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Harvard University

July 4, 2011 / Posted by in Blog

(Written by Julia H.)
Founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the United States. Harvard’s impressive rankings and Ivy League status may give off the impression that Harvard would have a stuck up and arrogant environment. However, the impression the school wishes to make on its prospective students is much less Ivy League and a little more down to earth than would be expected.

On Tour at Harvard

Engaging all visitors in an “open circle” style information session, Harvard presents its visitors with an admissions counselor and a current student who are more than willing to answer any questions. They encourage each and every student to apply there. Harvard’s more than accommodating attitude towards its prospective students was both impressive and admirable.

Harvard emphasizes the importance of “class bonding” instead of bonding as a school. Freshmen eat together in Annenberg Hall, a dining center reserved strictly for freshmen. Furthermore, upperclassmen live in specific housing for the last three years of their undergraduate study. Of the upperclassmen, one of the current students admitted that, “when you first arrive at Harvard, the upperclassmen can be intimidating. I enjoyed dining at Annenberg because everyone else is trying to find new friends too. I wouldn’t want to sit down by accident with a senior working hard on their thesis.”

The Accessible Education Office specializes in students with learning disabilities. Of their office services Harvard writes, “The Accessible Education Office assesses eligibility for services and accommodations, and collaborates with faculty and staff to ensure individualized implementation of recommended services, including accessible coursework, housing, transportation and activities.” Harvard is in actuality very supportive and understanding of those who have proven disabilities. They even encourage those who are comfortable to let the school know during the application process so that Harvard can take it into account when reviewing the application.

It was shocking to discover how supportive Harvard is of students who take gap years. While most schools have little to no experience in that field, over 100 students in the past year deferred acceptance to Harvard to pursue another activity for a year and did not have to reapply as a transfer student unless they took academic courses for credit. Harvard claims that once a student is into Harvard, they are into Harvard for life. One extreme example would be the lead singer of the band Weezer, who never graduated from Harvard until about 5 years ago when he returned to complete his final year.

Of course, none of this is to say that the average Harvard student isn’t achieving at a much higher level than most students. In fact, Harvard warns prospective students that having a pristine application doesn’t guarantee admission. Harvard looks for a diverse student body that can bring something new to the table, even though they could fill a whole class with just students who are valedictorians, have a perfect 2400s, class presidents and varsity athletes.

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