Location: Cambridge, MA
Size: 6,700 undergraduates
Percent Women: 49.3%
Tuition (one year): $59,950
Greek Life: Yes
Most popular majors (AKA Concentrations): Economics, Government, Neurobiology and Neruosciences, Psychology, Social Sciences
Acceptance Rate: 5.8%
For more information about concentrations, study abroad, financial aid, and average test scores, visit the Harvard College Admissions website.
Why Choose Harvard?
“When I got here, I realized [Harvard] was the perfect place for me - this is a school that promotes and rewards individuality, determination, dedication and, more than anything, passion.”
“I fell in love with Harvard when I attended the Harvard Summer School Secondary Program between my junior and senior years of high school. I loved having the freedom to be independent and still being challenged by my classes. Not only did the academic curriculum provide me with a myriad of resources to learn and grow, but the people I met and friendships I made have had a lasting impact on my life. Since then, Harvard has always been my dream school, and I feel incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to attend such an amazing institution now.”
“I chose to come to Harvard first and foremost in hopes of being surrounded by really interesting people. As a bonus, I really loved the idea of being in Cambridge and the atmosphere here.”
"I chose Harvard because of the endless possibilities it offers. Before college, I had never even envisioned myself getting on a plane. I had never traveled, lived alone, or was exposed to the diversity of people and activities that can be found here on campus. And it really is outstanding and humbling to go to classes with the world's most interesting students."
"I loved Harvard the moment I visited. The atmosphere is so friendly, welcoming, and open. Everyone I meet here has such an interesting story. And although being surrounded by some of the smartest people can be intimidating, it is extremely motivating and pushes me to challenge myself."
"Harvard's best feauture is that it is involved in nearly every aspect of the world. It isn't a school just dedicated to the math and sciences or a school just dedicated to law, medicine, etc. There are so many areas of life that it addresses and even though you wouldn't ordinarily plan on pursuing those things in life, you still get to explore and play with them."
"The people. Every person I meet is so interesting and brings something new to the table. There are all different types of people here and I love getting to know as many as I can. I have met such good, lifelong friends here already."
“The other night, I attended an art reception for freshmen where I was able to use sparkly heart stickers and faux gems to make the cutest (albeit elementary school-esque) Valentine’s Day cards known to woman. The next day, I went to a Pizza and Politics discussion to hear President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary Mike McCurry analyze and criticize the polarization of Congress. The following afternoon, I attended class in one of America’s oldest academic buildings (almost three centuries old!) to learn about Native American economies. The eclectic nature of Harvard’s extracurricular activities and courses is fascinating all in itself, but the most exhilarating thing is, there were enthusiastic, kind, and extremely intelligent young adults at each of these events. The excitement of being surrounded by these infinite opportunities is compounded by the incredible people I am surrounded by. Those are my favorite things about Harvard.”
“Harvard's best feature is its potential as a breeding ground for close, stimulating friendships and adventures. Although I recognize that this doesn't always happen, having close friends turns this challenging place into a really fun one as well.”
"As far as amazing features go, The Game (Harvard v. Yale's football match) is iconic. It's such a good time to spend with your best friends and favorite student organizations -- everyone goes, and the day is so much fun. There is also Housing Day for freshmen in the spring, when people from whatever house (or dorm) you are assigned to for the next three years come and greet you with cheering and singing and t-shirts. Another iconic Harvard experience is Primal Scream -- the last day of reading period before exams, late at night, to blow off steam, students congregate in the Yard, strip, and streak. It's quite hilarious."
“The Cambridge cold is the worst!”
“Definitely the way you just get thrown into everything. I don't necessarily feel that Harvard is as supportive as it should be.”
“Harvard's worst feature is the intimidation that comes along with it. I know that I was scared to enter classrooms with people I believed to be way smarter than me. Of course, this was something that I found out to not be true. The key in academic settings, which is reiterated so many times to us freshmen, is to connect, not compare.”
“Harvard's worst feature is the peoples' occasional tendency to focus single-mindedly on their goals. Since ambition here often comes hand in hand with this level of focus, it's just a matter of reminding oneself that the present moment matters as well.”
"It can be hard to get into some really cool classes -- we have a lottery system, and it can really stink not to get the classes you really want to take."
New Collegiette on Campus
"Freshman year starts off with a convocation ceremony for the entire class -- it's a really wonderful time to collect your thoughts on why you came here, and what you hope to do with your four years."
"The hardest part was living away from home for the first time. I thought I was handling it well, yet in hindsight I was not. I didn't eat right, I was relatively carefree, not fully focused on my school work, and unorganized. Second semester, I pulled myself together. Once I had one semester under my belt, I knew what to expect and I knew what to do differently."
"There are a bunch of different pre-orientation trips, including camping ones, arts-based ones, (paid!) dorm clean-up ones, and more. I did FAP, the Freshman Arts Program, and we put on a pageant at the end of the week for the community. We wrote all of the music and the script, and we had such a blast doing it. The pre-orientation programs are a really intense introduction to Harvard, but you get to meet some amazing people right off the bat."
"Freshmen get to live in Harvard Yard, right in the center of campus, next to everything. They're so lucky. I miss living there so much! The dorms are big and generally nice, and your whole class lives right near each other for the last time. Freshmen also get to eat together in Annenberg Dining Hall, which is huge and fits the whole class. It's really nice to be able to walk around and see your friends and people you don't know yet all in one place."
"The hardest part of transitioning to Harvard was learning to become an independent person. In my home community, youth were handed everything and did not really learn to be less reliant on others. Another hard thing was learning to make choices. It is often overwhelming to see all the great opportunities and learn how to either step back and say no to them or commit."
All About Academics
"Every department works differently. Being pre-med is entirely different from studying humanities. Essentially, there are two types of Harvard classes: p-set (problem set) classes, and paper/reading classes. Both are hard, it just depends on which style of learning you like better, whether it's more concrete or more idea-driven."
"Harvard has so many different classes. If you enter college undecided, you are bound to find something you enjoy. If you come to college with a concentration in mind, after being exposed to all the other interesting classes, it is highly likely you'll switch to one you enjoy more. The great thing about Harvard is that its classes and professors are ranked so high that you can forget about concentrating in the subject that will ensure the biggest pay check and job security and go for one that is more enjoyable."
"The academic atmosphere is undeniably challenging and time consuming. The classes are difficult, but like any class, if you do the necessary work, you will be successful. The workload I would say is comparable to other schools. Most college students are all working as hard as they can and putting in a lot of work. The professors are chalk-full of information and there to help you. My professor for my intro psych class wrote our textbook! And then one day when I was watching TV, a commercial comes on and there is my professor, in the commercial for Prudential Insurance. Harvard professors are among the best of the best."
"I'd describe Harvard's academic atmosphere as an incredibly passionate place. The teachers are passionate about teaching, and the students are passionate about learning. Class size varies but you can definitely find those small seminars and those huge lectures in almost every department."
"Students here are really intense, so the work atmosphere is even more intense. Check out this site if you want some funny pictures of students sleeping in the library during finals. That actually happens. It's crazy."
Learn from the Best
"CS50 is probably the most iconic class at Harvard. It is an introduction to computer science, and the professor, David Malan, is a rockstar. He makes computer science accessible and exciting, and the way the class is structured, anyone can take it. I took it last year with zero computer programming experience, and I had a lot of fun. It's known as a cult, because it's so time-consuming, and they give you t-shirts for finishing the class, and there is a fair at the end to display your final projects. It is more of an experience than a typical class."
"My favorite class so far has been my sophomore tutorial, which most departments have as a way to introduce students to that particular area of study. They are usually small classes taught by a professor, and it's a really intense experience. It made me love my concentration so much more than I already did."
"The Expos program is something that every freshman has to endure. It's essentially a writing class. I think it really did help me become a better writer, but something about the process of the class was not as fun as I would have liked."
"Writing a senior thesis is optional -- depending on your department and your program, and whether or not you are an honors candidate. I can't wait to write a thesis. It seems like a really amazing way to put a capstone on your Harvard experience. Plus, you get to work with Harvard professors on a topic you're passionate about. That sounds awesome to me!"
Interests & Involvement
"I play ice hockey here and it plays a major role in my life at Harvard. I spend a lot of time with my team at the rink, around campus, and on road trips. My teammates are my best friends and we have so many fun times. Playing the sport I love with my best friends is an opportunity I will forever be thankful for."
"My favorite activity is writing because there are so many opportunities at Harvard for writers. There are numerous publications that are all wonderful."
"There are so many amazing student organizations on campus. There are political groups, feminist groups, club sports, dance companies and teams, writing publications, community service organizations, and many many more. It's kind of pointless to even list them. There is an activities fair at the start of the fall term, and as you walk down the aisles you are just completely overwhelmed by the opportunities!"
"I think everyone finds their niche here -- whether it's in a sorority, a team, or a club. There are so many mini-families available on campus, and it's really important to find the one that fits for you."
"Leadership in the clubs on campus is super important. I have LOVED being in my leadership roles. It's amazing to have an opportunity to take on responsibility for a club or group that you are so passionate about."
"The Game is the best example of Harvard's team spirit. Everyone goes -- tailgates start early in the morning, and the game itself is super fun. We usually win, of course! The rivalry between Harvard and Yale is one of the coolest things to be a part of here. Alumni always come to the game too. The fact that we call it "The Game" shows how important it is to us. Although the other football games are not as well attended, they are still a source of pride for us."
"My team is the best! There is nothing better than crossing the river and finding a whole family on the other side. Sports here aren't worse because the people are smart and education oriented. Sports here are better, because everybody is more dedicated than the average athlete."
"We have so many talented athletes! I played rugby for a semester, and I loved seeing people totally engaged in a world of sports rather than academics and resume building like so much of the rest of campus. It takes so much time to be a college level athlete, and that goes under-appreciated a lot."
"I personally didn't want to play sports on the college varsity level -- it's too much time. But I've found a great community playing intramural sports with my house. It's just for fun, and we gain house pride when we win! It's so nice to have that outlet."
"I love the challenge that comes along with being a girl at Harvard. It's like I have to make sure I'm not late to classes but still want to look well enough to leave my room. I want to finish my psets on time but I also want to hang out with friends and go shopping. I want to major in the math and sciences but still want to empower other women through the humanities."
"People have so much respect for you. Going to Harvard is such a great and rare opportunity. Especially as a girl, going to Harvard opens so many doors."
"The best part of being a girl at Harvard? All the other Harvard girls! My girlfriends all amaze me everyday. I can't believe I'm surrounded by so many beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious women!"
"Being a woman at a historically male-dominated school and environment is definitely interesting -- but everyday, advances for women are being made. My favorite professor is a woman, and she inspires me so much. She is a brilliant teacher and writer, but she also has kids and a family and she somehow makes it all work. It's wonderful to see that working hard does not have to preclude any other part of being a woman."
"There are so many parts of being a girl at Harvard that I love. It's great to be able to go out with friends and meet boys and all that, but at the end of the day we're respected and we work hard to earn respect. It's a lucky balance, and I'm glad to have it."
Food & Drink
"The food isn't horrible. There are gems like 'veritaffles' (waffles with the Harvard crest imprinted into it) and Sunday Sundaes, but just like anywhere, there are days when PB&J is the best you can do."
"One bad thing about Harvard is that the dining halls open, close, and re-open at odd hours throughout the day. For example, breakfast is only served from 7-10am, lunch from 11:30am-2:15pm, and dinner from 4:30-7pm. Students can only enter dining halls during these designated times, which proves to be an inconvenience sometimes."
"The actual dining halls are beautiful -- Annenberg Hall as a freshman is a dream, and the house dining halls (every house has their own!) are such nice atmospheres. It's kind of crazy when you look around and realize what the room you're eating in looks like. We're lucky!"
"HUDS (Harvard University Dining Services) is great, and the staff is super nice, but sometimes you just have to get off campus. That's the beauty of being in Harvard Square. There are some super-late-night-only places (Tasty Burger, Felipes, a newly installed Shake Shack) and there are some delicious, respectable options (Russell House Tavern, Grafton Street Pub, etc.). It's nice to have all of those options! The best part is that you can always get ice cream."
"Although Harvard prides itself on academics, we are very social too! We have Greek life -- four sororities and three fraternities. In addition, we have this unique phenomenon of 'final clubs.' They are social clubs -- there are eight mens' clubs and five clubs for women. The mens' clubs have houses, and a lot of the weekends' parties happen there. Even if you're not in a club or Greek group, there are lots of ways to be social!"
"I love my sorority more than anything. I never thought I would rush, because I'm not a 'sorority girl,' but I realized that everyone here is also a Harvard student -- so they are inherently different. My sorority is my family. Harvard can be alienating and lonely, so my sorority filled that for me."
"Harvard's social scene is fascinating -- it's definitely not normal. We have parties, but they are generally confined to the weekends, meaning Friday and Saturday. Occasionally there's a thirsty Thursday type thing, but definitely depending on the weekend. It's nice that the atmosphere here is work and play, with play as an optional component. I'm personally not cut out for a giant party school, so this works well for me."
"You don't have to be in a social club at Harvard to be social. House life and extracurriculars provide groups that you can socialize with, without having the pressure of joining a social club."
"We live in 'houses' -- another word for dorms -- except for freshmen, who all live together in Harvard Yard. Every house has its perks and drawbacks. For example, houses on the river are close to everything, but the buildings are super old and kind of dilapidated, and rooms are small. Houses in the Quad, on the other hand, are a 10-15 minute walk away, but the rooms are all new, big singles. It's a tradeoff."
“I don’t know if you could find two people more different than my roommate and me. She is a cool, sophisticated New Yorker, and I am a bubbly, slightly ditzy Southern Californian. I cry when I read the Gettysburg Address due to my passion for American History, and Clare (my lovely roommate) has learned two different languages of computer code in the past three months. She wakes up at 6:30 AM for a run with her field hockey team, and I am awake until 3 AM finishing the latest episode of Scandal. But the most incredible thing about our pairing? There is no other person in the world that I could stand living with for an entire year. (Apologies to my lovely boyfriend!) We can sit in silence for four hours in complete comfort then randomly talk for a half hour about our childhoods and our dreams. I have learned so much from her East Coaster knowledge (apparently rowing and crew are the SAME THING?) and she has been enlightened by some of my West Coast revelations (indeed, In N Out has the BEST hamburgers in the world, but you have to go to Ruby’s on Huntington Pier for milkshakes). We have decided to live together for the next three years, and we always tell each other how lucky we are to have one another. Harvard did us good in the rooming department. Not to mention our dorm! We share one humongous room—at least three times bigger than my room back home. There is lovely hardwood flooring, and the darkness of the room provided by the heavy wooden window covers ensures that you can sleep in much past your alarm without the evil sun burning your eyelids. Stoughton doubles for the win!”
"Housing Day is so fun! It's the day in the spring when the freshmen find out what House they're in. The houses send students to cheer and sing and give them swag and welcome them to the house. It's one of the best parts of freshman year."
"Cambridge is wonderful. It has everything you could want. Great food, great people, etc. It's safe, too. It's big enough to be exciting but small enough to feel comfortable."
"I love exploring Cambridge outside of Harvard Square. Central and Porter squares have a lot to offer. They have very different vibes, and it's fun to hang out there to get out of the Harvard 'bubble.'"
"Boston is so close -- only a few T stops away. I love getting into the city, although admittedly it doesn't happen as often as I would like. I'm from Massachusetts, and I am so happy to be able to be close to Boston for college! I love going to concerts, shopping, running, or just reading in the public garden. It's a beautiful city."
"I haven't gotten a chance to do a lot of the tourist-y things, like take a duck tour or walk the Freedom Trail, but I think Boston has a lot to offer! I love going into the city with my roommates to have dinner during the first week of every semester."
HC's Complete College Guide: Harvard University
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