Harvard University Student Panel

Recorded Tuesday, September 22, 2020 at 11:00 PM

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This livestream was part of the 🎪 Student panel college fair. Recordings for all 100+ Q&A panels are available.

About this livestream

School information

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Ask current Harvard students questions about academics, campus life, dorm living, and more. Livestream viewers will get to vote on questions and ask their own!

Meet the panelists: Joshua, Connor, Claire, Hannah

Joshua is a junior from San Jose, California studying Social Studies (Economics and Philosophy) and Music at Harvard College. He is the Photo Editor of Harvard Yearbook Publications and an Associate Consultant at Harvard Undergraduate Consulting on Business and the Environment (CBE). Outside of school, Joshua enjoys watching and making TikToks, taking photos, and exploring Boston.

Connor is a senior from Hillsboro, Oregon at Harvard College. He is concentrating in Environmental Science & Public Policy with a focus on Economics, and a secondary field (minor) in Neurobiology. He is the President of Harvard Yearbook Publications, a Voting Member on the Harvard College Honor Council, and is currently pursuing environmental policy research with Professor Joseph Aldy and health policy research with Dr. Ashley Nunes and Professor Richard Freeman. Outside of school, he enjoys hiking, camping, making origami, and trying to master all of Julia Child’s recipes.

Claire is a Junior at Harvard, studying Statistics and Philosophy. Throughout her time in college, she has been involved in a variety of extracurriculars, including research, Harvard College Consulting Group, Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and volunteering. Outside of school, she enjoys cooking and Zumba with friends!

Hannah is a junior from Boston, MA studying at Harvard University. She is pursuing a Bachelor's in Social Studies and a minor in Computer Science. She is currently a member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Women's Lightweight Rowing Team and Business Analyst for Global Research and Consulting, an undergraduate organization. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and endurance sports.

Video Transcript

Bryan 0:00

Tonight. Ah, we have our great panelists from Harvard. Here we have Connor, Joshua, Claire, and Hannah. I'm really excited to have them with us tonight to talk a little bit about their experiences at Harvard. For those of you that aren't familiar with CollegeVine, if this is the first time you're you're tuning into one of our events. CollegeVine is a free online guidance platform for high school students and families to help navigate the path to college. Right now, if you can, just let me know in the chat, whether or not you can hear and see us. That would be great.

And from there we can we can move into some introductions. So I think we can start with with Joshua, if you want to just go go forward and introduce yourself, that would be great.

Joshua 0:48

Oops, okay. Yes, definitely. So Hi, everyone. I am Joshua, I am a junior at Harvard studying social studies in economics. And on campus, I participate in a consulting group working with lots of different companies on business strategy. And I'm also the photo editor of Harvard yearbook.

Claire 1:21

All right, I'll introduce myself. Hi, everyone. My name is Claire. And I am currently a junior at Harvard studying statistics and philosophy as a joint concentration in global health as a secondary. And I have an Elliot house, which I don't know if that means anything to you guys. And

in terms of clubs, I am involved with the HR, the Harvard Radcliffe orchestra, I play the violin. I've also been involved with the radio as well as a few pre professional clubs. So in the consulting finance here, and on the side, I also do research.

Connor 1:56

Everyone, I'm Connor, I'm a senior at the college, concentrating environmental science of public policy. And then in addition to my academics, I'm a part of Harvard yearbook publications. I'm the president. And I also do work with honor Council, as well as the hits to the politics, specifically policy research.

Hannah 2:17

Everyone, I'm Hannah, I'm a junior at the college. I live in leveret house, and I study social studies, but a secondary in computer science. I'm also a member of the woman's lightweight rowing team. And I work with global research and consulting, which does consulting for social entrepreneurship organizations.

Bryan 2:39

Great, thanks for for introducing themselves. I'm Brian, I'm going to be your moderator for tonight. I've been with CollegeVine for a few years now. And I'm a current senior at Cornell. But tonight, the focus is going to be on are on Harvard and learning a little bit more about what it's like to be a student at at this amazing University. So we asked the audience, we asked all of you which questions you'd like to see our panel answer first. And the first question we're going to ask, with 74% of the audience asking us what do you write your college essays about? And Joshua, if you want to just jump straight in? That would be great.

Joshua 3:13

Yeah, definitely. So I think, really being able to tell your story is really important. Just because the admissions officers, obviously they don't have a chance to ever talk to you or meet you. So really being able to tell them who you are, and give them the opportunity to kind of analyze and discuss if you would be a good fit in the community is definitely really important. And I think another thing that people definitely overlook sometimes is being super formal in their responses. And don't make it like a legal document with really formal language, it can really be conversational, think about you just telling the story to someone rather than it being like a very structured essay that you would write for a class. So I think those are kind of the two main tips I would touch on. Yeah.

Claire 4:06

Yeah, writing off of what Joshua said, I also agree, some of the best advice I got in terms for people was, you know, I refined my essays many times. And some people at some point said, you know, Claire, this doesn't sound like you. And so I think it's really important to kind of make your voice shine through and you need to, you know, know that your close friends reading it, you know, they have one perspective, but you're also giving your essays to an admission counselor, or whoever else who doesn't really know you. So it's really important for your voice to really shine through because after, you know, if you're we got we really tried to get down to the nitty gritty A lot of times, but also just make sure you don't lose the forest for the trees and the trees for the forest. As for my own essay, I actually wrote a different essay for every school. But I think one of the ones I remember the most is I actually wrote mine on family dynamics, and I kind of related it to my favorite dish and you You know, it was just talking about how you know, the different spices of life so to speak. They all come together to kind of, you know, there's happy, sad, you know, that kind of parallels the sweet and salty or whatever. But all of it together comes together to just be really, at least for me, I felt like I was just trying to convey that, you know, I'm thankful for like a warm family atmosphere. So that's what might not one.

Connor 5:22

Yeah, so Claire's is a great segue into mine. My I also wrote about food as an expression of love. And more broadly, I parallel that to like my interracial identities. I talked about Thanksgiving dinner, where my dad's side, which is, why, and what working class and then I talked about my mom's side, which is educated professional immigrants, and just talked about like navigating both sides of that at a very tense Thanksgiving dinner. And it's funny that we were starting off talking about the personal statement, because I'm now applying to law school. Now thinking about like, how I want to draft this personal statement. So I think just talking about what Joshua and Claire said, it really should be a story that only you can tell. And it's a story where I think if a stranger could walk away from it, do they want to know you? Do they want to learn more about you, again, is it like the only story you could tell? One useful thing that I found was actually reading a lot of memoirs, while reading the personal statement, just to get a sense of how someone with conviction tells their story. And that just helped me develop my own voice?

Hannah 6:33

Yeah, so I would definitely echo what everybody has said, so far. Um, personally, I wrote my common app essay about rhythm and how rhythm kind of appears in pretty much every interest of my life, I used to be a competitive Irish dancer, um, and something that was really important to me. And then it's also something that's pretty important in coordinating rowing, because you're rowing with a bunch of different people. And then I also incorporated that into how like, I think, while I write, and just like how I write in a very methodical way, because reading is something that's important to me, and I see a rhythm in that as well. So I'd say like finding something that kind of appears in different aspects of your life in many different dimensions, and trying to pull that all together to sum up who you are, and tell your story. I'd also recommend sending it to everyone, you know, I sent my essays to my friends, family, anybody that was willing to read it. So definitely get a lot of perspectives on what you've written and feedback, you'll be, you'll be great.

Bryan 7:34

That's out of it's really interesting. You mentioned that about their rhythm I there's one of my, one of my favorite writers, who writes for television, He always talks about how how dialogue is like music to him. And it's really just, it's so interesting how he really does pop up, you know, and you say, this is your, you know, you're not a music major, but this, this comes in everywhere, and it comes with everything. So that's it's really interesting to hear, um, that sounded really great. from, from everybody on definitely seems like, it's, you know, I think one of the takeaways is, it's really important to find something that really fits you, right. And then just to get a lot of feedback on it, which I think is really helpful for the for the audience to hear. So the next question we had the that the audience voted on, was actually wondering about the community and culture I covered on we had 45% of our audience ask about that. Um, so Joshua, could you could you tell us a little bit about what the community and culture is like at Harvard?

Joshua 8:26

Yeah, definitely. So I think community and culture is really formed primarily through the different organizations you can join on campus. So they're different interest space groups, you can join, there's also, you know, like a Chinese Students Association, Asian American student association that a lot of my friends are a part of. So I think, you know, there, there are two different types of groups, you can join the pre professional and then kind of less than, like your identity, and who you kind of fit in with. So I think, for me, a lot of the community I've built is through joining these groups, just because there's so many, even if you have a very niche interest, you can probably find something to fit in. And obviously, if you have similar interests, your kind of foreign bonds and have lots to talk about. Yeah, I think so. Definitely, the student organizations. And you know, everyone there is really, really intelligent, they can bring new perspectives to the table. So I think, you know, these very intellectual conversations they have with people are something I really enjoy. And then another part that's kind of unique to Harvard is the residential life. So if you're a freshman at Harvard, you for the most part live in Harvard Yard. There's some other houses or dorms that are a little bit outside, but you still form your own communities there. But for me, because all the freshmen are centralized in Harvard Yard, and you all eat in the same dining hall. It's a great way to socialize and make new friends. Sometimes Typically towards the beginning of the year, people kind of just sit down next to you and be like, Hey, what's your name? What do you study? What are you interested in? So I think that is a great way to build community your freshman year. And then when you are a sophomore, up until when you graduate, you are placed in two houses. And you kind of form your own communities there because you basically spend the rest of your college time interacting with the same people within your house. Yeah.

Claire 10:33

Yeah, I think Joshua covered everything really well there and explained all the community stuff really well. I think if I'm going to add on a little bit more beyond, you know, the prefer had pre professional groups, and the more cultural, social sort of groups, which I think also, you know, I formed a lot of my closest friends through, I think there's also an element of, I think it's very collaborative culture. And, you know, I've heard all these horror stories of going to college and people being very cutthroat and everything. But you know, I study statistics, and a huge part of it is just up setting. Pisa is just kind of our word for homework weekly, homeworks, or bi weekly, whatever. So there that, you know, I found a lot of friends who, you know, we share similar interests in what we study, and, you know, they always are there for you, and just like, kind of learning together. And I think, you know, something Joshua touched on was the fact that, you know, we have, I think, at Harvard, you know, there there's literally people of all walks of life, people from all backgrounds, all sorts of they have all sorts of interests, you know, they, they were brilliant at whatever they did whatever. And so it's really cool. I think, also being able to talk to a lot of these people. And, you know, just hearing a lot of, you know, people's brainpower kind of bounce off of each other, I think, actually gives really interesting ways of, you know, solving problems, not just, you know, it's that but like everything in every class I've ever taken. And same with extracurriculars. So definitely, I think that people are just really amazing, very collaborative, great to talk to, and there's always something to learn.

Connor 12:03

Yeah, I think Claire and Joshua, have done a great job. Alinea? Yeah, the only thing I would say is some of my best memories have been from classes where collaboration was a huge, like Cornerstone to do well in the class. And just like p setting, with a few people, sometimes all night. It is, I mean, it is difficult. It is difficult curriculum. But yeah, it's like working with others to have been some of my favorite memories. And also just like branching out, and I guess like at least meeting some of the leaders of organizations that I didn't plan on joining. And it ended up be some might like, again, making some of the best memories there. So I would say, I'm definitely trying to like any, like, fair, or whatever. If there are certain clubs where you're like, I don't know, if I'm qualified, for the most part, like they teach you what you need. And a lot of them a lot of the ones that I didn't plan on joining, but just sat on sat in for like five minutes have been the ones I love the most because the culture is so welcoming and inclusive.

Hannah 13:07

Yeah, I definitely agree with particularly the collaboration and really strong community aspect. classes at Harvard are great, but I've learned the most from my peers in the community there. And definitely gotten the most out of that. Um, I will say also, like athletic teams are a super big community as well. And I've gotten a lot of academic and just like, getting gaining knowledge of how to navigate Harvard through older members of my team. So that's been a really, really nice community for me to have.

Bryan 13:38

Thanks. Yeah, I think that that's a you'd really is about and I think countered, sort of, to your point about sort of like, you never know where you're going to find that next community. Right. And you know, and I think, Joshua, you talked a lot about the the house system. And obviously, that's a really great source of community. But it could be from some club that you just, you know, you think, yeah, let's try it, why not. And I think that's, that's really, really interesting to hear, and definitely an encouraging thing for our students to hear, as well. So we are going to move now into the audience q&a portion of the event. So if you have a question that you'd like to ask to our panel, please feel free to submit that in the chat box. Now. And just a reminder, you do need to be logged in to the website to be able to submit questions, so if you haven't already done that, please do so now. And so with our first question we have and this will be for Joshua and Hannah, as well. Um, what was your admissions profile? Like when applying? Was there a big stress on extracurriculars?

Joshua 14:35

Yeah, um, so I guess I can start off this question by addressing my point of view on like, well rounded versus spiked. I think that'll kind of segue into the second part of this question. I think for me, my perspective is that you need to be both you need to be well rounded, have good grades, have good test scores. They don't need to be perfect, but you obviously need to be have a high enough balance. Have urges to demonstrate that you can kind of survive the rigor of being a Harvard student. And then I think extracurricular wise, you should definitely explore different avenues. You know, maybe join some community service clubs, looking into some sort of pre professional group, just to, you know, be able to show colleges that you are interested in a variety of things, and that you can take advantage of the resources that they might provide for you. But now, moving on to the spike part, you also kind of need to have a spike, at least for for going to Harvard or an Ivy League. And perspective that someone told me when I was applying is that when you have a spike in your college application, so for me, that was cello, music I was in the National Youth Orchestra. The fact that you can get to something at like, a very high level or national international level really shows that you're able to persist and continue on even when things get really challenging. Like, you know, if people ask me, my journey with cello, and I started in first grade, like, I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit, and the fact that I was able to kind of remain strong and, you know, deal with all of the difficulties that arose during my journey. As a cellist. I think that really prepared me well for the really rigorous environment and, you know, not giving up when I hit a roadblock, I think that's something that is really important to also show so extracurriculars. You know, you can explore various different activities, but having that one thing that you really excel it just to demonstrate your ability to persist is kind of my perspective on what an application should look like.

Hannah 16:54

Yeah, I definitely agree with everything Joshua said, um, I will add, like, do stuff that you're actually passionate about, because that will show like through your application, um, in terms of what my high school profile look like, it was a while ago, um, but I did a mix of athletics and academics. So I applied as a recruit for rowing, but also did a few extracurriculars. I'm a Latin nerd. Um, so I was in the junior classical League, and was president of that for a long time. And it was an absolute blast. And I love talking about that in my application. And then I was also in a gender equality group on campus, which was a lot of fun as well, my best friends are in it. So those are all things that I was really excited about talking my application about. So I'd recommend like, having things that you're good at, obviously highlight that. But also highlight like fringe things that you're passionate about. And just one talk about it, because you enjoy it. And that will really stand out as well.

Bryan 17:54

So Hannah, as a as someone that's proficient in Latin, what what's the Harvard motto? I think that's in Latin. Right?

Hannah 18:01

It is, I think, I think it's very tough. So yeah, objective.

Bryan 18:07

Love that. I entered it to my, to my back, I think this must have been a freshman year of high school for me that I take a Latin class. And I think the only thing I got I like, the big takeaway for me was like, solloway is Hello. And that's like, the extent of what I remember this point on, but that's awesome. And I think, yeah, Joshua, your point about, you know, it is the persistence is really important. I think that's, that's a really, really great point. And something that's not necessarily emphasized enough is like it is a sense of, you really do need to commit to something and be able to, you know, as long as you enjoy it, and you're and you're happy with it, and you're passionate about it, um, you know, doing that helps a lot. And it really it not only is it great for an application, but it fulfills you as a person, I think, and that's, you know, for those people that have had those experiences, um, you know, it's just a really, you know, really special experience. Um, so I want to shift a little bit into life on campus now. And, you know, food is really important for any college experience. And actually, Joshua, your background is in a dining hall. Um, but but I'd love to get a sense on about what, you know, one of the food options like at Harvard, you know, do I get it? I wasn't?

Claire 19:17

Sure. So we have basically on campus dining and you know, unlike other schools, basically, you have to, like, you know, you have it's part of the bundle it's not like you buy slides or anything. So, you know, everyone's on this plan. And there's usually a pretty good selection in terms of balancing everything you know, the you've got the salad bar, and then the, like the main entrees and you've got a few options. I think, you know, for me when it comes to when what like comes to my mind when we say food is really just kind of a dining hall culture and or, you know, talking to just like, going out to eat with friends too. And, you know, Boston has great food options, but just like just strictly speaking within Harvard, you know, like the dining hall behind Joshua right now. I think you know, so much of that is just being there with your friends. And you know, they're the dining hall is basically open all day all night, you know. So, you know, sometimes at 3:40pm, you'll see still a lot of people talking and, you know, talking more intellectually or just talking about figuring life out. And you know that like these are in the houses, but even before that, you know, freshman year where so Joshua touched on this before, but we have Annenberg. And it's a huge dining hall. And I actually think it's one of the best ways of like, coming into a college because I felt very fortunate that I was able to kind of meet a good portion of my class and you know, a lot of people like anyone, my class, really, if we see on the road, you know, we'll be able to say, hey, like, how's it going, even if you haven't seen each other before, just because I think what Annenberg really taught, you taught us and, you know, teaches us is, you know, first there's the friendship, but also just being able to meet new people and talk to people about life. So, you know, I think the dining hall culture is what really, you know, attracted us all back to the dining hall a lot. But the food is quite good, too. So,

Connor 21:01

yeah, yeah. Going off of that. So in the D Hall, there's Yeah, as Claire said, there's the dining hall. There's like the grill, and there's like the entree bar, and then they're like, there's like a, like a, like fruit bar. So there's like always bananas, pears. It's kind of circulating, and then like a section for soups. I definitely have like my staples. Like I know, clam chowder is always on Friday, I have like my best friend and I love that day. I'm like, the salad bar is always a safe bet. They're also like, just like overtime, you just kind of know, like, what are going to be your staple. So if there's a day where the entree, like, just doesn't really like float my boat, I always go to the grill like chicken and rice. The chef always knows my order. That's something that you'll understand over time. This stuff here really, like makes Harvard what it is. So and I just feel I'm so appreciative of them. And I really miss them obviously right now. And the entrees are like pretty diverse. Sometimes. They also allow us to solicit recipes from home that was like a new initiative that came about which was super cool. One of my best friends submitted like the best lasagna, because like a lasagna Bolin. Yeah, it was like the best thing ever. And HUD's really did a great job mastering that. So I was really appreciated that. And on days, when you're super busy, you can send it an ordered advance, like a chicken wrap, chicken, Caesar salad, whatever. And they'll have it for you like right in the morning. So that's helped me on days where I know I cannot get back to the D Hall from 11:45am to my like, 12pm class. So I have that lunch in my back. And my backpack, and that's great. And then for days where you just like want to get out of the D Hall. Even though the D Hall is great for communicating with friends. Sometimes you just need like, just a new experience. You just need to get out into Harvard Square. There's so many great options in the area. I mean, sweet greens, always super solid. That's my favorite. There. But you'll also find like a lot of like ethnic restaurants in the area, Indian, Thai. Japanese, I'm just trying to think of like the ones that are like, on the area. But yeah, less than, I don't know, like a 10 block radius. It's all within Harvard Square. So I feel really lucky.

Bryan 23:20

Last time I was up there on I remember eating a border cafe, which is like right on the sweet. Spot heaters were just excellent.

Connor 23:27

They had a fire. So unfortunately, and it also COVID. But yeah, yeah, that was like my favorite place on my friends actually.

Bryan 23:36

So sad to hear.

As soon as you said clam chowder, like I can get some clam chowder. Like it's been way too long like that, that that newaygo clam chowder, that's, that's awesome. Good good TV, that Harvard has good food, that's really important. I want to shift over a bit to, to academics on and get a sense of, you know, how long have you known, or that you want it to be in your major because there's something you sort of figured out, like, you know, after getting a Harvard or did you know this, like, you know, for a while back in back in high school.

Hannah 24:04

And I can take this, um, but essentially, when I was applying to colleges, I looked at all of the majors that were available. And so I could find one that like, obviously, like you want to apply to a college that has a major that you're really interested in. And so I knew I wanted to do something with social science and social policy. But I was also interested but with philosophy. And so social studies, basically is a interdisciplinary major, in which you can combine like government, political theory, economics, and kind of like steer your own classes, which is really exciting for me because it gave me a lot of academic freedom in choosing what I wanted to actually do. So I get to basically choose six classes that are my requirements, which is pretty free. So also, my Proctor in my freshman dorm, had formally done social studies and so she was a great resource for you to talk to her About the major and convince me to do it. Um, and so it's like, right when I got to Harvard, I knew it's what I wanted to do. And it's been awesome. So far, CS was kind of on a whim, I took cs 15. My sophomore fall, it's kind of just, my friends were taking it. So I decided to get with them and actually ended up really enjoying it. And so I'm integrating it into my Social Studies major, which is why it's so good, because you have a lot of freedom. And so I'm gonna end up writing a thesis with the two of my majors combined, which is pretty exciting and nice that Harvard has introduced vulnerary majors available.

Connor 25:40

Yeah, I'm going on from what Hannah said, some currently concentrating in environmental science and public policy. I'm writing my thesis in that department. But I joined the department late I joined the department, my junior year, and but those interests were always in the back of my mind. In high school, I did a lot of public policy work. And I would say going back to Josh's point, I think my spike was my, like, work I had done with public policy. But I started out at Harvard, I want to be an English major that that transferred to like wanting to be a biomedical going into biomedical engineering. And then I was like, Well, I do history and literature, but pre med. So I've run the gamut in terms of concentrations, there were just way too many things that interested me. And that's still interested me. But to Hannah's point, I feel like I needed to go through all those experiences. Because it's, I mean, at the end of the day, it's going to be a great robust liberal arts education that I really don't feel as though I could have gotten anywhere else. Or at least not, I wouldn't have gone to the same breadth or depth of that of that kind of education. And at the end of my sophomore year, when I realized that I really want to do environmental science and public policy, I just transferred from the economics departments and other concentration, I made a petition and I just kind of said, like, I have taken like all these courses, I have a very thorough understanding of no like methodology that's relevant to this field. And I want to end up getting my degree in this department. And they were so welcoming, they were very clear, like, what other requirements I had had, and then based on all the other classes, I have taken, what requirements I'd already satisfied. So that's something that I would say I really like about Harvard, is that they're very, again, just as Hannah said, they do give you academic freedom to study what you want. And if I don't know how many concentrations we have, we have so many, but if for whatever reason, there's one that doesn't spark your interest, and you can also petition to make your own. I know someone who got a degree in geography, um, and someone I know who's now writing at the Washington Post, got a degree in like meteorology. So yeah, it's really, it's really up to you.

Bryan 28:02

So Connor Hunter, you both mentioned on your writing thesis theses, and it's a big return on Martin Luther, Martin Luther is at 60 Caesars or something like that. And so is that a requirement at Harvard that everyone needs to write a thesis to graduate?

Connor 28:17

No, it's not require that but there are some concentrations that do require a thesis. So Claire, correct me if I'm wrong, but social studies, or Hannah? Sorry, correct me if I'm wrong, social studies definitely does. My department doesn't. But if you do, I'm pretty sure it's universal. But if you want to graduate with honors, or I guess, like, addition to graduate with honors thesis is often required in your concentration.

Claire 28:46

Yeah, just a quick add on to that, I guess I'm doing a joint concentration, which means you're putting two concentrations together is kind of like our version of double majoring, then you have to write a thesis.

Bryan 28:56

Good to know. Thank you. That's, that's, that's really interesting. I think it's one of those things that like, you know, high school students don't really think about it, like, Oh, yeah, that's something sort of down the line on but it's, it can be a really, really cool project from from everything that I've heard. I am not personally writing a thesis, but I have friends that are It sounds like you guys had a great experience so far. Um, I'd like to get a better sense of, of what your typical day at Harvard looks like. This is a question we get from a bunch of audience members. Joshua, can you sort of walk us through, you know, early morning to late at night? What is what does the day look like for you at Harvard? pre COVID?

Joshua 29:31

Yeah, definitely. Um, so I would say, classes kind of span from 9am is our earliest class and there's some like evening classes sometimes. So you know, you depending on your schedule for the day, you might start classes really early in the morning and then sometimes I'll have a day full of classes. So the majority of my day is spent in class discussion sections, lectures. And then you know, sometimes if I can wake up beforehand, I'll eat breakfast before I head out. And then, um, you know, I'll spend some time in the evening doing club work, I might have club meetings or some leadership meeting for a club, that usually happens either late afternoon, or in the evening, just because people typically aren't in class then. And then in the evening, I'll spend some time doing presets, obviously, writing any essays and finishing assignments. And then that can sometimes go to like three or 4am, as Claire said, in the dining hall that's pictured behind me. And yeah, just like, you know, grabbing meals throughout the day. And then we also have brain break, which is nice. So they'll have like food out for us from like, 9pm to 2am. So it's kind of a typical day. For me at least.

Bryan 30:56

Rain break is that so that's like, just like late night hours at the dining hall,

Joshua 31:00

essentially. Yeah, I mean, typically, this stuff is pretty healthy, which I guess is disappointing for me. It'll be like celery or carrots sometimes. And there's always cereal. Oh, and then one thing I typically really like to do with Claire just because she lives right across, right across the hall from me is we'll go to Elliott grill. And there you can get like burgers, mozzarella sticks. milkshakes. So that's usually reserved for after 11pm.

Bryan 31:30

Yeah, the late night junk food fix always, always an important staple of college experience. Because yes, definitely. That's awesome. So I, I'd love to another question we're getting is about where you like to spend your time on campus. And it sounds like Joshua, you know, a lot of your time is spent in the room right behind you right now. But Claire, how about you? what's what's your favorite place to just spend time on campus?

Claire 31:53

Yeah, that's a good question. Um, I think, favorite place, I'm not sure if I have a singular one. But I think what's nice about Harvard is there's a lot of places depending on mood, I think before it gets cold, or you know, after the snow goes away, people really like studying outside, it's really nice the weather, other than when it snows basically. So, you know, if we're talking about casual sort of being, you know, sometimes we walk along the River Walk around campus, it feels really good. And in terms of, you know, study spaces, I think what's really nice about Harvard is a lot of the different libraries and other spaces, there's different moods to them. So, you know, we have a library that's much more collaborative, the Science Library, you know, a lot of times when you're setting you'll go there with friends, we have, you know, rooms that you can reserve. So it's really nice there. But we also have like another library where, you know, it's very quiet, you go in like, it's midterm season, it's very, you know, everyone's just head and book. So what I really do like, is the availability of just so many different places. Also, you know, the dining hall, we've mentioned, there's a lot, a great place to just catch up with people talk with people, and also just work. So I think what I'm happy about in terms of spaces is just the readily available places of any sort of like mood that fits the day, I guess,

Bryan 33:10

that's really convenient to sort of know, like, you know, when you're in a certain vibe, and you're feeling something like you're like, Oh, I could go to this place, and you know, maybe not somewhere else, but knowing that there are spaces like that on campus, for all different environments is is great. Yeah. So one of the big things that about Harvard, you know, one of them sort of the, the big the elephant in the room, right, is that Harvard is, you know, one of, if not the best college in the country, and potentially even the world. Um, so other than prestige, what sets it apart from these other top tier schools.

Hannah 33:47

Um, I can start, um, two things really separated Harvard for, apart from other schools. For me, particularly when I was looking at schools. One of them was the one I mentioned earlier with the academic freedom, I really knew what I was interested in and wanted to be able to have, like the personal autonomy to design what I wanted to do. And I knew social studies existed. And so that was something that was really appealing to me from an academic standpoint, from a, like, just life standpoint, on my visit days to Harvard, the community, like it sounds cliche, but the community was so amazing. And I found the individual relationships to be really, really strong. And that's apparent in my department. I'm really good friends with my former tutorial leader on my soul, talk with him back and forth. And he's been a really great sounding board for me. And then like my teammates, roommates, I've made my best friends at Harvard. And so the individual relationships even though it's like a super large school, are incredibly strong, which I think is really hard to establish so early in schools that are really big or have a lot of focus on academic achievement. MIT, which Harvard does, but it also combines it with like, life enjoyment, which is really important.

Joshua 35:08

Yeah, I think adding on, obviously, I don't really know what other schools are like. Um, so I'll try my best to answer this as accurately as possible, from my perspective, but I think one thing that's really nice about going to Harvard College is that the law school is right across the street, and then the School of Government is also right across the street. So a lot of times for our classes, the smaller discussion sections will be led by law school students, or people at the School of Government, and kind of adding on to what Hannah was saying about her tutorial leader, like these people are kind of at a later stage of their life, maybe they've worked before or, you know, maybe they're trying to become a professor. And I think just being able to get exposure to them is definitely something that I've really enjoyed, like my freshman year, economics, TF, you call th TF. So Harvard. Like, she was definitely a really great resource for me. Um, just because the path she took after graduating Harvard and then before she came back for degree in government definitely was really helpful guidance.

Bryan 36:22

I think that's that's the point about, like, having access to, to, like students at the law school, um, you know, at the Kennedy School, like, I think that's a really interesting point and net, not something I've considered before. But it really, you know, because Harvard has so many fantastic graduate schools right there. Um, you know, even I, do you ever see, like crossover with professors, like you'll get like Kennedy professors teaching on like, undergraduate classes, or does that happen less frequently.

Hannah 36:48

I'm currently taking a class that, so it's called, like a Gen Ed. But it combines students from all of the graduate schools at Harvard. Um, so the professor is, and I think he's the Kennedy School professor, but he also teaches at the business school occasionally. But it's really cool class, because the professor himself, he's not actually a part of Harvard College. And the students are also integrated from all of the schools, which is really, really fun to just have people from different age categories, and also just like, what they're doing academically is super diverse.

Bryan 37:22

That is really cool. That sounds like an amazing experience. On I'd love to see, you know, we're sort of on the topic of classes, and something that came up a lot for our audience was, was how much do you? How much? Sorry, how much time do you spend doing homework on an average night?

Connor 37:38

Yeah, I'll start off with this one. Um, okay. I don't know if I can give like a concrete like this, like X amount of hours, like each day, I would say, in general, my classes are kind of consolidated. And I would say, for most people, classes are kind of consolidated between like, 10am to 5pm. So I would say like, after I have dinner, I would say, and like, just take an hour just decompress. Um, I would say 7pm to midnight, is when I get work done, not just homework, but also like extracurricular stuff, and just kind of lay out an agenda for what I do next. Um, and I would say, that's kind of, you know, I think, again, the reason why a lot of people are at Harvard is because they work hard, they're willing to go the limit. So I would say that seven to 12:12am is a bit of a soft hold, sometimes work does go into the wee hours of the morning. But I would say, with time management, I would say for the most part, I've been able to get most of my work done then. And I would say one thing that's also helped me is going to office hours, and also just going to like study sessions, they're usually like, 90 minutes long, two hours long. And I would say that with Office Hours, they kind of for a lot of like big classes, they go sometimes, like throughout the week, if I attend like one or two, I know, in my experience, I've been able to finish about like a third, or even like half of a problem set. Or I've gotten I've been able to answer or I've been able to ask, like all the questions that helped me to address that. So I would say if there's ever something that's like, if there's ever an assignment, that's like keeping me over, like, maybe if there's ever an assignment that's taking me more than like, I don't know, three to four hours. And it's not like a super long essay, or it's not like a super difficult problems that that I know that there's something I'm doing wrong. And then that kind of prompts me to reach out to the teaching staff and then to get the tools I need to answer that.

Claire 39:43

Yeah, I think Connor covered this really well. I think just the breakdown, kind of the types of homework we get. Um, it really depends on what you study and what classes you're taking. For example, you know, my statistics classes are very much you know, what you would kind of expect out of like a homework set. And so a lot of that, you know, Sir, I think what consists of that homework is, you know, you try it on your own, you might get with some friends work on it some, but a lot of it is the office hours and the support system, I think, you know, bouncing off of what everyone has said before the PDFs are version of key, as you know, they're very supportive, very accessible, it's really easy to go to them and even talking to the professor's, I found them, you know, very willing to help and they're really invested in all their students. So, you know, in terms of those presets, you know, it could be long could be short, depending on the class. And then you have the more like, say, philosophy or social studies, you know, a lot of that is reading and might be like, hundreds of pages a week. And a lot of that, you know, when you go to class, it's reflected in the class style, you know, a lot of it is discussion, I was actually in like a three person fill class, and we just went and talked to our professor every, like, every, like two days, which was a lot of fun. So I think it really depends on the class. But I think the timeline that Connor gave in terms of, you know, after dinner, balancing kind of the extracurriculars, and the homework is pretty accurate.

Bryan 41:04

That's the I feel like there's such an age old debate between the like, you know, the P sets, and the and the read aid, like, you know, which homework is harder? And who has more work? And, and is there is there like a sense of, like, you know, like this competition of sort of, like, you know, oh, I have more work than you do. And it like, Did you get that vibe at Harvard? Or not? Really?

Claire 41:24

Yeah, I mean, I've definitely heard of people, you know, mentioning, and I think, like, since I'm kind of in the middle of both, um, I mean, I think there's different ways people look at it. But I think, you know, generally, the advice I got from upperclassmen, when I first came was to make sure you balance out the piece of clauses with the, you know, like the more reading or essay writing classes, and I think that's, you know, part I think, what's nice about Harvard is we have a very interdisciplinary education. So you know, everyone has to take some of these classes of either sore at any point. I mean, I think they're hard in different senses. Whereas Pisa, maybe on a more tight timeline, as in, you know, every week they're due, you know, every Wednesday or something, whereas, like an essay is sometimes, you know, semester long, but your whole semester is dependent on that one grade, you know, so it really depends. And I think they're both hard in their own right. But I think, you know, at the end of the day, at least for me, what I found that both of these kind of education styles have taught me is kind of this way of thinking, and I think, you know, just being able to kind of delve deeper into problems either way. So

Bryan 42:24

that's great to hear. Yeah, it's a semester long essays. Those are the ones that get me and if they creep up on you that last week, and it's like, oh, that's alright, so I actually, Joshua, we have another question coming in from the audience for you. I'm wondering, this is audience member that lives in San Jose on and they say hi, from San Jose, and they're wondering where you went to high school if you're comfortable sharing it, and what caught you off guard once arriving at Harbor?

Joshua 42:51

Yeah, so I went to Lynbrook High School. It's a public high school here in San Jose. And I think the one thing that really caught me off guard when I got to Harvard was kind of what's the next thing because I think, you know, maybe starting an elementary school, middle school, and then when you get into high school like that, one goal is to get into a good college. And for me, I'm not really considering any sort of graduate school. As of now. So I think, you know, there's so many different paths I can take, and the lack of direction and lack of structure is definitely kind of distracting me. So I would say that this is, you know, kind of kind of unfortunate, but I'm less driven than I am, compared to when I was in high school, just because there's so many different options for me, and really trying to split up my time, maybe looking into, you know, jobs at tech companies or going into consulting or finance it kind of distracts me from like that one. end goal. So I think that's one thing that has really caught me off guard and is kind of different than when I was in high school.

Bryan 43:58

Absolutely, it can be it can be a tough, tough transition to that and realizing that like, oh, people have different different perspectives and different goals than then we then we may have thought they did back in back in high school. Um, so I'd love to, to learn a little bit more about sort of at work life balance, right, because I feel like that's a really important part of college. Obviously, you want to make sure you're doing well in academics, but at the same time, having a you know, a social life and then some time outside of school on how do you feel like, you know, do you find it difficult to balance that?

Hannah 44:27

Yeah, so I guess my days at Harvard are pretty structured. Being an athlete so it's actually benefited me because I find my time on the water and in practice to be like, it really good social time and time for me to let off steam from academics. And that is scheduled into my day, like every single day I go to practice and have that time wish I can just kind of like, play around with my friends. Just have fun with them and then attend classes and then go back to practice at the end of the day. So having Those two segments of like social time is really, really nice for me and I don't have to schedule it in, which is great. Um, at the same time, like I having that structure has allowed me to tie my academic work so that I can have time just like hanging out with my friends, which happens. Um, I definitely go to bed earlier than I think all the other panelists I fit my homework in probably before 10 and then have like, an extra hour before I go to bed to just hang out with my roommates hang out with my block mates go to brain break, just laugh together. So it's been pretty nice. Having that like structured time, given athletics.

Bryan 45:43

How, while you're while you're on that the note of work life balance on Can you we get a few questions from the audience about sort of the party scene on and, you know, obviously pre COVID um, what what was that like, and if anyone else wants to chime in, feel free to.

Hannah 45:58

Um, I think the rumors are probably pretty valid. Definitely more of an academic place. And people do go out and have fun and do stuff with their friends. And Harvard Square is like a great place for that with all the restaurants in various things to do in Boston. So even though the campus itself like, um, there are things to do there at night, um, but you can definitely go outside of campus, if that's also not your scene, and just enjoy Boston culture at large. But I'd say like, the social life is like, it's great. But definitely, probably not the best when you compare it to other colleges in the US.

Bryan 46:38

Was it it's built well for for for our new for our new normal, right? It's, it adapts well to COVID on. So I another question came coming in. And this is actually about how you apply to Harvard. We'll go with sort of a quick round robin with this on Did you apply restrictive early action or regular decision?

Connor 46:57

So I applied early action and ended up being the only school I applied to

Claire 47:02

I applied regular decision.

Joshua 47:08

I applied, RTA and I got in

Hannah 47:12

I pled regular decision.

Bryan 47:15

Yeah. And I feel like the next question is, well, did you get in but i think i think the answer to that kind of a given given that you're on the panel, um, another question about campus traditions, which is usually a fun thing. And I Harvard is rife with with lots of lots and lots of traditions. On Connor, what would you say is your favorite tradition on campus?

Connor 47:34

Oh, boy. That's so tough. I think I'm gonna have to speak and answer this at the same time. The one that immediately comes to mind is housing day. Everyone gets so energized. Um, I mean, people get decked out in their house like paraphernalia like Quincy house, their mascots, a penguin. So I mean, they're penguins everywhere. Elliot house and the elephant. So Joshua's background. Yeah, everyone gets really hyped for it. It's really fun. Just like Stuart we call it storming, storming into first years. Their rooms and like, showing them where they're going to live for the next three years. That's really fun. harbor deal, though, of course, is like legendary. Whether it's at Harvard or Yale, I always have a really fun time going to the tailgates. Okay, social life. The parties are pretty like consolidated around like a certain event. Um, yeah, I think at the end of the day, I think it was a Harvard deal, because the alumni also come in. And so it's just you really get a sense of like, how special these institutions are, when you go to an event like Harvard, Yale, and you like, understand it's been going on for like, some years, and like, people from like, all over the world will literally fly in for that event, again, pre COVID. Just like, just to kind of relive that energy. of any of you guys made it to the game down in New Haven before. Yeah, yeah, some of the email, some of the email homes will actually house some Harvard students too, which is really sweet. So

Bryan 49:04

that's really cool. That's it. That's one of my, one of my good friends goes to Yale. And he, you know, I always get the Yale, the Yale side of the Yale Harvard rival rivalry, but it's, it's fun to hear about the harvest time. Um, all right, that's awesome. So I want to I want to take it back a little bit to, to to our audience. You know, again, we have a lot of high school students here. And I think something that could be really helpful for them is, is clear if you could just give on high school students, one piece of advice, um, for folks that are interested in applying to Harvard, what would that one piece of advice be?

Claire 49:35

Yeah, that's a great question. And an important one. I think, actually, Hannah said the best thing, I think, and that's just to be passionate about what you're doing. I think, you know, it's very easy for us to you know, have this goal of college and, you know, try to do all of these things. But I think at the end of the day, you know, whether you're writing your essays or you're, you know, doing interviews or you know, just talking to anyone, the most important thing is you actually have passion Then what you want to do, because I think, you know, in the long term like, Look, this long scheme of things, you know, it's kind of more important that you have something where you know, even in college, you're able to continue on. And, you know, like what we talked about with extracurriculars, choosing majors, all of that, you know, a lot of it does tie into who, how you've been formed by things you're passionate about before. And all of that ties together, you know, to what Joshua was saying, with spike, and you know, being well rounded, you know, all those tie together at the end of the day to, like, make you who you are. So, definitely, in terms of applying to Harvard, you know, just do what you're most passionate about, try your best, and be yourself. And, you know, in terms of the more specifics of essays and interviews, you know, just don't don't try to kind of create yourself in a way that, you know, yeah, I think you want to see this. So I'm going to show you this, because, honestly, there's all sorts of people at Harvard, you know, there's room for all sorts of like, there's no cookie cutter example. So it's best to show who you are to them. And, you know, I think that's very true. And then in terms of just colleges in general, I think it's also important to talk to people at different colleges, like within your capacity, because at the end of the day, there are different cultures. And you know, everyone will tell you, you know, maybe I love the people, or I love the academics, but there are like nuances between them. And I think there's a most fitting place where everyone, and people end up loving where they go. So just definitely talk to people and understand kind of, the more the nuances of each college.

Bryan 51:30

I think that's a really helpful piece of advice. And I think I think just this idea of just being yourself, being genuine and not trying to like sort of put on a show is really important. And that's not just for Harvard, that's for any school, on just knowing that like, you know, you know, trust in who you are trust in what you've done and and sort of just on just make sure that that's what what shines through in your application. Because I think that's what that's what everyone's looking for. They want to see your true self and and and get to know you for who you are. So that we we are running a little short on time. So this does bring us to our final part of tonight's events. So we're going to wrap up with two questions that we typically end these events with. The first one is going to be what is your least favorite thing about Harvard? And then we're going to end on a more positive note about what's your favorite thing about Harvard? But to start us off, Hannah, can you let us know what your least favorite thing about? It is?

Hannah 52:16

Yeah, it is so hard to know everything that you could do, because there's so many options that you have. And I always feel like I'm having some FOMO and missing out on something that I could actually really, really enjoy or like, maybe not meeting people that like I would be really close friends with just because there's so much that takes up your time. And I love the things that I do. But I definitely Wish I could do more. And that's part. Yeah, I

Joshua 52:45

definitely second that. But the thing I'm going to bring up is like super minor. So I guess that just shows that Harvard is definitely a great place. Something that kind of bothers me is that everything is called different things at Harvard. So majors concentration, minor in secondary. Ra is called a proctor or tutor depending on what year you're in. And then a TA is called TF teaching fellows we've brought up throughout the conversation. So sometimes when I'm talking to people that don't go to Harvard, I struggle between like, what term I should use and if they'll understand. So super minor, but definitely an annoyance at times.

Connor 53:22

I think I'm gonna piggyback off of what Joshua said, um, yeah, I would say that Harvard jargon sometimes can be just a little frustrating having to like explain everything, like translate everything to, to friends to family, as well as, like, going for professional opportunities. For the most part. Most like professional networks kind of know like, Oh, yeah, Harvard, like concentration. like they've heard of that before. But sometimes I just get into the habit of like, wanting to qualify everything wanting to translate everything, just make sure there's nothing this can be like miscommunicated So yeah, I would say that entire the entire Harvard lingo sometimes can be just it just I guess makes you raise an eyebrow Why is there

Claire 54:05

Yeah, I think everything that's been said is extremely true. And I definitely relate with Hannah there's just so much to do and it's you know, it's really important to prioritize you know what you care about, but also there's just a million other things that you know, it's good to try for it during college in terms of also kind of a minor thing in terms of what I was not at least did not feel just like regular at Harvard when I first came was more on the weather side. I think I'm from Florida and so you know, what's the problem with Boston is at 3pm sometimes you'll come out of like, say, yoga class or something and it'll be pitch dark. Um, that that definitely for me was something that I was not accustomed to.

Bryan 54:49

I the point about the Harvard lingo I just, I I can't that I find that just so funny if like you guys need like a whole like, I don't know, like a dictionary just of all of the lingo on to Like a whole blurb that's, that's great. Um, but all right, so we'll we'll wrap up with on a on a positive note and finish off the night with what is your absolute favorite thing about Harvard? And we'll go into reverse reverse order this time?

Claire 55:13

Sure. Um, I know, I did not like hearing this answer when I was doing my college apps, but definitely the people. And I need to elaborate a bit more, I think, you know, it's so amazing to just meet all these people who, you know, probably wouldn't be friends with otherwise. And you just learned so much from all of them, you, you were really inspired constantly, you know, motivated by all of them. And everyone's very driven, and hardworking, I think, you know, on in terms of people also, you know, from the other side, I've had advisors and, you know, sometimes when you think of professors, you know, they're, they're like these people who, you know, they they know, all this stuff, and they're crazy, like, mysterious people. But, you know, I found that a lot of my professors at Harvard, actually, you know, you talk to them, and they care about us people, I had one professor, who I told them one thing a year ago, basically, and they emailed me a year later following up on it, so they really do care about us people and, you know, along with all the resources that there are, you know, it's really cool to be able to gain access and try all these things. And I think that's, you know, the exploratory element of college to is, you know, so important, and we're lucky to have that.

Connor 56:17

Yeah, I think I'm always gonna have to say that people, and I mean, it really is true, like that is, again, it's an answer that I wish like people would have elaborated more. So I would just say, from my own experience, just as Claire said, I mean, I have some really great relationships with these professors who are again, I see as like world class and are so intelligent at the top of their field, I just passed by like my old French professor in Cambridge, I was just like getting groceries, and we walked just in the area, especially distance for maybe like 2025 minutes, just because we hadn't seen each other in a while. So and I haven't taken taken her class in a year. So I think that really does evidence that you do like without knowing, do develop these genuine relationships, because it is like the classes for a lot of the classes. The classes are small, if you really do reach out to them. You can establish like meaningful relationships. And they end up do writing, like really touching on recommendations. So yeah, I would say, Yeah, I would say yeah, but people for her.

Joshua 57:25

Yeah, for me, this might be disappointing. But I also have to say that people, I just think there's so many different things you can learn just from talking to someone, as I as I mentioned earlier about just sitting next to someone new Annenberg. You know, there's something that brought them to Harvard. So you know, being able to learn about that is, I think, really interesting. And definitely one of my favorite things about Harvard.

Hannah 57:50

Yeah, okay. Also the people, but I will also say that Harvard, like, even when I was applying in any class that I go to, like, it always feels like a stretch. And I've really, my favorite thing is how much it's pushed me while also like the people being there to like, help you actually achieve what Harvard sets out for you. Um, and so that has been, like, I don't know, the most helpful thing and what I've really liked about the relationships at Harvard as well.

Bryan 58:19

That's I, I so expect I was like, how does gonna have something different, like she's gonna she's not gonna say to people, and then I, but you know, honestly, that's if to hear everything, every single one of you say that the people are the most important thing for you at Harvard, but that's your favorite thing. I think that's a real testament to to the, to the students at Harvard. So I think that's, you know, that's, that's fantastic to hear on and it sounds like you all, you know, really, really enjoy it and are having great experiences, which is which is really all you can ask for. Um, so listen, it's been it's been a great time. I want to thank our audience for being here on for tuning in. I want to thank our fantastic panelists, Connor, Claire, Hannah and Joshua, for making the time tonight to share a little bit about their experiences. On behalf of CollegeVine. I'm Bryan Weintraub and we really appreciate you tuning in tonight. Hope you have a great night. Thanks, everybody.

School information

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA
Your host

Undergrad College: Cornell University '21

Major: Hotel Administration

Work Experience: Bryan began working with CollegeVine in 2017 as an applications consultant and SAT tutor. Since then, he has held many roles throughout the company in areas such as product management, data analytics, talent acquisition, and most recently, livestream operations.

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