What was your experience at Harvard?

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Sam Finegold, Harvard Class of 2015 studying Statistics.

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  1. Living: The living at Harvard is very good. The housing is comfortable and the community created in the housing system has led to strong friendships.

  2. Academics: This is a mixed bag depending on the field of study you are in. Professors in the Economics department are less accessible because they often committed to their research and their is a large student to teach ratio. Professors in say, the Earth and Planetary Sciences department, are known to be more accessible. That said, if you go to professors' office hours, it is easy to develop strong relationships with faculty.

  3. Extracurriculars: Something that distinguishes Harvard is the extracurriculars. Many students are involved in the Institute of Politics, in Harvard Student Agencies, in Hack Harvard, in The Crimson, and other large organizations which consume a lot of time. Participating in college extracurriculars is helpful for professional development and can be fun. If you are interested in having a life full of activities outside of the classroom, that is definitely a reason to consider Harvard.

Anonymous, website Article

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Lisa Hiton, Professor of English and Arts, Poet, Filmmaker, Writer

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Harvard and the "H bomb"

Just to add to the advice you've received, I'd like to add that Harvard is a very complex institution. Often, I found that the rigor was contained to certain professors and departments. Much of the student body was not as rigorous as I'd hoped. As that story goes, it's harder to get in to Harvard than it is to stay there (when I taught at Harvard later, it was very difficult to convince senior faculty that students earned grades lower than a B+, which is unlike any other institution I've taught at).

As for further complexity, within the institution it can sometimes be hard to find things. There are, for example, lots of ways to get funding for projects or trips, but no one will exactly advertise it--you'll have to go digging around until you hit the right person. The professors can often be a bit too big for their britches--most universities cannot fund personal assistants for tenured faculty, for example...it seems to breed a self-importance that's a bit strange compared to other places.

Then there is the H-bomb. Once you go to Harvard, you'll always have it. It is enigmatic to those on the outside. And people will have an opinion or feeling about it before they even get to know you (talking about career-life especially). You get used to it, but it is a bit bizarre to figure out when it is you want to drop the H-bomb (to say you went to Harvard), and when you catch yourself keeping it quiet. Anyways, especially for undergrad, this will be true of most of the Ivy League schools, but especially Harvard (and Yale). In this sense, it can be insular and insider feeling which is just a new and specific thing to maneuver.

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