Students in the Class of 2019 studied at Harvard during a time in which the College attempted to reshape numerous facets of the undergraduate experience. As members of the Class of 2019 stepped into harvard Yard in fall 2015, the College launched a new Honor Code and created a new student-faculty disciplinary body to review academic dishonesty cases. A few months later, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved a major overhaul of the General Education program—a year after one committee characterized the College’s program as “failing on a variety of fronts.” But administrators also probed undergraduate extracurricular involvement and instituted new regulations to curb participation in unrecognized social groups. As the Class of 2019 entered spring exams their freshman year, Harvard announced a set of strict penalties on members of single-gender social organizations. Further, the College sought to stem the proliferation of student organizations, placed groups on probation for failing to meet strict registration requirements, and increased the student activities fee to boost funding for student groups. Seniors also bid a disgruntled farewell to a treasured academic tradition with the elimination of “Harvard Time,” a seven-minute passing period between classes. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed members of the Class of 2019 said they “somewhat disapprove” or “strongly disapprove” of the new academic schedule.
Concentrations and General Education
Harvard undergraduates continue to prize academics. Nine out of ten seniors said academics were “very important” or “important” during their time at Harvard, and students reported spending an average of 34 hours a week on academics. The College offers 50 undergraduate fields of concentration and members of the Class of 2019 are among the first to graduate with degrees in Theater, Dance and Media, and Environmental Science and Engineering. Among the graduating class, the five most popular concentrations were Economics, Government, Computer Science, Psychology, and Social Studies. Only 4 percent of class is graduating with Advanced Standing, a program that allows students to use pre-matriculation credits to graduate early or earn a master’s degree in four years.
- The plurality of seniors, 40 percent, studied concentrations in the social sciences. Twenty-six percent of seniors’ field of concentration was in the Division of Science, 18 percent in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and 16 percent were in the Division of Arts and Humanities.
- Seventy-eight percent of seniors said they were satisfied with their field of concentration; 65 percent reported that they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” in their experience with General Education
- Seniors studying Mechanical Engineering reported the strongest dissatisfaction with their concentration, with nearly half indicating that they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their course of study.
- Fifty-three percent of the Class of 2019 indicated they wrote or were currently writing a senior thesis, marking a slight increase from the prior graduating class.
Seniors boast high grades as they prepare to collect their diplomas at Commencement. Grade inflation has remained a perennial concern ever since the College’s dean of undergraduate education made national headlines in 2013 by disclosing that the median grade at Harvard was an A-. In the past decade, the GPA cutoffs for Latin honors have steadily risen at the College, a trend that some faculty members have speculated is the result of persistent grade inflation.
- Two-thirds of seniors reported possessing a GPA higher than a 3.67, corresponding to an overall average grade of an A- or higher.
- Only 8 percent of seniors said they had an overall average grade lower than a B+, corresponding to a GPA of 3.33 or lower.
- Of students who identified as lower middle class, 42 percent had a GPA of 3.8 or higher, but more than 63 percent of students who identified as upper middle class reported the same.
- Sixty percent of seniors graduating with Advanced Standing reported possessing a GPA of 3.9 or higher, compared to only 28 percent of seniors not finishing with Advanced Standing.
Members of the Class of 2019 report rates of cheating that are broadly consistent with prior years: Roughly one in five said they cheated in an academic context at Harvard. Only 3 percent of seniors, however, said that they appeared before the Honor Council to face a disciplinary hearing. Graduating seniors are the first class of undergraduates to be subject to the Honor Code for all four years.
- Twenty-three percent of seniors in the Class of 2019 reported that they cheated on academic assignments while studying at Harvard. This tracks roughly with previous years’ data — 20 percent in the Class of 2018 reported cheating, as did 23 percent in the Class of 2017, 21 percent in the Class of 2016, and 19.5 percent in the Class of 2015.
- Of those seniors who said they cheated, 95 percent said they did so on a problem set or a homework assignment, 36 percent on a paper, take-home exam, or project, and 19 percent on an in-class exam.
- Recruited athletes and members of fraternities, female final clubs, and co-ed social clubs were more likely to indicate they cheated while at Harvard.
Extracurriculars, Varsity Athletics, and Jobs
During the last four years, College administrators have stepped up efforts to scrutinize undergraduates’ extracurricular activities. Some have floated the idea of auditing the comp process of campus clubs and setting stricter standards that new student groups must meet to earn Harvard approval. Members of the Class of 2019 reported that extracurricular organizations were a significant part of their experience at Harvard; surveyed students indicated they spent an average of 15 hours per week on extracurricular activities.
- Seventy-one percent of seniors reported that extracurriculars were “very important” or “important” during their time at Harvard.
- Thirty-seven percent of seniors said that paid employment was “very important” or “important” during their time at Harvard. The average student reported spending 9 hours a week working.
- Nineteen percent of seniors reported playing a varsity sport during their time at Harvard. Of those students, 6 percent said they stopped playing after their freshman year, and 10 percent said they were recruited to play for Harvard.
Houses and Social Life
Seniors mostly enjoy living in their residential Houses, a hallmark of the undergraduate experience. Harvard has finished renovating nearly half of the undergraduate River Houses as part of a more than $1 billion project to modernize the College’s upperclassman residences. Construction on Lowell House is slated to conclude in summer 2019 and a four-year renovation of Adams House is scheduled to begin in June.
- Dunster House residents reported the highest overall satisfaction, with 95 percent of students in that House reporting they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their living arrangements. Cabot House residents were the most likely to say they felt “very satisfied” with their residential House; 61 percent of students in that House indicated they felt that way.
- Students living off-campus reported the lowest overall satisfaction rates, with 41 percent saying they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their living arrangements.
Outside of studying, working campus jobs, and participating in extracurricular activities, Harvard seniors still carved out time to socialize. Extracurricular organizations significantly influenced seniors’ social lives with 77 percent of students rating the groups as “very important” or “somewhat important” to their social experience at Harvard. Overall, seniors reported spending an average of 16 hours per week on social life throughout their undergraduate career.
- Forty-five percent of seniors reported that extracurricular organizations were “very important” to their social experience at Harvard, 27 percent said the same about private dorm parties, and 24 percent said final clubs, fraternities, sororities, or other social groups were “very important.”
- Fewer students reported that College-wide events, such as Yardfest, House-sponsored events, and off-campus venues, like restaurants and bars, were “very important” to their social experience.
- Students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were more likely to say that final clubs, Greek organizations, and other social groups played a significant role in their social experience at Harvard. Of students who self-identified as upper class, 37 percent said these clubs were “very important” or “somewhat important,” 25 percent of upper middle class students said the same, 21 percent of middle class and lower middle class concurred, and 15 percent of lower class seniors called them “somewhat important” or “very important.”