A Student Review of Harvard University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Lauren graduated from Harvard University in 2013 where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. She currently tutors several subjects in Washington D.C., specializing in AP U.S. History tutoring, French tutoring, and Essay Editing tutoring. Check out her review of Harvard University:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Lauren: The campus is embedded in the historical city of Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston. You have easy access to the Boston subway and bus system, but Cambridge and the campus itself are extremely walkable with many bike paths. I love that Cambridge has all the excitement and entertainment of city life, but that it retains the charm and history that makes it special.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Lauren: While professors are a little busier, they constantly offer scheduled office hours, and they are eager to talk with students. They are so pleased when a student conveys special interest in their teaching, so do not hesitate to sign up for a meeting! Advisers and teaching assistants make every effort to be available whenever you need them, and they are very approachable and passionate about helping you succeed.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Lauren: Dorm life is unique at Harvard in that all the freshmen live in Harvard Yard, the heart of campus and Cambridge. They are then sorted into “houses” at the end of their first year, in which they reside for sophomore year onward. It is a lot like Harry Potter in that there is a lot of house pride (and friendly competition with other houses), but you get to choose who you will live with! All freshmen eat together in Annenberg dining hall, but every house has its own dining hall, so everyone gets to know each other and to help foster house spirit. You are free to dine in any hall you like, so your community can be as large or small as you want! There are endless opportunities to meet others through study breaks, campus groups, intramural sports—you name it!

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Lauren: I can honestly say that all academic programs are thoroughly represented and supported. I studied anthropology because I have always been interested in why and how we divide into our social groups and settings, and anthropology encourages an intimate, participant observation of the interactions that shape our cultural lives. I felt extremely supported and constantly motivated to pursue innovative and rigorous academic pursuits.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Lauren: There is not a whole lot of Greek life, though I chose to join a sorority. I found it easy to make friends due to the huge variety of interests represented on campus. There are over 400 official student groups, teams, and clubs (and that is just the official ones!), so you are bound to find people who share your passions.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Lauren: The Career Center is very helpful if you take the time to make your goals and interests clear to them. Hundreds of companies recruit every year on campus, from large investment banks and consulting firms to non-profits and graduate schools.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Lauren: Harvard unfortunately lacks a student union, but there are ample libraries of all sizes and resources scattered around campus. It is easy to find somewhere that suits your study style, whether that is dead silence or light chatter, bright lights or subtle ambiance, or even comfortable leather couches or large, sturdy tables.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Lauren: Harvard Square is a lot of fun, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops to keep you busy. But after a while, you may become bored of the same activities and feel trapped in a bubble. That is what Boston is for! It is so close and easy to get to, and too many students forget about it. There is also more to Cambridge than Harvard Square—just hop on the subway and you are one stop away from a different world!

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Lauren: The undergraduate student body is roughly 7,000 people, so it is a medium-sized school. I was pleased that most of my classes were small seminars, which is true of most majors/fields of study. The largest classes are your introductory lectures, such as economics or math, but taking those is entirely dependent on your academic path.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Lauren: I loved writing my senior thesis with my favorite professor as my adviser and mentor. I got so much one-on-one time, and I was able to truly pick his brain, as well as get to know him as the awesome person he is. I am exceedingly proud of my thesis because I was so dedicated, and my professor made the experience of researching and writing over 100 pages fun! It taught me to believe in my abilities and never shy away from a daunting task, especially when you have the help of someone who truly wants you to succeed. 

Check out Lauren’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.