With an ongoing, $1 billion House renewal project, intensifying debate over the role of the College in undergraduate social life, and recent headlines about academic integrity at Harvard, the Class of 2017’s time in Cambridge was marked by conversations about the importance of extracurriculars, social life, and classes.
Almost a quarter of surveyed seniors reported having cheated in an academic context during their time at Harvard, but respondents estimated much higher rates of cheating among their peers for various kinds of assignments, as much as four times higher in some cases. In a class that reports it values academics highly, more than half of surveyed seniors reported a GPA of 3.7 or greater, which is higher than an average grade of A- for every course. Most seniors have few regrets about their academic choices, with 82 percent saying they are satisfied or very satisfied with their concentration overall. Most of the dissatisfaction comes from a few, large concentrations such as economics and computer science.
Social life was important to members of the senior class, most of whom placed extracurricular groups and private dorm parties as the most important to their social lives. And in a time of administrative scrutiny of off-campus social groups, 39 percent of surveyed seniors said that final clubs or other single-gender social organizations were important or very important to their social lives during their time in the College.
While social life at Harvard has grabbed national headlines during their time at the College, the Class of 2017 still did, in fact, prioritize academics. A substantial majority of the surveyed seniors—about 89 percent—reported that academics were “important” or “very important” to their time at Harvard. This largely matches previous senior classes as well as the class’s ambitions as they entered the College in 2013, when 84 percent of incoming freshmen who responded to a Crimson survey anticipated that academics would be their first priority at Harvard.
- Forty percent of respondents concentrated in the Social Sciences, 32 percent in the Sciences, 19 percent in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and 18 percent in the Arts and Humanities. They largely correspond with the proportions that the incoming Class of 2017 anticipated studying four years ago. (These proportions do not add up to 100 due to double concentrations.)
- More than three-quarters of respondents chose their concentration due to academic interest, with another 11 percent citing “post-graduation preparation” as the major reason.
- Most respondents—82 percent—reported being satisfied or very satisfied with their concentration overall.
- About 55 percent of respondents reported that their concentration courses were somewhat or very difficult. These proportions were largely the same regardless of the type of high school the student reported having attended.
- Less than five percent of students in most concentrations reported being somewhat or very dissatisfied with their programs, but 23 percent of economics concentrators, 16 percent of computer science concentrators, and about 10 percent of applied math concentrators reported either of these two designations. About a fifth of statistics concentrators also reported being somewhat dissatisfied.
- About half of survey respondents reported that they wrote or are currently writing a senior thesis.
Grade Point Average
Concerns about grade inflation flared early in the Class of 2017’s Harvard careers when administrators indicated in December 2013 that the median grade in the College was an A- and the most frequently awarded grade was an A. More than half of survey respondents—58 percent—reported having a GPA greater than or equal to 3.7, which is higher than an average grade of A- in each course. This is similar to results from surveys of the previous three senior classes.
- The average reported GPA was 3.65, a value identical to previous senior surveys. Thirteen percent of respondents reported GPAs that correspond to an average B+ or lower.
- Four percent of respondents are graduating with Advanced Standing. They were slightly more likely to report a GPA of 3.8 or higher, with 44 percent of that group maintaining that range of GPAs compared to 31 percent of those graduating without Advanced Standing.
- Two percent of respondents reported having a perfect 4.0 GPA during their time at Harvard.
Academic integrity in the College continues to make headlines. More than 60 students in Harvard’s popular introductory Computer Science course CS50 appeared before the Honor Council for academic dishonesty, with some students citing a vague collaboration policy and a peculiar approach to handling cheating cases.
Among survey respondents, 23 percent reported having cheated in an academic context at Harvard. This figure has slightly increased over the last few senior classes, from 17 percent in the Class of 2014, 19.5 percent in the Class of 2015, and 21 percent in the Class of 2016.
- Among those who reported having cheated, 93 percent reported having cheated on a homework assignment; 22 percent on a paper, take-home exam, or project; and 23 percent on an in-class exam.
- With the College’s new Honor Code unveiled halfway through the Class of 2017’s time at Harvard, 3.8 percent of respondents reported having been before the Administrative Board, the body that used to oversee academic integrity cases but also adjudicates other issues, and eight respondents—about one percent—reported having been before the Honor Council.
- In an almost identical result to last year’s senior survey, 28 percent of male respondents admitted having cheated in an academic context during college, while only 19 percent of female respondents reported the same.
- Survey respondents estimated much higher rates of cheating among their peers than those that were reported. On average, respondents estimated that about 54 percent of their classmates had cheated on a problem set or other homework assignment, 32 percent on a paper or take-home project, and 16 percent on an in-class exam.
- Forty-two percent of respondents to The Crimson’s 2013 freshman survey reported having cheated on homework during high school. Seventeen percent admitted to cheating on a paper, and 10 percent admitted to cheating on an exam.
Extracurriculars and Varsity Sports
Extracurricular activities played a dominant role in the lives of the members of the Class of 2017. Many expected this: Forty-six percent of incoming freshman in 2013 anticipated that extracurriculars would be their first or second priority at Harvard.
- A majority of surveyed seniors—73 percent—said extracurriculars were either important or very important during their time at Harvard. Fourteen percent said the same of varsity sports.
- Compared to the Class of 2016, the gender difference in the emphasis on extracurriculars was smaller, at 75 percent for women and 71 percent for men reporting that extracurriculars were either important or very important to their time at Harvard. Last year, there was a 10-percentage point gap between women and men for the same statistic.
- Eleven percent reported having been recruited to play a varsity sport at Harvard, a figure similar to past years. Nineteen percent of the class reported having played a varsity sport during their time at Harvard, while 10 percent reported being an athlete through their senior year.
Social Life and the Houses
Social life on the whole was important to 79 percent of surveyed seniors, a decrease of five percentage points from the Class of 2016. As the class entered Harvard in 2013, 39 percent had anticipated that social life would be their first or second priority during their time in the College.
- As a source of social life, extracurricular groups were somewhat or very important to the social lives of 81 percent of surveyed seniors. The next most important source of social life were private dorm parties, which were somewhat or very important to 72 percent of respondents.
As undergraduates over the past several years debated the extent to which House life and College-sponsored events should factor into Harvard social life,the majority (59 percent) of surveyed seniors indicated they believed Harvard should help students fund their own social opportunities. Twenty-seven percent indicated Harvard should create the social opportunities themselves, while 13 percent said Harvard should stay out of undergraduate social life.
- Fifty-two percent of respondents said House-sponsored events were somewhat or very important to their social lives, and 58 percent said College-wide events like Yardfest were important.
- Thirty-nine percent of the class reported that final clubs or other single-gender social organizations were important to their social lives during their time in the College.
As the Faculty of Arts and Sciences takes on debt to finance the ongoing renovations of the 12 residential Houses—it ran through its cash reserves during the last fiscal year—85 percent of seniors reported being somewhat or very satisfied with their living arrangements.
- Of people living in the 12 undergraduate Houses, Mather House residents, at 68 percent, were most likely to be very satisfied with their living arrangements. Residents of Cabot were next most likely to be satisfied, at 55 percent.
- The Houses with the lowest rate of satisfaction were Winthrop, whose residents were in swing housing this year while their House was renovated, and Kirkland. Still, the rates were fairly high: 73 percent of Winthrop residents reported being very or somewhat satisfied with their living arrangements, and 79 percent of Kirkland residents reported the same.