What is it Like to Attend Harvard University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jonathan is a 2011 graduate of Harvard University where he studied Philosophy. He currently tutors in Los Angeles, specializing in a multitude of subjects including Statistics tutoring, SAT prep tutoring, ACT prep tutoring, and Chemistry tutoring. See what he had to say about his time at Harvard:


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

Jonathan: Cambridge is very easy to navigate. Campus is pretty much totally flat and everyone walks or bikes to class. There is also a subway stop right in the middle of Harvard Square and Boston is an easy 20-minute commute away. I think one of the best features of Harvard is its location right outside of the college-mecca of Boston. There’s always something fun and interesting going on.

VT: How helpful are the academic advisors?

Jonathan: The academic advisors at Harvard are top-notch. Every student has multiple advisors (professors, RA’s, upperclassmen) assigned to them and they are all quite friendly and helpful. My freshman year academic adviser is the reason that I ended up graduating as a Philosophy major!

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

Jonathan: Dorm life at Harvard is great. 99% of students live on campus because the housing is so awesome. All upperclassman students are assigned to 1 of 12 upperclassman houses. Each house has its own dining hall, library, class rooms, gyms, etc. My house even had 4 squash courts in the basement. People play intramural sports for their houses (it gets pretty competitive) and each house has its own graduation ceremony for its seniors where you get your actual diploma.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Jonathan: The most popular majors at Harvard are easily Economics and Government. However, there are a plethora of other majors available and if there’s something you want to study that Harvard doesn’t officially offer, you can petition the school and literally create your own area of study.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman?

Jonathan: As a freshman, it was very easy to meet people and make friends. The Harvard community is phenomenal and nearly everyone I met was extremely friendly and interesting. 

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

Jonathan: OCS (Office of Career Services) is very helpful. While I knew that I was going to graduate school (and thus didn’t spend much time there), all of my friends who were trying to get a job right of college told me that OCS was a great resource.

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

Jonathan: The Harvard library system is second to none. The school actually has 12 libraries on campus (plus 12 more, one in each of the upperclassman houses, for a grand total of 24). There is literally no book that Harvard does not have in the reserves or cannot get you. The student body is extremely studious and come finals period, it’s not surprising to see kids literally camped out (tents, sleeping bags, and all) in one of the libraries.

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? 

Jonathan: Cambridge is a great little city that has been built up around Harvard’s campus. It has a plethora of restaurants and shops, a movie theater, etc. Cambridge also happens to be situated right along the Charles river, which is beautiful in the spring and fall. And once you get bored of Cambridge, historic Boston (which speaks for itself) is just a short subway ride away. With 50+ colleges and universities in the greater Boston area, there are college students everywhere.

VT: How big or small is the student body and how does that affect your experience?

Jonathan: The undergraduate student body at Harvard is right around 7,000 (~1,700 per class). I think it’s a perfect size for a college as it’s large enough to allow you to constantly meet new people but small enough where you don’t just feel like a number. I never had a problem getting into the classes that I wanted or getting in to see a professor.

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

Jonathan: One of my favorite classes that I took at Harvard was a senior seminar entitled “The Science of Happiness.” It was taught by a Harvard Medical School professor and only 20 students were permitted to enroll. We read about and discussed fascinating research into the psychological and neurobiological underpinnings of happiness – from chemical stimulation to friendship to love. It was extremely interesting and a class that I will never forget. 

Check out Jonathan’s tutoring profile.

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