The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers

Sex, Drugs, & Lifestyle

By Ivan B. K. Levingston

As Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana often reminds undergraduates, part of Harvard College’s mission is to provide a “transformative” experience to students, through a liberal arts and sciences education. To that end, the Class of 2017 for the most part reported having transformative experiences—though they may have differed slightly from what Khurana had in mind. Harvard, it seems, was a first time for a lot of things.

  • Thirty-eight percent of senior survey respondents had sex before college, and 43 percent did so for the first time during college.
  • Of seniors who have used marijuana, 61 percent first tried the leafy green drug in college.
  • About 40 percent of seniors began drinking alcohol in college.

Sex and Dating

About 43 percent of survey respondents said they had at least 4 sexual partners in college. But respondents also appeared to have more experience hooking up than dating.

  • About 53 percent of respondents reported dating at most one person in college.
  • Nearly 20 percent of surveyed seniors said they used a smartphone dating application, such as Tinder, to engage in casual sex.
  • Members of social organizations such as fraternities, sororities, and final clubs were generally more sexually active than their peers. Twenty-two percent of responding seniors who did not participate in social organizations never had sex in college, compared to nine percent of their peers who were in social clubs.
  • Twenty-two percent of respondents reported never having dated anyone in college, and 19 percent of respondents reported never having had sex.


While the majority of Harvard seniors have tried marijuana in the past year, that drops to 30 percent for those who have used tobacco in the past year. More generally, Harvard students are warier of harder drugs.

  • Ninety-one percent of respondents reported never using non-prescribed study drugs within the past year.
  • About 81 percent of surveyed seniors reported never using hard drugs such as acid or cocaine within the past year.
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, seniors who favorably view the legalization of marijuana were more likely to also use it. Forty percent of respondents who view legalization favorably have not used marijuana within the past year, compared with 88 percent of students who view the issue unfavorably.
  • Men were more likely than women to have tried hard drugs and non-prescribed study drugs; roughly 15 percent of men had used hard drugs at least two or three times a semester within the past year compared to 6 percent for women.


Seniors may have largely kept away from using illicit drugs, but when it comes to alcohol they were much more likely to indulge.

  • About 80 percent of respondents reported drinking alcohol at least two or three times a month, and 39 percent reported drinking at least twice a week.
  • Students who came from lower-income households were much less likely to drink than their wealthier peers; 35 percent of respondents whose parents make less than $40,000 in combined income drank at least once a week while that figure was 69 percent for students whose parents make at least a combined $250,000.
  • Students in male social organizations were significantly more likely to have begun drinking before graduating high school; 81 percent of respondents in male final clubs and 69 percent of respondents in fraternities had drunk alcohol before high school was over, compared with 55 and 50 percent respectively for their peers in female final clubs and sororities.

The three things

According to Harvard lore, there are three things every student must do before graduating: urinate on the John Harvard statue, run Primal Scream, and have sex in the stacks of Widener. How did seniors fare?

  • The majority (51 percent) reported running Primal Scream.
  • Thirty percent have urinated on the John Harvard Statue.
  • Seventeen percent have had sex in the stacks.


Sorry, Bill Gates. Like the past several classes of millennials before them, the Class of 2017 far prefers using Apple products over others.

  • About 83 percent of seniors reported using Macs, compared to 16 percent who use PCs.
  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents have iPhones, while 12 percent have Androids.
  • Fifty-eight percent of surveyed seniors who used iPhones said they had gone through two of the smartphones during their time at Harvard, while 19 percent had gone through three.