Once the Class of 2015 exits Johnston Gate, its members will go all over the country, and the world, to pursue a wide variety of jobs and other activities in the “real world.” A majority of the class will either stay in Massachusetts or go to New York or California after graduation. Fifteen percent of respondents said they were leaving the country.
The vast majority of seniors, 71 percent, said they will be joining the workforce after graduation. Another 15 percent will head straight to graduate school. Four percent will hit the road to travel. And 9 percent said they are not yet sure what they will do.
Of graduates entering the workforce, 48 percent said they are entering either consulting, finance, or technology/engineering. The survey found some major discrepancies between what seniors are doing immediately after graduation and what they want to be doing in 10 years. For instance, though 34 percent of respondents said they will work in consulting or finance after graduation—a figure consistent with recent years—only 5 percent want to be doing so in 10 years. On the other hand, while 5 percent of seniors are going into health-related fields after graduation, 20 percent want to be working in health a decade from now.
Starting salaries vary widely among members of the graduating class, with 41 percent of respondents saying they will make more than $70,000 and 8 percent saying they will make $110,000 or more right away. As in recent years, salary and field vary meaningfully by gender and race. Forty-nine percent of working men said they will make more than $70,000 after graduation, compared to only 34 percent of working women. While around the same proportions of working men and women are going into consulting and public service, 23 percent of working male respondents said they will work in finance, compared to only 14 percent of women. Of those who are working, 35 percent of white respondents, 33 percent of black respondents, and 32 percent of Hispanic or Latino respondents said they will make more than $70,000 after graduation, compared to 60 percent of respondents who said they were of East Asian descent.
Discrepancies between industry and starting salary also exist among students who participated in different activities during college. Forty-seven percent of respondents reporting that they would make $110,000 or more after graduation concentrated in Computer Science. Twenty-three percent of varsity athletes said they are going into consulting compared to only 13 percent of non-athletes. And 32 percent of people who said they were in a male final club during college said they were going into finance, while only 18 percent of seniors overall said that they are.
Twenty-one percent of respondents said that they or their family members are currently in debt due to college-related expenses. Thirty-eight percent of surveyed seniors said their family’s financial situation had affected their post-graduation plans somewhat or to a great extent, though the industries those respondents are entering roughly match those of the class at large.
Chosen from what administrators touted at the time as the most diverse applicant pool in the history of the College, the Class of 2015 pulls together an intricate mosaic of different backgrounds, worldviews, and identities. Yet survey data suggests that some segments of the class are more diverse than others, and that not every senior felt fully included in the College community.
An especially diverse picture emerges in the 14 percent of surveyed seniors who said they were first-generation college students. A majority of these students are nonwhite, and more than 20 percent are Hispanic or Latino. Sixty-seven percent reported a combined family income of less than $80,000 per year, compared to 27 percent of all surveyed seniors.
Most survey respondents overall, however, hail from families that earn significantly more than the average American household. Nearly half of all respondents reported a combined family income of $125,000 per year or more, while only about 15 percent of American households earn that much, according to the United States Census Bureau.
College-wide diversity appears to be reflected in personal friendships. When asked to think of their five closest friends at Harvard, 88 percent of respondents—and 84 percent of white respondents—said that at least one friend identifies with a different racial or ethnic background.
Though seniors mostly identified as politically liberal, religious views ranged more widely. Agnostics and atheists make up 42 percent of the class, outnumbering the 35 percent who identify as Protestant or Catholic. Only one in ten seniors identified as very religious, compared to about half of the class who said they are not religious at all.
In a class that witnessed an often explosive national debate about racial discrimination, 24 percent of seniors said that they have felt marginalized because of their race or ethnicity while at Harvard, including 74 percent of black students, 40 percent of Latino students, and 54 percent of East Asian students.
Other minority groups reported similar feelings due to class or sexual orientation. Despite the fact that 62 percent of seniors reported receiving financial aid from Harvard, 67 percent of students whose families make less than $80,000 per year said they’ve felt marginalized because of their socioeconomic status while at the College. Moreover, in a class where 15 percent of students identified as gay, bisexual, something else, or unsure, 47 percent of respondents who identify as gay or lesbian said they have felt marginalized because of their sexual orientation at some point since arriving on campus.
Still, more than 90 percent of students in each racial
Grade inflation is a near-perennial topic of conversation at Harvard, and the Class of 2015’s years in Cambridge were no exception. Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris caused a stir in December 2013 when he said the median grade at the College was an A- and, indeed, the Class of 2015 appears to have met that mark with an average self-reported GPA of 3.64. Over half the respondents reported a GPA of at least 3.67, the cutoff for an A- average.
Women reported a slightly higher GPA compared to men, 3.65 to 3.62, while Asian students reported the highest average GPA of any race or ethnicity at 3.7. By comparison, students who identified as white, black, and Hispanic or Latino reported average GPAs of 3.63, 3.53, and 3.55, respectively. Legacy students reported roughly the same average GPA as those whose parents are not Harvard alumni.
In spite of the high class averages, 72 percent of senior respondents said that grade inflation at Harvard is not much of a problem or no problem at all. Eighty-six percent of the class said academics were either very important or absolutely essential to them, and 80 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their concentration.
Almost three years after the Government 1310 cheating scandal, 20 percent of graduating seniors said they had cheated in academics while at Harvard. Of those who reported cheating, 90 percent did so on a problem set or homework assignment, 27 percent on a paper or take-home exam, and 30 percent on an in-class exam.
Recruited athletes were about twice as likely to have said that they cheated as the rest of the class. The same is true for members of male final clubs. Seniors headed to work in the technology or engineering sectors reported cheating at a higher rate, 34 percent, than students going into any other field.
Most cheaters seem not to have been caught, though, as only 5 percent of graduating seniors reported having been before the Administrative Board for any type of disciplinary issue.
Outside of the classroom, members of the Class of 2015 devoted themselves to a variety of activities—not necessarily the sort that would show up on their LinkedIn profiles.
Fifty-eight percent of senior respondents said they entered Harvard as virgins. Once they arrived in Cambridge, reported sexual activity varied considerably. While 19 percent of male respondents reported having sexual intercourse with 10 or more partners while at Harvard, only 7 percent of women said the same. Twenty-four percent of the class, on the other hand, said they did not have sexual intercourse while at Harvard. Of those seniors having sex, 43 percent said they always use a condom, while 31 percent said they sometimes, rarely, or never use a condom.
Viewing pornography was significantly more popular among surveyed men, 45 percent of whom said they watched it multiple times a week while in college. By contrast, 56 percent of women said they have never watched porn in college.
Drinking was another common “extracurricular” activity, with about 60 percent of seniors reporting drinking at least once a week. A smaller number, 13 percent, said that they had been taken to University Health Services or another hospital for reasons relating to alcohol at least once during their time at Harvard.
Other substance use was less common among surveyed students. While 40 percent of seniors said they have smoked marijuana at least once, only 7 percent said they have tried cocaine or ecstasy, and 8 percent said the same for psychedelics.
When it came to kicking back, private dorm parties seem to have been the most important for Harvard seniors, with 79 percent of the class reporting the such parties were at least moderately important to their social lives at Harvard. Final clubs and other single-sex, off-campus social organizations—subjects of much debate on campus—proved to be not all that important, as the majority of respondents said the organizations were not at all important to their social lives in college.
Between studying and socializing, members of the Class of 2015 also found time to rest— sometimes. Slightly more than one-third of the class reported getting fewer than seven hours of sleep per night on average.
This year’s graduating seniors tend to swing blue just like the state where the College resides. Sixty-two percent of graduating seniors reported that they are liberal or very liberal, while only 9 percent said they are conservative or very conservative. Beliefs shifted slightly to the left after four years of college. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that at the start of college they were moderate, liberal, or very liberal, while 88 percent now identify with one of these three political categories. Female respondents were more likely than men to be liberal or very liberal. About half of male respondents said that they are liberal or very liberal, while 69 percent of surveyed women identified with the left end of the spectrum. Of those who called themselves conservative, 61 percent who will be working after graduation are going into finance or consulting.
That political skew is just as apparent when seniors were asked about the 2016 presidential election. Sixty-three percent of respondents—and 71 percent of female respondents—had a favorable opinion of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, while Jeb Bush, the highest-rated Republican in the field, is viewed favorably by just 12 percent of the Class of 2015.
Former Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts’ senior U.S. senator, has insisted she is not running for president, but she still commands largely favorable views from the Class of 2015. Fifty-three percent of respondents rated Warren favorably as a 2016 presidential candidate, while only 20 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.
Among those who identify as conservative and very conservative, Florida governor Jeb Bush and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio are viewed most favorably. Nearly half of conservative and very conservative respondents have a favorable opinion of Bush as a 2016 presidential candidate, while 44 percent said they view Rubio favorably. Other than Bush, none of the Republican 2016 contenders received a favorable rating from more than ten percent of graduating seniors.
With blockades, occupations, and a student arrest, divestment from the fossil fuel industry has been a hot button issue on campus in recent years. Graduating seniors, it seems, are divided on whether the University ought to divest its endowment. Forty-one percent said Harvard should divest; 27 percent said Harvard should not; and 32 percent of respondents said they were undecided. That breakdown does not meaningfully differ from the Class of 2014.
Despite their disapproval of Harvard’s institutional investing, those who supported divestment donated to senior gift at nearly the same rate as the rest of their class. Eighty-four percent of divestment supporters characterized themselves as liberal or very liberal.
With the College under investigation for its adherence to Title IX regulations and a new University-wide sexual misconduct policy the subject of fierce debate, sexual violence has been a major topic of conversation on campus during the past year.
Fourteen percent of women in the Class of 2015 said they were sexually assaulted at Harvard, while another 7 percent said they were unsure whether or not they had been a victim of sexual violence. By comparison, just 3 percent of men reported being sexually assaulted. Those numbers are roughly consistent with an oft-cited 2007 study, which found that 19 percent of women at large four-year universities experienced a completed or attempted sexual assault during their time in college.
Amidst prominent discussions about sexual assault, only 6 percent of those who said they were sexually assaulted or that they were unsure of whether they were sexually assaulted reported it, a figure consistent with national research.
On the other hand, 55 percent of Harvard seniors—two-thirds of women and 40 percent of men—said they know someone who was sexually assaulted at the College. Students who identify as gay or lesbian, bisexual, something else, or unsure were nearly twice as likely to say that they had been sexually assaulted or were unsure of whether they were sexually assaulted than their heterosexual counterparts.
When asked about their mental health, survey respondents conveyed mixed experiences with the institutions they consulted for treatment. Twenty percent of seniors said they sought treatment for depression and 16 percent for anxiety during their time at Harvard. By comparison, 3 percent said they have sought treatment for an eating disorder and 5 percent for ADHD.
A plurality of students who indicated that they sought mental health treatment, 33 percent, turned to UHS. Meanwhile 19 percent, 11 percent, and 7 percent turned to the Bureau of Study Counsel, an off-campus professional, or a peer counseling group, respectively.
Consistent with previous years, seniors who sought mental health services off campus were nearly twice as likely to report being satisfied or very satisfied with the treatment they received compared to those who went to UHS.
Hot-button issues such as sexual assault policies, fossil fuel divestment, and academic integrity dominated campus discussions during the Class of 2015’s four years at Harvard. Survey respondents expressed mixed feelings about Harvard’s administration and its programming, old and new.
With 36 percent of surveyed seniors approving of her work, University President Drew G. Faust experienced a drop in favorability of about 12 percentage points from last year. About 40 percent of those surveyed said they had no opinion or insufficient information about Faust.
Meanwhile, four out of five graduating seniors said they have a favorable opinion of first-year Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana. The third person to occupy the deanship in four years, Khurana had a rating that was just slightly below the Class of 2014’s 87 percent approval of interim College Dean Donald H. Pfister, but nearly six times seniors’ 2014 rating of former College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds.
Surveyed seniors were ambivalent about many University programs. The ongoing House Renewal project was viewed favorably by 54 percent of surveyed seniors, marking a slight decline from the Class of 2014’s approval rating of 59 percent. A higher percentage of seniors in Quincy and Leverett, the two Houses renewed thus far, said they viewed the endeavour favorably, with approval ratings of 60 percent and 75 percent, respectively.
Following a flurry of discussion and activism around sexual violence on campus in the last year, one in three seniors said they did not have enough information to evaluate the University’s recently unveiled sexual misconduct policy. The new policy was viewed favorably by 22 percent of all surveyed seniors and unfavorably by the same percentage.
The Undergraduate Council received mixed reviews, with 37 percent of surveyed seniors viewing the body favorably and 29 percent viewing it unfavorably. And while 41 percent of surveyed seniors said they support fossil fuel divestment, the pro-divestment student activist group Divest Harvard was viewed favorably by 33 percent of survey respondents and unfavorably by the same percentage.
There was one topic on which nearly all graduating seniors agreed: 95 percent said that, if given the chance, they would choose to attend Harvard again.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.