Studying at Harvard

Harvard Students – What Are They Like?

Some students are confirmed scholars, who focus on the library, the lab, or the seminar discussion. Some are community volunteers who spend time and energy on significant political or social work. Some are journalists who organise their lives around newspaper deadlines. There are artists, athletes, actors, musicians, and enthusiasts of many other kinds. Students enter with a wide variety of ultimate goals – many with no clearly defined goals at all. The thing that tends to define a Harvard student is a visible momentum, and a passion for a pursuit or interest that makes them come alive when they talk.

What is a typical week at Harvard like?

Most students will take four courses with 3 hours of class per week, plus possibly a lab or discussion section. This means only about 16 hours per week in class. A typical class schedule might be Monday/Wednesday/Friday from 10-12 and Tuesday/Thursday from 1 – 4, leaving most of MWF afternoons and TTh mornings, plus the whole weekend, for other activities. Academic activities naturally include reading assignments, work on papers and problem sets, meeting with faculty members and advisers, study group meetings plus time for language lab or library research.

Non-academic activities might include daily workouts or practice with an athletic team, rehearsal for a musical or dramatic performance, attendance at a public lecture or seminar, serving meals at a local homeless shelter, paid work in a campus office, plus time for dining, catching a film, sharing news via e-mail, Skype, Facebook or phone with family and friends and yes, time for sleep!

One student's journey through Harvard

Raphaelle Soffe from north Wales was a student at Harvard College in the class of 2021, concentrating in Social Studies (the Harvard PPE).

Aug 2017  Heading to Harvard – Raphaelle tells about her journey to attending Harvard.

Sep 2017  Ordering ‘chips’ is a very different thing here – Her first two weeks.

Oct 2017  A day in the life of a Harvard student – A typical day and why she thinks Harvard has such a high reputation.

Nov 2017  ‘Look, it’s Bernie Sanders!’ – The inspirational speakers and lecturers she encounters at Harvard.

Dec 2017  The international family at Harvard – The importance of a diverse student body and the problems that may arise around integration.

Jan 2018  Getting to grips with US politics – Raphaelle takes part in Harvard Democrat Lobby Day.

Feb 2018  Sexism, safety and strength – How casual sexist comments and on-campus assaults are bringing down Harvard’s commitment to gender equality.

Mar 2018  Vlogging a day at Harvard– Raphaelle takes you around campus and shares her classes before heading into Boston to explore art galleries.

Apr 2018  Cramming my summer with internships – A summer packed full of work experience seems to be the norm for Harvard students.

May 2018  The highs and lows of my first year at Harvard – My good and bad experiences and how they have shaped me.

Jun 2018  Hard work pays when nothing else will – Wealth is hardly and issue in the classroom – but come summer it is an entirely different story.

Jul 2018  Confronting stereotypes and prejudice – Why it’s important to confront your stereotypes.

Aug 2018  Experiencing the US political machine– My internship in the Washington DC office of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Oct 2018  Brits In America: when Harvard visits China – Teaching students in China as part of a Harvard programme inspired Raphaelle to head back to Harvard and take a class in the language.

Nov 2018  Brits in America: the 2018 midterm elections – The US midterm elections caused a divide across the Harvard campus that could be a taste of things to come in 2020.

Dec 2018  Brits in America: tips on applying to US universities as an international student – Applications to US universities aren’t as terrifying as they look.

Jan 2019  Brits in America: social studies? – Raphaelle decided to take a little-known major this year; one that can be compared to one of the most famous degree courses in the world.

Mar 2019  Brits in America: how can universities support students through global tragedies? – Following the terrorist attack in New Zealand, Raphaelle examines the role of universities in supporting their students to become global citizens.

Aug 2019  Brits in America: extracurriculars should not overtake academics, even at Harvard – Spending too much time on extracurricular activities can leave academics on the back-burner.

Jun 2020  International perspective: a British student in the US during lockdown – What it is like to stay at Harvard during the lockdown, and how isolation has made the studying feel more intense.