Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 6,788
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Somewhat Flexible
Academic Rating: 5
1. Putnam Investments
2. Akuna Capital
3. Atlantic Media
5. Environmental Defense Fund
1. McKinsey & Company
2. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
3. Jane Street Capital
3. Goldman Sachs
4. McKinsey & Company
2. New York City
3. San Francisco
4. Washington, DC
5. Los Angeles
College Scorecard (Early Career): $89,700
EOP (Early Career): $81,500
PayScale (Mid-Career): $146,800
The oldest university in the United States, founded 140 years before the United States itself was even a concept, it is also the most iconic and, in many ways, revered institution of higher learning. Worldwide, Harvard is the envy of other universities and the dream destination for countless teenage geniuses and overachievers. For 6,800 young people, the Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is their reality, and learning from Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and global leaders in every field is an everyday occurrence.
There are fifty undergraduate fields of study referred to as concentrations; many are interdisciplinary. Nearly 3,900 courses are on the menu, so learning options are extensive. Core requirements are minimal outside of expository writing, which all freshmen must conquer, proficiency in a foreign language (which must be achieved by the end of sophomore year), and a trek through the program in general education. The latter requirement ensures that undergrads are exposed to four main areas: aesthetics and culture, ethics and civics; histories, societies, and individuals; and science and technology in society. Roughly half of the students complete some type of senior thesis, but there are no requirements in that area.
Even with a graduate population of almost 14,000 to cater to, undergraduate class sizes still tend to be on the smaller side with 42 percent of sections having single-digit enrollments. Graduates report an 82 percent satisfaction rate with the experience within their academic concentration. Summer research experiences are taken advantage of by 38 percent of the student body. Approximately 60 percent of students study abroad at a number of locations in South America, Africa, Europe, or Asia.
Economics, government, and computer science are the three most popular areas of concentration at Harvard. Those programs, along with ones in biology, chemistry, physics, math, statistics, sociology, history, English, and psychology all sit atop most departmental ranking lists. The university also occupies the top position in the all- time Rhodes Scholar rankings with 347 to its credit, more than the combined total from Stanford, Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Cornell, and Columbia. The list of all-time alumni accolades could go on forever and includes ninety-six Nobel Laureates and eight US presidents.
Possessing a bottomless endowment, the school never needs to cut corners on any programs, campus infrastructure, or amenities—and it shows. Freshmen live together at a centralized campus location adjacent to the famed Harvard Yard and then, as sophomores, move into one of twelve stately, upper-class houses, each with its own set of traditions and sense of community. Greek life, once thriving, has taken a dip in recent years after university officials enacted new regulations to deter membership in single-sex clubs. Students who participate forfeit eligibility for leadership positions in athletics or student government and will not be recommended for prestigious scholarships. Fortunately, a bevy of other social clubs exist in the form of 450 student-run organizations including the history-rich Hasty Pudding Club and the Phillips Brooks House Association that runs eighty-six volunteer organizations. Of course, studying is also a popular “hobby,” and the Harvard Library is the largest academic library in the world and boasts a staff of nearly 800. The Harvard Crimson is a premier college newspaper with a long and storied history—Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy are among its alums— and The Harvard Lampoon is one of the world’s oldest humor magazines, one that has helped launch talents ranging from John Updike to Conan O’Brien. Athletics also play a prominent role in Harvard’s culture, both past and present, as the school fields forty NCAA Division I sports teams, evenly split between men’s and women’s squads. Cambridge itself is a bustling hub of culture, nightlife, and entertainment. Downtown Boston is only a twelve- minute ride away on the city’s easily accessible public transit system.
The Center for Career Development (CCD) has nineteen professional staff members (excluding students, assistants, and IT staff) who are dedicated to tasks including employer relations, career counseling, and summer funding opportunities. The 352:1 student- to-advisor ratio is about average compared to other schools featured in this guide. Yet, the closer you look into Harvard’s career services, locating another “average” feature is a nearly impossible task.
The CCD hosts more than 300 events annually that are attended by 9,600 students. It also organizes twenty independent career fairs, each targeting a particular sector that attracts just under 6,000 net attendees. The OCS logs 6,700 advising appointments per year and manages to engage with 70 percent of the total undergraduate student body. Crimson Careers, the office’s online database, posts 8,000+ jobs/internships from thousands of unique employers. On-campus recruiting occurs on a regular basis with 180 employers, including just about any big-name company you can think of, conducting over 5,100 interviews on site in Cambridge. More than three-quarters of students participate in a summer internship during their four years of study. In short, career services are what you would expect from America’s preeminent university—exceptional.
The Crimson class of last year saw 15 percent of students head directly into graduate/professional school. Of the 65percent of graduates entering the world of work, 18 percent were entering the financial services field, another 18percent were entering the world of consulting, and technology/engineering attracted 14 percent. Over 1,000 Harvard alumni presently work for Google and over 500 for Microsoft, McKinsey & Company, and Goldman Sachs. More than250 are employed at Amazon, Facebook, and Bain & Company. Post graduation, Harvard students tend to cluster in three main states —New York, California, and Massachusetts. Those three states collectively reel in 57 percent of newly minted alumni. Remuneration is excellent with 53 percent of graduates reporting starting salaries over $70k and 11percent taking home $110k+ in base pay. By midcareer, grads have the third highest median salaries in the Ivy League. Turning our attention to those moving on to graduate school, Harvard grads with at least a 3.5 GPA typically enjoy acceptance rates into medical school of 90 percent or greater, demolishing the national average. Harvard grads tendto trade one high prestige school for another when pursuing an advanced degree. Many also stay close to home—Harvard Medical School (HMS), Harvard Law School, and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences all accept more Harvard College graduates than those from any other single institution. It is estimated that approximately one-fifth of the HMS student body already spent four years in Cambridge as an undergraduate.
• “I always say that the location is the trifecta. We have our own little college town with everything you need in Harvard Square. You also have the rest of Cambridge around you with bigger stores, like Target. Then Boston is a 15-minute ride on the red line [on the MBTA.]”
• “The culture is very hospitable to students. It’s a huge college town, as is Boston, so it’s very welcoming to see a lot of young people.”
• “It’s very accessible to other places whether you’re walking, biking, taking public transit, or driving.”
• “If you like red brick, there’s a lot of red brick [laughs]. Harvard Square has a nice, warm vibe.”
• “It gets cold here. It’s very cold right now. If you don’t like cold weather, I would not recommend coming here.”
• “I think sometimes Cambridge can be a little isolating. People are all fairly similar to each other and living together outside of Boston. I think that can cause a bubble.”
• “Traffic is awful. Harvard Square is an old place so they don’t have the best system.”
• “The opportunities it gives you really open your mind and a lot of doors. The Harvard name is nothing to be shy about, it opens opportunities.”
• “The people. It’s super diverse and people are really passionate about something similar to you or someone who is weirdly passionate about something else. It’s really fun to sit down and have conversations with people who come from different places and are passionate about different things.”
• “The academic facilities are incredible. Every field has a lot going on.”
• “The connections. There are a lot of successful Harvard alumni who are willing to help out Harvard kids.”
• “Harvard Square in Boston is a great location to go to college. It’s a fun place to be with restaurants, late-night food, and other college students nearby. You can even cross-register for courses at MIT.”
• “If you are someone who doesn’t do well under social pressure. If you were thinking about going to a school with a frat party life and the reason you didn’t go there is that you didn’t think you would do well in that environment, you probably shouldn’t go to Harvard because it can be similar.”
• “If you’re somebody who is super competitive and gets paranoid when you hear your friend got an interview with a certain company and you didn’t. If that’s going to make you explode, then maybe Harvard isn’t the place for you.”
• “The extracurricular scene, although I do think it’s amazing, it also can be exclusive in its own way. For some clubs, you have to apply, audition, or try out, and it can be a semester-long process and you still might not get in. There are some organizations that have [single-digit] acceptance rates. You can’t come to Harvard and do exactly
what you want to do all the time because you have to compete against other Harvard students.” [See The Crimson article, “Comping Harvard.”]
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