The Harvard University College Experience

Ashleigh earned her bachelor’s degree in visual and environmental studies from Harvard University. She specializes in algebra tutoring, biology tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at Harvard University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Ashleigh: Harvard University's campus is very urban, and is generally stress-free to traverse.  Sometimes, however, you may need to rush in order to reach your next class before "Harvard Time" is up (in other words, before seven minutes has passed since the start of class). The campus setting is wonderful because it is usually covered in lawn chairs; so, if you ever have a break and want to sit and study, eat lunch, or relax with friends, you can do so here.

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

Ashleigh: All professors, advisors, and teaching assistants are very available. They are genuinely excited to work with the students and know that when students put in the extra effort to know a subject intimately, it will have a large impact on their performance in the class and in their academic future. The vast majority of professors are available during office hours and welcome any student with any kind of question, related to the class or not.

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

Ashleigh: Dorm life is vibrant and engaging, but can also be draining at times. If you are an introvert, meal times can be difficult because you must eat in the dining hall for all meals. In general, socialization took place on your watch and by your own initiation. There were always events going on in the dorms and in the Harvard community.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Ashleigh: Economics, government, and social studies have a heavy presence on campus. Most of the people you meet intend to concentrate in these fields. My field of study was visual and environmental studies. I started off my time at Harvard expecting to concentrate in molecular and chemical biology; however, the classes were challenging and I found the intensity of the other students discouraging. The university generally supported my area, but I do wish there had been more talks, resources, and focus around the visual arts.

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?

Ashleigh: Greek life does hold a lot of meaning for many students, but I chose not to participate. My best friends freshman year were my roommates and my floormates. Nothing beats laughing and chatting with your neighbors at 2:00 AM.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?

Ashleigh: It can be hit and miss with these services, generally. It really depends on what you need. For the most part, the best way to reach your goal is by paving the path yourself. Traditional networking, exposure, and building the right skills are the tools that will get you the job you want. Reputable companies do recruit on campus.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Ashleigh: The most popular and comfortable library is Lamont, but there are other spaces located all across campus that are good for studying as well. Each dorm also has multiple study spaces, some of which allow for more noise and collaboration. There isn't exactly a student union, but there are nooks and crannies across campus that function well for group gatherings.

Describe the surrounding town.

Ashleigh: The surrounding area is Cambridge, with Boston a few stops away on the T (metro). This area, affectionately called Harvard Square, rivals the vibrancy of the Harvard community. It is always buzzing with tourists, intellectuals, students, and more. It is great because the Charles River is about a 15 min walk away from this main area; so, if you want to go on a jog along its banks or just take a stroll over there, it is easy to get to. Most students stay around the Harvard area because it provides most of the entertainment and things you need, but the surrounding towns offer a wide variety of experiences to students as well.

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

Ashleigh: My class was about 1,600 students. In total, there are almost 7,000 undergraduates at the college. I was generally really pleased with the class sizes, but most of my classes only had around 10-15 students in them due to my area of study. For my larger seminar classes, I was in a large lecture hall with many peers, but the size didn't bother me.

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

Ashleigh: I took a horror film class with my favorite teacher. He was amazing because he oozed enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the subject area. He stood out to me because he put himself on the same level as his students. He gave you respect and didn't behave as if you were below him. He had a genuine desire to help you expand your understanding of the field, and he made my semester so much more exciting and refreshing than it ever would have been without this class.


Check out Ashleigh’s tutoring profile.

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