The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

Academics & Extracurriculars

By Steven S. Lee

How undergraduates allocate their time across academic, social, extracurricular, and House-related activities has been an important point of discussion among students and administrators during the Class of 2016’s time at Harvard. While administrators have sought to recenter undergraduate life to the Houses through its $1 billion House renewal project, the number of extracurricular organizations has continued to grow. And students continue to report that extracurriculars are among the most important aspects of their Harvard experience.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Government 1310 cheating scandal, College administrators implemented an academic honor code in 2015, hoping for a shift in commitment from the student body toward academic integrity. Still, students continue to report cheating at similar rates as in previous years.


Though 21 percent of students admitted to cheating in an academic setting while at Harvard, 90 percent of respondents said academics were very important or important to them during their time at Harvard.

  • More than three-quarters of surveyed seniors cited academic interest as the primary reason they chose their concentration; 14 percent of seniors said post-graduation preparation was the primary reason.
  • But only 67 percent of first-generation students said academic interest as the primary reason for their concentration choice, compared to 77 percent of non-first-generation students.
  • Arts and Humanities concentrators were more likely to state academic interest as the primary reason for choosing their areas of study. Eighty-seven percent of Arts and Humanities concentrators cited that reason, while 75 percent of concentrators in other academic divisions said the same.
  • Overall, seniors were pleased with their concentration choice: 82 percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with their concentration.

Grade Point Average

With students saying in large numbers that academics were important to them, more than half of respondents said they have a GPA of over 3.67—higher than an average grade of A- in each course.

  • The average reported GPA was a 3.65. The median reported GPA was a 3.70. Eleven percent of seniors reported a GPA less than a B+ average, while 58 percent of seniors reported a GPA of at least an A-.
  • Students with at least one parent who attended Harvard reported a higher average GPA—3.70—than non-legacy students—3.64.
  • Concentrators in the Sciences reported the highest average GPA of 3.70, while concentrators in the Social Sciences reported the lowest average GPA of 3.62. Arts and Humanities concentrators reported an average of 3.69 and concentrators in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences reported an average of 3.64.


Still, more than a fifth of students reported cheating at various points in their time at Harvard.

  • With the honor code still in its infancy, roughly the same proportion of surveyed seniors—21 percent—admitted to cheating in an academic context at Harvard as the proportion in the Class of 2015.
  • More than 90 percent of those who admitted to cheating did so on a problem set or regular homework assignment. Only 23 percent of those who cheated admitted to doing so in an in-class exam.
  • Men were more likely to have cheated than women—28 percent of male seniors admitted to cheating while only 15 percent of female seniors said the same.

Extracurriculars and Varsity Sports

Outside the classroom, students pursued a wide variety of extracurricular interests during college.

  • Seventy percent of surveyed seniors said extracurriculars were very important or important to them during their time at Harvard.
  • Women were more likely than men to report extracurriculars as having been important during their time at Harvard: 82 percent of women said extracurriculars were very important or important to them, while 72 percent of men said the same.
  • A little more than one-fifth of seniors have participated in varsity athletics during their time at Harvard, and 11 percent of seniors surveyed were recruited to play a varsity sports.

Finding a Social Life

Students reported that those extracurricular groups were more important to their social life than College-sponsored events than any other source.

  • Eighty-four percent of seniors said extracurricular organizations were very or somewhat important to their social lives. Dorm room events were the next most important source of social life for seniors, with 73 percent citing these events as very or somewhat important.
  • Eighty-two percent of seniors said social life was very important or important during their time at Harvard.
  • A lower proportion of seniors said College and House events were important to their social life at Harvard. Only 57 percent of seniors said College-wide events were important, and 56 percent of seniors said House-sponsored events were important.

Living in the Houses

And as the College continues to renovate several of its 12 undergraduate Houses, a large majority of students—83 percent—reported being very or somewhat satisfied with their living arrangements, though satisfaction varied across Houses.

  • Seniors differed in their assessment of their living situation by House. Seniors living in River West Houses (Eliot, Kirkland, and Winthrop) were less likely to report having been satisfied with their living arrangements at Harvard: 77 percent of residents in those Houses said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied, compared to 86 percent of residents in non-River West Houses.