark, and Harvard usually comes on on top, or near the top in lists like that. But what does that mean anyway? That's it's 'better than' Stanford? Or MIT? [OK...Harvard is always better than Yale though...]</p>

<p>^It's funny because I never hear anyone at Harvard suggesting in any way that somehow Harvard is #1 or better than Princeton, Stanford, Yale, or whichever school (except during Harvard-Yale week when teasing abound in good spirit), because it's pretty obvious that the student bodies in all these schools are fairly similar, but I hear it all the time from non-Harvard people in places like... CC. </p>

<p>Many jobs hire predominantly from their local universities and can care less whether the person is from Yale or Podunk U as long as he/she has the ability.</p>

<p>Yeah, it's not like you're exactly incompetent if you went to Princeton or Stanford. Agreed, Yale is another story though...I kid, I kid.</p>

<p>
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To what extent does the fact that Harvard is often seen as #1 really play a role for job prospects compared to Princeton, Stanford, Yale etc.?

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</p>

<p>There's not going to be anything the Harvard name gets you that the Princeton name couldn't. Also, when we say "only at Harvard," we almost always mean "this particular, very specific, opportunity is an opportunity that could only happen here, since this particular Nobel-winning professor only teaches here." There are tons of equivalent opportunities at Stanford or whatever, they're just not the same ones. Likewise, Harvard's alumni network will open doors that the Stanford alumni network won't. But the converse is also true, and UT-Austin's network will open a third set of doors which doesn't overlap much with either Harvard's or Stanford's. If the guy at the company I want to work at went to Harvard, hooray, alumni connections! On the other hand, if he went to MIT, my friend who went to MIT will be the one yelling "hooray, alumni connections!" No, the networks aren't the same. But honestly, they're probably pretty much equivalent.</p>

<p>And it is Game week, so I shall not be even mentioning Yale.</p>

<p>How geographically concentrated are these opportunities? Like would Harvard give you significantly more opportunities than Stanford onthe East Coast but significantly less on the West Coast?</p>

<p>For an exhaustive look at the topic, why don't you read this guy's book ("Excellence without Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education"):</p>

<p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Excellence-Without-Soul-University-Education/dp/1586483935%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.amazon.com/Excellence-Without-Soul-University-Education/dp/1586483935&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>The author's qualifications: he's a Harvard BA, MA and PhD; he's been a professor at Harvard for 40 years; and he was Dean of Harvard College for 6 years about a decade ago.</p>

<p>Summers, by the way, tried to get the faculty refocused on quality undergraduate teaching .... and The Faculty smacked him right back down.</p>

<p>Great book. BTW: The author is also the husband of Marlyn E. McGrath, Director of Admissions for Harvard College.</p>