Months after Harvard scrapped policies penalizing members of single-gender social groups, the proportion of freshmen interested in joining the organizations jumped for the first time in seven years.
The percentage of students who said they are “very interested” in joining a final club, sorority, or fraternity jumped to 11 percent, more than double the proportion reported by members of the Class of 2023. Last year’s figure, 4.7 percent, represented the lowest level of interest since The Crimson began surveying freshmen about social clubs in 2018.
Harvard’s sanctions — first applied to the Class of 2021 — barred members of final clubs and single-gender Greek organizations from receiving fellowships, athletics captaincies, and leadership positions in extracurricular groups. They received intense scrutiny and criticism during their implementation, and spawned a pair of lawsuits in state court and federal court.
In June, administrators announced that the University had decided to drop the policy after a Supreme Court decision prompted them to believe they would be unlikely to withstand those suits. Weeks later, it appears that decision could have had a marked impact on interest in final clubs and Greek groups among freshmen.
Along with the increase in high interest after years of steady decline, the proportion of respondents who reported being “not at all interested” in joining a club fell to 31 percent, the lowest level since the Class of 2021. Respondents who indicated they are “somewhat interested” also climbed for the second year in a row to 22 percent.
As in past years, the survey indicated that a disproportionately high percentage of students interested in finals clubs and Greek life are white. Of the respondents who indicated they were “very interested” or “somewhat interested,” 64.4 percent and 53.8 percent are white, respectively, well above the 48.8 percent of respondents overall who are white.
As the majority of freshmen settled into their dorms — and a small number prepared for three months of virtual instruction from home — roughly 76 percent took the time to respond to a Crimson email questionnaire about their backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. The anonymous survey asked them about topics ranging from political ideology to alcohol consumption to perspectives on the global coronavirus pandemic. Of 1,420 students comprising the Class of 2024, 1,083 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 four-part series on the Class of 2024 examines students’ academic and extracurricular interests, and their experiences both in and outside of the classroom.
For the fifth straight year, the top choices for perspective concentrations among the Class of 2024 are Economics, Government, and Computer Science. With 14 percent eyeing Economics and 10 percent apiece planning on choosing Government and Computer Science, students interested in the three concentrations constitute over one-third of the freshman class.
That breakdown is also partially congruent with the most popular freshman courses, which typically include Economics 10a: “Principles of Economics” and Computer Science 50: “Introduction to Computer Science.”
Members of the Class of 2024 joined a years-long trend of sinking interest in Arts and Humanities concentrations. Roughly seven percent plan to study within Arts and Humanities, the lowest percentage in eight years.
- Interest in the Social Sciences ticked up slightly, rising from 36.5 to 39.1 percent, while interest in the Sciences and Engineering and Applied Science clocked in at 28.9 percent and 24.8 percent.
- Students matriculating from private schools were more likely to favor Arts and Humanities concentrations. Twelve percent indicated their interest in the division, approximately double the percentage of those coming from public schools. Public school students, however, were more likely to indicate interest in the sciences with 29.9 percent, more than 10 percentage points higher than private school respondents. Students from private schools were slightly more likely to indicate interest in the social sciences, but respondents indicating SEAS were roughly equal.
- Of those planning on concentrating in Government, 84.1 percent identify as “very liberal” or “somewhat liberal.” Only 1.1 percent of those respondents said they are conservative. Economics contained the highest number of respondents who identified as conservative, with that group making up 14.9 percent of interested concentrators.
- Both Government and Computer Science showed gender disparities in this year’s survey. In Government, 69.3 percent of prospective concentrators are female, while only 29.5 percent are male. Conversely, only 30.1 percent of prospective Computer Science concentrators are female, and 67.5 percent are male. Those identifying as genderqueer or nonbinary make up approximately 1 percent in both fields.
- 47 percent of respondents said they anticipated spending at least 30 hours studying at Harvard, roughly the same as last year’s 46 percent.
Asked about Harvard’s June decision to scrap the social group sanctions, 39 percent of respondents said they viewed the choice favorably. Just 14 percent viewed the decision unfavorably. About half of respondents, however, said they held no opinion on the issues or did not have enough information to make a judgement.
The percentage of students who showed at least some interest in joining a final club or Greek organizations increased by more than 10 percentage points from last year’s results, up from 22.8 percent to 33 percent.
Among those who indicated that they are a recruited athlete, almost half indicated some level of interest in joining a final club, sorority, or fraternity on campus. Additionally, while 23.5 percent athletes expressed high interest, only 9.9 non-athletes did.
- Though male respondents to the question comprised only about 46 percent, they outnumbered women among freshmen who said they are “very interested” and “somewhat interested” in social groups by about 5 percentage points. Women, however, made up the majority, 60.6 percent, of respondents who said they are “not at all interested.” Approximately 14 percent of respondents who identify as genderqueer or transgender indicated interest in these groups.
- Interest in social clubs also varied by income. Thirty-six percent of students from families making $250,000-$499,999 and 40.9 percent of students from families making over $500,000 indicated some level of interest in final clubs and Greek groups. By comparison, only about 29 percent of students in other wealth brackets indicated interest.
Much like respondents to last year’s survey, 10.6 percent of the Class of 2024 said they are starting at Harvard as recruited athletes. Nearly 72 percent of recruited athletes said academic opportunities played the biggest role in their decision to come to Harvard, while 20.2 percent said athletic opportunities were the biggest factor.
- 72.9 percent of recruited athletes identified as white, compared to 49.5 percent of the class at large.
- Sixty-two percent of recruited athletes said Harvard began actively recruiting them when they were in the 11th grade. The next-most popular choices were 12th grade at 20.8 percent and 10th grade at 9.9 percent.
- About 20 percent of recruited athletes reported planning to concentrate in Economics, compared to 14 percent of non-athletic recruits planning to do the same. Last year’s freshman survey showed that 29.2 percent of recruited athletes in the Class of 2023 preferred Economics.
- Almost half of self-identified athletes reported coming from a family with an income greater than or equal to $125,000 a year, compared to 39.3 percent of the incoming class.
Academics Before Harvard
More than half of respondents to the survey reported ranking among the top 2 percent of their high school class. Just over 32 percent said their high school did not rank.
- Students reported an average GPA of 3.95 on an unweighted 4.0 scale, the same as last year’s average GPA.
- Students reported taking the SAT an average of 1.7 times, compared to an average of roughly twice for the Class of 2023. Respondents received an average score of 1510 out of 1600 scale, compared to last year’s average of 1523.
- Roughly 17 percent of respondents reported having cheated in an academic context at some point, a slight decrease from last year’s figure of 19 percent. The same percentage — 16.6 percent — of male students reported cheating in an academic context as female students. Roughly 13 percent of athletic recruits reported having cheated, compared to 17 percent of non-athletic recruits.
- A plurality of students — 38.9 percent — said they have taken math courses through Calculus BC.
- Consistent with past years, 79 percent of respondents said their greatest source of pressure is their own expectations.
- A plurality of students — 30.3 percent — said they spent 11 to 19 hours a week studying in high school. A plurality of students — 37 percent — anticipate studying anticipate studying 20 to 29 hours a week in college.
Extracurriculars Before Harvard
Like prior classes, the Class of 2024 reported heavy extracurricular involvement throughout high school. Community service was the most popular activity, pursued by 81.3 percent of respondents to a question about high school clubs. Other popular activities included athletics at 61.7 percent, student government at 40.2 percent, and music clubs or band at 38.6 percent.
- A plurality of students — 38 percent — reported being president of one club, trailed closely by 36.7 percent of respondents who presided over two clubs and 16.2 percent who led four.
- About 17 percent of respondents reported being president of their high school student government, and 8.8 percent of respondents editor-in-chief of their high school newspaper.