Meet the Class of


Beliefs and Lifestyle

By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin

Though hailing from different regions around the world and representing a vast array of backgrounds and intellectual interests, a majority of the Class of 2022 have at least one thing in common: they are virgins.

For the sixth year in a row, the percentage of surveyed incoming freshmen who said they did not have sex before coming to college hovers just above 60 percent. The Crimson began surveying incoming students in 2013 — since then, the percentage of virgins matriculating at Harvard has ranked at 65 percent, 62.5 percent, 62 percent, 64 percent, 61.6 percent, and this year, 61 percent.

Surveyed freshmen resemble previous classes in their political views, too. This year’s respondents were overwhelmingly liberal and left-leaning. When asked to select their preferred political party, 64 percent of survey takers identified as Democrats, 17 percent said they are Independents, and just 11 percent reported being Republicans. The vast majority of respondents — around 85 percent — said they view President Donald Trump unfavorably.

Each year, as incoming students start packing for their first year at the College, The Crimson emails every member of the class and asks them to fill out a survey. The anonymous questionnaire poses several questions on topics ranging from religious views to opinions on current campus and political affairs. Of the 1,661-member class, 1,064 freshmen responded, representing roughly 64 percent of the class. The Crimson did not adjust the survey results for any possible selection bias.

The third and final installment of The Crimson’s series on the Class of 2022 examines students’ lifestyles — including use of drugs and alcohol — as well as their religious and political beliefs.


Political Persuasion

Just under two-thirds of freshmen — 65.8 percent — identified as either very or somewhat liberal. This marks a slight decrease from last year, when 68.9 percent of respondents selected those labels. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they had a “very unfavorable” opinion of Trump, while just 7 percent indicated a favorable view of the Republican president.

  • The percentage of moderate and conservative respondents remained steady from last year’s survey. Just over 12 percent of students said they are conservative, compared to 11.8 percent of respondents in the Class of 2021. The number of self-identified moderates also increased slightly, rising from 19.3 percent to 22.1 percent.
  • Male survey-takers were more likely to identify as conservative than were female respondents. Nearly 62 percent of those who described themselves as “very liberal” were women, while 75 percent of those who described themselves as “very conservative” were men.
  • A majority of conservative respondents said they are white. Eighty percent of those who identified as “very conservative” said they are white.

Views on President Donald Trump

  • The survey also asked what career paths respondents hope to pursue after graduation. Those who said they are interested in working in government and politics were more likely to identify as left-leaning — 81.6 percent of these students said they are liberal. Right-leaning students were more likely to report an interest in finance than were their more liberal peers. Slightly more than 27 percent of students who said they are intrigued by a career in finance also said they are conservative.
  • Consistent with previous years, a majority of students — 59 percent — said they support race-conscious affirmative action policies. Harvard’s admissions practices, which many view as the gold standard of affirmative action in the United States, are currently under fire. The school faces a lawsuit in federal court alleging that it discriminates against Asian American applicants and the Justice Department is conducting a separate investigation into the same charges.
  • Just 9 percent of students said they have a favorable opinion of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Forty-three percent said they view Kavanaugh, a former Law School lecturer, unfavorably.


Sexual Activity

As in previous years, some segments of the freshman class were more likely to be sexually experienced than others. Recruited athletes were twice as likely to be non-virgins than were non-athletes — 62.5 percent of recruited athletes reported having had sex, compared to 36 percent of non-athletes. Roughly 54 percent of students who took a gap year indicated they are not virgins, while 37.8 percent of those who did not take a gap year reported the same. Students who identify as atheists or agnostics were also more likely to have had sex — 50 percent of atheists and 48.1 percent of agnostics are non-virgins, versus 39.3 percent of overall respondents.

Sexuality was also a predictor of prior sexual experience. Roughly 47 percent of students who identified as bisexual, gay, lesbian, queer, or questioning said they had had sex, while 37.5 percent of straight students indicated the same.

  • Of non-virgin respondents, a plurality said they had sex for the first time in 12th grade (13.5 percent). Just nine students reported having sex before high school.
  • Students interested in joining a final club, fraternity, or sorority were more likely to be sexually experienced. More than two thirds of students who said they are “not interested” in joining a social organization are virgins, compared to less than one third of their “very interested” classmates.

Alcohol and Drugs

Though all but 0.4 percent of incoming freshmen are under the legal drinking age, two-thirds of respondents (66.5 percent) said they had bucked the law and consumed alcohol before coming to Harvard. Drug usage was less prevalent among survey-takers — the vast majority of freshmen said they have never used tobacco, marijuana, or other drugs.

  • Just over 90 percent of survey-takers indicated they have never tried tobacco, while 9.7 percent said they have. This tracks with a national decline in teenage cigarette use. The Crimson did not ask incoming freshmen whether they have used e-cigarettes or vaped.
  • A higher percentage of survey takers reported they had previously used marijuana (28.6 percent). But few said they had used other drugs including cocaine, LSD, MDMA, and hallucinogenic mushrooms. More than 97 percent of respondents said they have never touched these substances.
  • Some groups of freshmen were more likely than were others to report previous experience with alcohol — including freshmen from urban areas, recruited athletes, students interested in joining on-campus social groups, wealthier students, and students who attended both parochial and non-religious private high schools. White and Hispanic students were more likely to report alcohol use than were their South Asian classmates.
  • Just 17 percent of freshmen said they have a fake ID. Students from urban areas were more likely to report possessing a fake ID.

Harvard Issues

Surveyed freshmen were also asked to give their opinion on campus issues including the February selection of Lawrence S. Bacow to serve as Harvard’s 29th president; the College’s sanctions on members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations; and the April unionization of the University’s graduate students, an event without precedent in Harvard history.

  • Respondents were split on how they view Harvard’s controversial policy penalizing students who join single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations. Thirty-six percent said they view the sanctions favorably, while 40 percent said they view the penalties unfavorably. The sanctions, which took effect with the Class of 2021, bar members of single-sex social groups from campus leadership positions, varsity team captaincies, and from receiving College endorsement for certain prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes.
  • Male respondents were more likely to report an interest in joining final clubs, as were recruited athletes. Students from the Southwest were more likely than were those from the other parts of the country to indicate they are “very interested” in joining final clubs.
  • A plurality of respondents — 40 percent — said they have no opinion of Bacow’s selection as University president. Thirty-seven percent indicated they lacked sufficient information to give an opinion.
  • Male respondents were significantly more likely than were their female peers to report feeling concerned about free speech on Harvard’s campus. Ten percent of male survey-takers said they are “very concerned,” while 4.6 percent of women did so. Roughly a quarter of men said they are “concerned” about free speech.

Mental Health

The vast majority — 78 percent — of surveyed freshmen said they have never sought mental health counseling. Among the 22 percent who said they have, several demographic groups were overrepresented.

  • Older students, students from the western part of the country, and students from urban and suburban areas were more likely to report having sought counseling.
  • Jewish respondents were the most likely to indicate they had sought counseling compared to students belonging to any other religious group. Muslims and Hindus were the least likely.
  • A majority of survey-takers — 78 percent — said their greatest source of pressure is their own expectations. The next most common source of pressure among incoming freshmen was their parents or family, selected by 8 percent of respondents. Just 10 percent of survey-takers said that they do not feel they are under any pressure.


Facebook Activity

Like the five classes before them, the majority of the Class of 2022 are loyal to Apple.

  • Seventy-two percent of surveyed freshmen said they use Macs while 26 percent reported using PCs.
  • An even larger majority of freshmen said they are iPhone users — 87 percent. Just 12 percent reported owning Android phones.
  • Wealthier students were more likely to own iPhones. Of survey respondents who said they are iPhone users, 15 percent also said their parents make over $500,000 per year. Of survey-takers who said they are Android users, just 3.4 percent reported that level of parental income.
  • The survey also asked freshmen to estimate the amount of time they spend per day on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Respondents reported spending the least time on Facebook — 51 percent spent between 0 and 15 minutes on that Harvard-incubated site. Freshmen indicated spending far more time scrolling through Instagram. Fourteen percent said they spend between 46 minutes to an hour on Instagram and 12 percent said they spend between an hour and 90 minutes on the site.