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Harvard University

How this student rated the school
Educational QualityA- Faculty AccessibilityA
Useful SchoolworkA+ Excess CompetitionB-
Academic SuccessA Creativity/ InnovationA+
Individual ValueB+ University Resource UseB+
Campus Aesthetics/ BeautyA+ FriendlinessB
Campus MaintenanceA Social LifeB
Surrounding CityA+ Extra CurricularsA+
SafetyB+
Describes the student body as:
Friendly, Arrogant, Approachable

Describes the faculty as:
Friendly, Helpful, Arrogant

Male
SAT1600
Quite Bright
Lowest Rating
Excess Competition
B-
Highest Rating
Useful Schoolwork
A+
He rated most things higher than other students did.
Date: Aug 16 2004
Major: Economics (This Major's Salary over time)
Harvard University is an unusual institution. It holds the distinction of being one of the most famous (if not the most famous) schools in the world. Because of that, it attracts a lot of criticism, some of it disingenuous at best. Although I have only completed 1 year, I will endeavor to give an accurate account of the school.

The most important thing about Harvard is the other students. I have met more unbelievably talented students in my one year here than I thought possible. The quality of students in the math and physics departments is truly astounding—no matter how smart you think you are, there will be many people here to challenge you. On the whole, the people I met were very friendly and interesting, if somewhat driven. It might be a problem for some people to suddenly be in a place where they are no longer the top dog academically, though it seems most students adjust fairly quickly My main negative comments about the other students are that they do tend to be VERY driven (you really almost have to be to even get in) and not openly eccentric. Though in any school with as many smart people as Harvard has there will be some oddballs, most students seem to want to put on a veneer of total control and normality. MIT, where I almost went, does seem to have a more open environment for the truly odd. Also, at least some of the students are very smart, but not intellectual—they do work to get a good resume to get a good job to be rich…They are nice people, but I was hoping for more rampant intellectualism.

I am a southerner, and politically conservative. The campus overall is very liberal and quite secular. However, there is a pretty good spirit of debate, and it is not the case that most classes are over political, or that conservative students feel threatened or lack administration support. There is some, but not too much, radicalism on campus. By and large, people are liberal personally, but way to busy to protest and march about.

So far, my coursework has been superb. Though some of the CORE classes are not that challenging and designed to fulfill non-major requirements (poets' math type thing), all of the classes I took, including a Core philosophy class, were interesting and well taught. The physics, math, and economics classes are quite difficult—for freshman honors mechanics, I probably spent 10-15 hours a week on the problem sets. The Faculty are brilliant, but their pedagogical abilities vary significantly. There is little hand-holding, but with perseverance and some research, it is easy to find a great, great education. On the other hand, it is possible to just limp along, taking not-too-challenging courses; the education is largely what you make of it.

The Campus is attractive, and there are lots of nice shops and eateries, although many are bit too pricy for the starving student (Burdicks has great hot chocolate, superb for a nice date…at 4 bucks a mug! The River Houses (I live in Winthrop) are bit crowded but still pleasant. Boston is a cool place, but I really did not find myself going into the city that much as there was usually something on campus to do. All the academic facilities are nice, once won gets over the architectural atrocity that is the Science Center. The food is pretty good by college standards (at least it compares favorably with all of the other schools I have visited, save Middlebury College).

Now, I am probably not qualified to talk about social life, but here goes. A lot of kids complain about the party scene. I did not go to any parties (I do not like crowds) so I do not really know. There are parties and things going on most weekends, but I have heard they are lame. There is less of a culture of partying here than at some other schools, but it is available if that is what you are into. I had a great time socially hanging out with friends, going to concerts and plays, watching movies, and traveling with some clubs and student organizations. The university does not make much of an effort to provide any unified social experiences—we do not even have a student center. I think this makes Harvard feel less like a community. I am in a relationship, but I think there is less of a culture of dating and more random hooking up than might be desirable.

The administration of the school is very good—there is not a lot of paperwork, it is easy to get into classes, and things seem to be run efficiently in general. There are vast resources for those who access them, but the school does a poor job advertising some their services.

Summary: Hard classes, smart but driven students, very very smart faculty, lots to do, mediocre parties, nice facilities.

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