Meet the Class of


Academics and Extracurriculars

By Sanjana L. Narayanan and Devin B. Srivastava

Amidst controversy over athlete admission practices and team culture, Harvard has launched a review of its Athletics Department. A look at the makeup of freshman athletes reveals discrepancies between this year’s class of recruited athletes and the class of 2023 more broadly.

Though 47 percent of freshmen respondents identified as white, among athlete respondents, that figure is 76 percent.

The Ethnicity of Recruited Athletes

Athletes also come into their four years at Harvard knowing more of their classmates than non-athletes. Roughly 35 percent of recruited athletes — compared to just 15 percent of non-athletic recruits — knew 10 members of the Class of 2023 prior to admission.

Across the country, the admission of recruited athletes to elite universities has come under fire. In July 2019, Harvard dismissed head fencing coach Peter Brand after he was investigated for allegedly selling his home at an inflated price to a family with a prospective fencer, who went on to compete for Harvard.

Brand’s dismissal came just months after a nationwide admissions scandal implicated coaches and families of students for gaining admission into elite universities like Yale and Stanford through bribery. Though six Harvard alumni were charged as part of the scandal, Harvard itself was not implicated.

Athletics on campus also has a strong link to single-gender organizations, sororities, and fraternities, with 36 percent of recruited athletes reporting some level of interest in joining one of those organizations, while just 21 percent of their classmates reported interest.

Overall, though, interest in single-gender social organizations on campus continues its downward trend since the College launched its sanctions in May 2016 against these organizations. The policy — which first applied to members of the Class of 2021 — bars members of single-gender final clubs and Greek organizations from serving in campus leadership positions, captaining varsity teams, and from receiving Harvard endorsement for prestigious fellowships like the Rhodes.

As freshmen settled into their dorms and adjusted to their new lives in Cambridge, roughly 55 percent of them responded to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. The anonymous survey explores topics ranging from political ideology to alcohol consumption to perspectives on current campus controversies. Of 1,666 students comprising the Class of 2023, 919 freshmen responded. The Crimson did not account for potential selection bias in its analysis of the results. Due to rounding, reported statistics may not total exactly 100 percent.

This second installation of The Crimson’s three-part series on the Class of 2023 examines students’ academic and extracurricular interests, and their experiences both in and outside of the classroom.


Harvard students’ most popular concentration choices — Government, Economics, and Computer Science — have not fluctuated over the past four years. Nearly one-third of the incoming class indicated interest in one of these three concentrations.

This trend is also roughly consistent with the most popular fall courses at the College, which have historically included Economics 10a: “Principles of Economics” and Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science.”

As the School of Engineering and Applied Science finalizes plans to expand into Allston next fall, 24 percent of the Class of 2023 reported an interest in concentrating in SEAS. Last year, that figure was 22 percent.

Anticipated Concentrations by Gender

  • 30 percent and 37 percent of students reported that they are interested in the Sciences and the Social Sciences, respectively. Consistent with freshman survey results from two years ago, a plurality of students said they want to concentrate in the Social Sciences.
  • Only 9 percent of students reported an interest in the Arts and Humanities as a concentration – which is about a quarter of the proportion of students who expressed an interest in the Social Sciences. More students are interested in Government and Economics – the two most popular concentrations at 12 percent each – than are interested in all of the Arts and Humanities concentrations combined.
  • The academic priorities of the freshman class also have not changed. As was the case last year, 86 percent of respondents rated academics as their top priority in college, and 46 percent of respondents anticipate spending over 30 hours a week studying.

Social Life

The proportion of respondents from the Class of 2023 who reported some interest in joining a single-gender final club, sorority, or fraternity decreased slightly from last year’s low of 24 percent to 23 percent this year.

Just 5 percent of students said they are “very interested” in joining a single-gender club, while 18 percent said they are “somewhat interested.”

29 percent of students reported that Harvard’s social group sanctions caused them to view single-gender social organizations in a less favorable light.

Interest in Frats, Sororities, and Final Clubs by Politics

  • 32 percent of students who identified as somewhat or very conservative reported interest in joining a single-gender social group, sorority, or fraternity. In contrast, only 16 percent of students who identified as somewhat or very liberal said they want to join a single-gender club.
  • Respondents who were aware of Harvard’s sanctions policy were almost 10 percentage points more likely than those not aware of the policy to report interest in joining a single-gender social group.
  • 26 percent of respondents who knew ten or more members of the Class of 2023 prior to admission reported interest in joining a single-gender group, compared to 18 percent of students who knew zero members of their class.


Athletes at Harvard

Roughly consistent with last year’s survey results, 11 percent of the Class of 2023 are coming to Harvard as recruited varsity athletes, while 6 percent plan to walk on to a varsity sports team. 82 percent of recruited varsity athletes said their top priority while at Harvard will be academics, while only 14 percent said athletics will be their top priority.

  • 76 percent of recruited athletes identified as white, while only 47 percent of the entire incoming class identified as white.
  • 35 percent of recruited athletes knew 10 or more members of the Class of 2023 prior to admission, while 15 percent of non-athletic recruits knew 10 or more members prior to admission
  • 36 percent of recruited athletes reported some level of interest in joining a single-gender group, sorority, or fraternity while only 21 percent of non-athletic recruits reported some level of interest.
  • 97 percent of recruited athletes said Harvard was their top college choice, while 79 percent of non-athletic recruits reported Harvard as their top choice.
  • 29 percent of recruited athletes plan to concentrate in Economics, while just 10 percent of non-athletic recruits plan to do the same.

Academics Before Harvard

More than half of respondents said they were ranked in the top two percent of their class in high school. 32 percent, however, reported that their high school did not rank.

There was a significant association between the number of hours respondents studied in high school and the number of hours they anticipated studying in college. Generally, students said they expect to study more in college than they did in high school. For instance, all respondents who studied 11 to 19 hours per week in high school anticipated studying at least the same amount of time at Harvard. 85 percent of those respondents anticipated studying 20 or more hours in college.

  • Respondents reported an average GPA of 3.95 on an unweighted 4.0 scale.
  • Students who reported taking the SAT said they did so an average of 2 times. The average score was 1523 on a scale of 1600.
  • Respondents who said they took the ACT also reported taking the test twice on average. Their average score was 34 on a scale of 36.
  • Students who reported taking one or more AP tests took an average of 8 exams.
  • The percentage of respondents who reported having cheated in an academic context decreased slightly from past years. Roughly 19 percent of each of the three previous classes – but less than 16 percent of the Class of 2023 – reported having cheated before. 18 percent of male respondents, but only 13 percent of female respondents, said they have cheated in an academic context.

Extracurriculars Before Harvard

High School Extracurricular Leadership Positions

Members of the Class of 2023 were — as always — very active outside the classroom. The most popular high school extracurriculars were community service at 74 percent of respondents, followed by athletics at 57 percent, student government at 36 percent, math clubs at 32 percent, science clubs at 32 percent, and music groups at 31 percent.

  • A plurality of respondents, 26 percent, said they served as the president of two clubs while in high school. 69 percent of respondents reported being president of one to three high school clubs.
  • 40 percent of first-generation respondents ranked paid employment as one of their top three priorities during their four years at Harvard. Conversely, less than 15 percent of students who said they are not first-generation ranked paid employment as one of their top three priorities.
  • 12 percent of the Class of 2023 were editor-in-chief of their high school newspaper, and 18 percent were president of their high school’s student government. Compared to other respondents, high school editors-in-chief were almost 15 percentage points more likely to be interested in attending professional school immediately after graduation. High school student government presidents were 10 percentage points more likely to be interested in pursuing a government or political career.
  • Similar to the Class of 2022, 8 percent of respondents from the Class of 2023 said they took a gap year before coming to Harvard.
  • 64 percent of respondents reported attending a pre-orientation program, as was the case last year.