Should I Go To Harvard University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Michele is a Chicago tutor specializing in LSAT prep tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, AP English tutoring, and more. She is a graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor’s degree in English. Check out her review of her alma mater:

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?

Michele: Harvard is nestled in the middle of the town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, right off of one of the public transit train stops (the “T” train). It is very easy to get around by public transit, and most students do not have or need cars (in fact, those who had cars often found them to be more trouble than they were worth given the cost of parking!).

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

Michele: Professors, academic advisors, and teaching assistants are happy to make themselves available, but in order to make sure you have the best experience, be sure to take the initiative to seek them out. Make a note of professors’ and teaching assistants’ office hours and go to them. Be ready with a specific question related to the class’s topic and be prepared to engage in a lively academic debate. Almost always, they will be glad you took the time to show up!

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

Michele: Harvard has a system of “houses”, rather than dormitories, which goes back hundreds of years (literally!). Almost every house has its own dining hall, library, and common room. Although this is less true than in the past, each house has its own personality. Adams House, for example, was known to be academic and a bit quirky. A lot of the socialization on campus is based around the house you live in after your freshman year, so take advantage of dances / social hours at your house early on. You won’t regret it, and your house may come to feel like a home.

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?

Michele: Harvard has an excellent academic reputation, so it is difficult to identify particular programs or majors that stand out from others. Every major, from the fine arts to liberal arts to sciences, to engineering and mathematics has a stellar reputation, so it’s hard to go wrong. I studied English, in part because I was particularly impressed with the school’s wide and deep offerings in Shakespearian studies. The university did an excellent job supporting my interest, and I was even able to help start a student organization that performed Shakespeare’s plays each semester.

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?

Michele: Harvard is a large university, even though its undergraduate campus can feel small. Many of my friendships from my freshman year began with my roommates and the people I met in different extracurricular activities. Greek life does not play a significant role in campus life. Especially early on, make the effort to talk to and get to know other students. This won’t happen quite as easily as it would at a smaller school, but if you put in the effort, you’ll be well-rewarded (and you are likely to find that other students are eager to get to know their classmates as well).

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

Michele: Harvard’s Career Center is excellent, and in particular, the resume preparation advice I received there was invaluable (almost 15 years later, I still have and refer people to Harvard’s resume guide!). When it comes to recruiting, Harvard’s reputation will bring many companies to your doorstep. Almost any large company recruiting undergraduates will seek out and interview Harvard students. It will be up to you to close the deal, though!

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

Michele: Harvard’s libraries are, in a word, gorgeous. And they are also excellent places to go to study. The Loker Reading room in Widener library is a beautiful and quiet place to focus and prepare for finals, for example. Because Harvard has houses rather than dorms, the house libraries are often where students study. Again, these are beautiful spaces and do not tend to be overcrowded. Don’t expect them to be boisterous – students are serious about study time!

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? 

Michele: One common joke among Harvard students was that a student was more likely to visit New York City than downtown Boston. It’s surprisingly easy to get to New York City from Cambridge, and many students make the trip on the weekends. The city of Cambridge is a nice college town with a mix of coffee shops, book stores, and small restaurants. There isn’t a large bar scene but there are a variety of small pubs. The movie, Good Will Hunting, wasn’t far off here!

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

Michele: Harvard’s undergraduate student body is approximately 4,000 students – larger than many students think. Class sizes vary widely and shrink significantly (from over 100 students to 6-10 students) once you begin taking upper-level classes. One little-known fact is that some graduate courses can be open to undergraduate students upon permission of the professor. If you develop a good relationship with a professor early on, consider asking that professor if you might be able to take his or her graduate-level course.

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

Michele: One of my favorite Harvard memories is a lecture a professor gave on the life and work of the author, Virginia Woolf. She cared so passionately about the subject and constructed the lecture so well that it went far beyond being informative – it was powerful and moving. That’s the only time I have ever seen a spontaneous standing ovation for a lecture!

Check out Michele’s tutoring profile.

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