The Class of 2018’s four years at Harvard featured intensifying administrative scrutiny of how students split their time between academics, extracurriculars, and social life. An unprecedented donation bolstered the already-expanding School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, but a wave of cheating cases in the College’s introductory Computer Science course again brought issues of academic honesty to the forefront. The ballooning number of student organizations led the Office of Student Life to establish a more rigorous process for creating new clubs and groups. And most notably, the Harvard Corporation—after a year and a half of committee meetings and national debate—elected to continue with a controversial policy that penalizes members of single-gender social organizations.
For all the attention paid to their out-of-class activities, the Class of 2018 still reported finding time to hit the books: 91 percent of respondents said academics were “important” or “very important” to them.
- A plurality of respondents concentrated in the social sciences, in line with previous years. SEAS again edged out the humanities, comprising 16 percent concentrators. Fifteen percent of surveyed seniors studied the humanities.
- Eighty percent, a majority of respondents, said they were ultimately “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their concentrations.
- Over half of respondents—55 percent—reported finding their concentration courses either “somewhat” or “very difficult.
- Seventy-four percent of respondents said they chose their concentration out of academic interest, while 15 percent said they chose it in preparation for post-graduate careers. First-generation college students were slightly more likely to report that they had chosen their concentrations for post-graduate preparation, and slightly less likely to cite academic interest.
- Forty-six percent of respondents reported that they had written or were currently writing a thesis.
Arriving on campus amid concern about widespread grade inflation, grade point averages nevertheless remained high for the Class of 2018—nearly two-thirds of respondents reported GPAs of 3.7 or above, roughly the equivalent of an A- average. Just 2.4 percent of respondents reported GPAs at or below 3.0, or a B average.
- The most commonly reported GPA was a 3.8, comprising 20 percent of respondents.
- Nearly 6 percent of students reported having perfect 4.0 GPAs.
The College implemented its first honor code during the sophomore year of the Class of 2018, but rates of cheating remained roughly consistent with previous years. Twenty percent of respondents said they had cheated in an academic context at Harvard, compared to 23 percent in the Class of 2017, 21 percent in the Class of 2016, and 19.5 percent in the Class of 2015.
- Among those who reported having cheated, 89 percent reported having cheated on a homework assignment; 35 percent on a paper, take-home exam, or project; and 29 percent on an in-class exam.
- Twenty-four percent of male respondents and 18 percent of female respondents said they had cheated.
- About five percent of respondents said they had appeared before the Administrative Board, while 1.5 percent said they had gone before the Honor Council, the student-faculty body created in 2015 to oversee academic dishonesty cases.
- Respondents estimated significantly higher rates of cheating among their classmates than was actually reported. Surveyed seniors guessed on average that 47 percent of their peers had cheated on a problem set or homework assignment, 28 percent on a paper or take-home project, and 13 percent on an in-class exam.
Extracurriculars and Varsity Sports
The Class of 2018 found plenty to do outside of the classroom: 74 percent said that extracurricular activities were “somewhat” or “very important” to them during their time at Harvard, while 14 percent said the same of varsity sports, nearly exactly the same as last year’s graduating class.
- As the College sought to stem the proliferation of student groups, respondents reported spending an average of 16 hours per week on extracurricular activities. By contrast, they estimated spending an average of 33 hours per week on academics and nine hours per week on paid work.
- Ten percent of respondents said they had been recruited to play a varsity sport, a figure similar to previous years. Nine percent of respondents said they played a varsity sport freshman year but stopped playing the sport during their time at Harvard, while 10 percent said they had played varsity sports through their senior season.
Social Life and the Houses
As the College broadened and deepened its involvement in student social life—from penalizing members of final clubs, fraternities, and sororities to throwing alternative parties for undergraduates—respondents reported spending an average of 16 hours per week cultivating their social lives.
- Extracurricular organizations were the most significant part of survey seniors’ social lives, with nearly half of respondents calling them “very important.” Twenty-nine percent of respondents said private dorm parties were “very important” to their social lives, while 18 percent cited final clubs and other single-gender social organizations as playing “very important” roles in their socializing.
- Wealthier students were more likely to say that final clubs were “very important” to their social lives: 29 percent of respondents from families making over $500,000 annually said so, compared to 9.5 percent of respondents from families making under $40,000.
- Respondents estimated attending around four House events, excluding formals, per semester.
Harvard completed its full-House renewals of Dunster and Winthrop during the Class of 2018’s time on campus, though not without taking on significant debt—the project is estimated to cost over $1 billion, and it has been met with lukewarm support from donors. Still, 82 percent of students reported being “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with their living arrangements, though results varied somewhat by House.
- Eighty-eight percent of Winthrop respondents said they were satisfied with their living situations, up from 73 percent of Winthrop residents in the Class of 2017. The House reopened for the fall 2017 semester after extensive renovations.
- Mather respondents were most likely to say that they were “very satisfied” with their living situations—58 percent said so. Quincy residents were most likely to be happy with their housing overall, with 92 percent of respondents reporting satisfaction.
- Of Harvard’s 12 residential Houses, Adams respondents—with a House slated for renovations starting in June 2019—were the most unhappy with their living arrangements, with 21 percent of Adamsians reporting that they were "somewhat" or "very dissatisfied."