Ay prefrosh: LISTEN UP.
My name is Josh. Not to be confused with Josh from FM’s Advice to Josh column, which you should check out (here, here, or here). Anyways, I’m a very different Josh, though I too am a freshman here at the College. “The College” obviously refers to Harvard College. As you’ll soon learn, Harvard has its own lingo for everything (here’s a guide to get you started).
Many of you have lots of questions as you decide where to attend school, and consequently, once you choose Harvard, you may have questions about the transition and what life will be like here on campus. As the most freshman member of FM, I’ve been selected to answer some representative questions that the most ambitious of you have posted in your Facebook group (along with some questions I may or may not have come up with myself).
Here they are:
So, I’m trying to decide between Harvard/Stanford/MIT/[insert small liberal arts school here]/Sewanee/Yale...etc. What do I do?
Congratulations! What you lack in humility you make up for in acceptance letters. Fishing for compliments isn’t a Harvard-specific term per se, but after seeing some of the open posts it might as well be. Real advice? Visit schools. If time or financial constraints prevent physical trips, or if you’re nervous about traveling to New Haven, get on the schools’ websites and start fishing around—see what speakers are coming, what events are listed under student life, and what the academic program is like. Do they have a chorus group to fit your style? Do they offer falconry lessons? After you’ve given off the façade that it was a tough decision, choose Harvard.
Are the classes really hard?
Great question youngin’. For the five of you that don’t come from Boston Latin or Trinity, there will definitely be an adjustment period. Hate sleeping on Thursday nights? Take CS50, Ec10 and Math 25 all of which have P-Sets due Friday. Looking for an easier course load? Throw in a gem or two. Still wondering what a gem is? Ask any undergrad that doesn’t spend the majority of his or her time in Lamont. Don’t know what Lamont is? (You didn’t read the guide I posted above—I don’t appreciate it.)
What type of social events does Harvard have for students?
1. A football game between H & Y that represents the oldest rivalry in college sports, with its origins in 1875.
2. The one day a year when Harvard students pretend like they care about sports
3. A raging weekend involving everyone…even freshmen.
Freshman Formal: This one is too good to be true. I don’t care who you are: you’re excited and getting dressed up for formal. From that cute girl in your Government section to your future best man, everyone will be there. Not sure whether or not to take a date? Couldn’t tell you. But, a bit of advice—learn from the Class of 2017 and don’t over do it, lest the venue decide to shut down the event for everyone.
Freshman-Faculty Dinner: Odds are, if you don’t go to Harvard/Yale or Freshman Formal, you’ll probably go to this one.
What’s up with all these weirds posts in the Facebook group?
I feel you on this one. A few days after I decided to enroll I hit up the Facebook group to see endless replies to “what’s your favorite vocabulary word?!” I had not heard of a single word posted. Nor could I pronounce them. Who were the 56 people responding? Where did they come from, and how did they know what an “eccedentesiast” is? Let’s just say while hundreds of kids are super active on Facebook, there are tons of other kids who look on in astonishment just like you. And, who knows, maybe that Facebook-celeb might end up being one of your best friends. Don’t have the mulligrubs. (See, maybe you can learn a thing or two from your soon-to-be peers!)
So, I want to have a joint concentration in biomedical engineering and human evolutionary biology but the junior year tutorial conflicts with what will be my math secondary’s mandatory Combinatorics at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays in 2017. What do I do?
What you need to do is chill.
I’ve heard that professors at Harvard don’t pay attention to their students because they’re all just there to do their own scholarly research. Is that true?
Harvard has a bad reputation for teachers who don’t care about their students. To all those haters perpetuating this erroneous image: stop. You’re not helping anyone. I’ve been blown away by the effort that teachers (in each of the eight courses I’ve taken thus far) have made to reach out to the students. From mandatory individual writing workshops to the Freshman-faculty dinner, you will have plenty of opportunities to meet some of the most distinguished scholars in the world. The professors are Harvard’s greatest asset. After the $32 billion endowment, that is.
Do people at Harvard do extracurriculars?
What do you think? Obviously. Next year, you’ll go to an activities fair where each club has a booth promoting their interests, some of which are dedicated to activities you could not fathom in your wildest dreams. Check it. Don’t see a club you’re looking for? Harvard (especially career counselors) encourages students to start one of their own. I’d highly encourage you to go check out as many clubs as you’re interested in. Exposing yourself to a wide range of people will make your time here all the more interesting. Pro-tip: If you want to annoy your roommate, just put down his email instead of yours on all the lists.
Farewell for now, but keep sending in those questions for next year.