5 Things to Know Before Applying to Harvard University

5 Things to Know Before Applying to Harvard University

Harvard almost needs no introduction. The oldest school in the U.S. (1636, folks), this is definitely the big leagues.

If you’re planning on applying to Harvard, you already know that it’s renowned for it’s top-notch business, medical and law schools, but there isn’t anything they don’t excel at, and they come in a more-than-respectable number 2 in the U.S. News rankings.

With the largest endowment of any private university, when you think Harvard, you should think resources and connections, and that ain’t bad. More U.S. Presidents have gone to Harvard than any other school, and we won’t even try to count the other movers and shakers who called it home for a few years.

Bill Gates attended harvard

The school’s distinguished alumni remain connected to the school, both financially and emotionally, making it truly a lifelong connection. This is not just a place to get a great education and an expensive piece of paper, when you join the ranks of Harvard students and alumni, you join a distinctive group for life.

Students who go to Harvard are not just academic overachievers, but tend to have a unique charisma. These are kids who are as comfortable behind a book as they are behind a podium, holding their own in a debate. While Harvard attracts students of all academics interests, it holds a particular appeal for those who echo the magnetism the school itself puts out—natural leaders and change makers.

1. Know the Harvard Lingo

First things first, Harvard is in Cambridge, NOT Boston. This might seem minor, but hear us out. While Boston is just a stop or two away on the T, Cambridge, in all it’s old-world, New England charm, deserves it’s distinction, and Harvard-goers and locals will thank you to make it. By the way, it’s the T, not the “subway” or the “metro,” and don’t you forget it. Noticing a pattern here?

There is an “in-the-know” air about Harvard, and if you want in, you gotta speak the lingo. Just don’t go around saying you’ll “pahk your cah in Hah-vahd yahd.” Some jokes DO get old. (And yes, Bostonians really do speak like that, but you probably won’t find them at Hah-vahd.)

2. Whatever floats your boat…

Quite literally, in fact. The nearby Charles River is among the premier venues for crew, and hosts one of the most competitive regattas anywhere. But if that’s not your cup of tea, Harvard has something for everyone, and while many schools say that, few can boast such a breadth of offerings at such top-notch levels.

Whether you want to tour Cuba with the jazz band or go on to become an Oscar nominee, Harvard has the program for you. Though we don’t recommend pursuing an arts major if you’re going to be taking out student loans. Harvard’s value for the well-rounded student is evident on their application—the focus of their supplementary essays is on what you do besides academics.

Want to know more about how and where to get involved at Harvard? Let Harvard’s seniors tell you in their own voices on this advice podcast about how to spend your “2 million minutes” on campus.


>> Recommended Reading: 5 Things to Know Before Applying to Columbia University


3. Experience Quaint, New England Living

You should expect quaint charm in New England’s oldest college campus, and Harvard does not disappoint. This is a place that attracts tourists by the thousands, but none of them get to experience Harvard as the students do.

From living on hallowed Harvard Yard as a freshman to joining one of the 12 Houses as an upperclassmen, replete with your own dining hall, study space, and proud traditions, student life at Harvard is full of old world, collegiate charm. Expect your Insta to be flooded with picturesque shots of the Yard in full fall colors come October!

4. Get Your A-Team Together

Did we mention that Harvard, like a diamond, is forever? One of the unique benefits of attending Harvard is joining the ranks of an alumni community that is uniquely proud of their collegiate heritage. This also means that the college friendships you form could prove to form a valuable network in your professional life.

The school’s recent move to cut out Greek life and the exclusive “Final Clubs,” citing damaging effects to campus life, has caused a flurry of controversy. While some students have argued that these organizations are crucial aspects of campus life, allowing them to make the social connections vital during the undergraduate years, others agree with the move, offering rare insight into the differing views on elitism within the Yard.

Regardless of where you fall in this debate, it can’t be disputed that Harvard, with some of the most distinguished alumni out there, will provide invaluable opportunity for building connections.


>> Recommended Reading: 5 Things to Know Before Applying to Stanford University


5. The False Statue

Every campus has its quirks, and sitting right at Harvard’s center is a quirk in bronze. The John Harvard statue, erected to honor the school’s namesake, is actually an ironic conundrum contrary to Harvard’s motto, “veritas,” or truth. The irony arises from the statues many “lies,” chiefly that the statue does not depict John Harvard but a student, chosen as a model for his blue-blooded descent from old New England families.

The statue’s engraving also falsely gives the school’s founding date as 1638, and gives Harvard the credit of “founder,” when most contend that he was merely the chief benefactor of the school.


Want to read posts like this about other schools? Check out our 5 Things To Know Blog Series.

5 Things to Know Before Applying to Columbia University