The Class of 2023 had its time on campus cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic more than any other, with the majority of seniors indicating that they did not live on campus at any point between March 2020 and campus’ reopening in fall 2021.
The shift to remote learning drastically redefined the academic experience of the class, pushing some to take a leave from the College during the pandemic. Seventeen percent of the Class of 2023 reported having taken time off, mostly due to the pandemic. More than 39 percent of surveyed seniors said remote courses made learning “more difficult” or “much more difficult.”
Since returning to campus, the Class of 2023 has witnessed a series of changes to academics and student life at the College, further distancing the school from how it looked when the class matriculated in 2019.
Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted in May 2022 to eliminate shopping week, which previously allowed students to sample courses without officially enrolling during the first week of the semester. This fall also marked the first semester in which undergraduates could declare double concentrations, which now allow students to study in two unrelated fields without writing a joint thesis.
Harvard University Dining Services moved to revamp its offerings beginning in Spring 2023, pledging to provide more diverse and healthier food options. Despite the effort, seniors offered mixed reviews of HUDS, with 50 percent of respondents holding a “favorable” view, 38 percent holding an “unfavorable” view, and the rest indicating no opinion.
The University moved forward — slowly — with its house renewal program throughout the Class of 2023’s time on campus. Adams House’s Claverly Hall reopened after renovations in 2021, but the three-phase Adams renovation plan has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and is now set to finish in 2025. Meanwhile, the bloated Class of 2026 led to overcrowding in undergraduate residences, with all upperclassman houses but one relying on swing housing this year.
Leverett House, meanwhile, bid farewell to their faculty deans in 2022 following complaints of mismanagement.
Few seniors opted to take advantage of Harvard’s new double concentration offering in their last year. Just under 4 percent of respondents said they will graduate with a double concentration, while 13 percent pursued a joint concentration, which requires a cross-disciplinary senior thesis.
The top concentration among respondents was Economics, followed by Government, Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, and Neuroscience. All except Neuroscience have remained in the top five most popular concentrations since 2020. Mathematics fell to seventh place after coming in third last year.
Including joint and double concentrators, a plurality of respondents — 43 percent — studied in the Social Sciences Division, similar to 43 percent last year and 38 percent in 2021. Just under one-third of respondents — 31 percent — concentrated in the Sciences Division and nearly one-quarter percent trekked across the river to study at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The Arts and Humanities Division sharply declined in popularity after rising slightly in previous years: Only 13 percent of respondents studied Humanities concentrations, compared to 20 percent in 2022 and 17 percent in 2021.
Across the class, academics were a top priority, with 90 percent of respondents rating academics as important or very important to their time at Harvard. Seniors reported spending an average of 34.7 hours per week on academic work, on par with the Class of 2022 at 34.3 hours per week.
Slightly more than half of respondents — about 56 percent — said they wrote or plan to write a thesis. A plurality of those who submitted a thesis already received a grade in the magna cum laude range, and only 17 percent achieved grades of summa cum laude or summa cum laude minus.
After several years on the rise, grade point average jumped up once again, with three-quarters of respondents reporting GPAs at or above 3.8 when rounded to one decimal place. This marks a nearly 50 percent increase since 2019, when just over half of seniors reported GPAs in this range.
Amid concerns among faculty about grade inflation, about four in five respondents reported having a GPA that rounds to an A- or higher (3.7 or above, per the College’s grading scale). One in five respondents maintained a near perfect GPA that rounds to 4.0 — more than double the number of seniors in this range in the Class of 2020. Less than 1 percent of respondents reported a GPA of 3.0 or lower.
The Class of 2023 is the last class eligible for Advanced Standing, a phased-out program that allowed students to use high school credits to graduate in just three years or with a Master’s degree. Only 6 percent of respondents said they will graduate with this distinction.
One-quarter of respondents from the Class of 2023 admitted to having cheated in an academic context while at Harvard — a slight decrease from 28 percent of respondents in the Class of 2022. But most students suspect even more of their classmates are cheaters: Respondents expected, on average, that about half of the class cheated at some point during their time at Harvard.
Among respondents who said they cheated, 88 percent reported having done so on a problem set or regular homework assignment, and 39 percent reported cheating on a live exam, either in person or online. About 66 percent admitted to cheating on a paper, take-home exam, or a project, a jump of 30 percentage points from last year.
Nearly one-fifth of respondents who said they had a rounded GPA of 4.0 admitted to having cheated in an academic context, compared to just 10 percent in 2022.
More than 6 percent of respondents had to stand before the Administrative Board or Honor Council for a disciplinary issue during their time at Harvard. Roughly 57 percent of those students said their disciplinary process was somewhat or very unfair.
The number of students who were forced to withdraw from the College due to Honor Code violations reached a six-year high during the 2020-21 academic year, according to data released last fall. During that period, the Honor Council heard 138 cases of academic dishonesty.
Concerns about academic dishonesty rose in recent years as the Covid-19 pandemic moved classes online and introduced more lenient test policies, such as open-book exams. The release of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot that can generate text, in November also worried some faculty members about the potential for students to cheat using AI.
Extracurriculars and Varsity Activities
Respondents reported spending an average of 15 hours per week on extracurricular activities, a decrease of one hour from the Class of 2022. Time spent on paid employment increased by two hours per week from last year to an average of 11 hours per week.
Fifteen percent of respondents said they participated in a varsity sport during their time at Harvard. About 31 percent did not remain on their team for all four years, however — up from 20 percent in 2022. Those who participated in varsity sports during their entire time at Harvard reported spending an average of 29 hours per week on athletics.
Eleven percent of athletes reported earning a GPA of 4.0 (rounded to one decimal place). Athletes comprised 7 percent of all respondents who reported earning a 4.0 GPA.
House and Student Life
Adams House earned the highest marks for its accommodations, with 97 percent of residents reporting they were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their living arrangements. Adams, which is currently undergoing a three-part renovation as part of the Harvard House Renewal Program, unveiled a revamped Claverly Hall in 2021.
Lowell House, which had the highest living arrangement satisfaction among the Class of 2022, fell to third place. For the second consecutive year, Kirkland House residents were the least satisfied with their living arrangements, with 29 percent indicating they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with housing.
Quincy House residents reported the highest trust in their faculty deans, with 92 percent reporting they “trust fully” or “trust somewhat” their faculty deans, Eric Beerbohm and Leslie J. Duhaylongsod. Currier, meanwhile, reported the highest distrust — 11 percent of respondents indicated they somewhat or fully distrust their deans, Latanya A. Sweeney and Sylvia I. Barrett.
Leverett House’s new faculty deans drew substantially higher trust ratings than their predecessors, who departed prematurely in June 2022 following an array of complaints about their leadership and the culture they fostered. Eighty-six percent of Leverett respondents said they trust new deans, Harvard Medical School professors Eileen E. Reynolds ’86 and Daniel G. Deschler. In 2019, just 27 percent of graduating Leverett seniors said they trusted their then-faculty deans, Brian D. Farrell and Irina P. Ferreras.
As freshmen, Harvard students are sorted into upperclassman houses with a group of classmates — known as blockmates — with whom they wish to live in their future houses. The most common blocking group size was eight, with 32 percent of respondents indicating they had seven other blockmates. Sixty respondents who indicated they no longer get along with one or more of their blockmates also reported they would feed at least one to the Harvard Square turkeys.
On average, respondents said they spent 19 hours per week on their social life. A vast majority of respondents — 87 percent — said extracurricular organizations represented the most important part of their social lives. Off-campus venues, meanwhile, were important to 74 percent of respondents. Although 58 percent of respondents reported having attended a final club party or event during their time at Harvard, only 35 percent of respondents said they considered the clubs to be important parts of their social lives.
The vast majority of the Class of 2023 was not affiliated with a final club, sorority, fraternity, or other off-campus social organization while at Harvard. Sixteen percent of respondents reported being a member of a coed or single-gender final club. Only 8 percent of respondents reported belonging to a female-only final club, while 6 said they belonged to a male-only final club.
Seventy-seven percent of respondents in final clubs identified as heterosexual. Fourteen percent identified as bisexual and 6 percent identified as questioning, while only two respondents identified as homosexual. None of the 67 single-gender final club members who responded to the survey identified as homosexual. Fifteen percent of single-gender final club members identified as bisexual and five respondents identified as questioning.
Nineteen percent of respondents reported having been sexually harassed or assaulted during their time at Harvard — including a quarter of final club members.
Twenty-two percent of all respondents said they view final clubs favorably, while 52 percent view them unfavorably — the rest indicated they had no opinion or lacked enough information.
The Fox Club earned the highest favorable rating of any final club — albeit at a meager 21 percent — followed by the Owl Club at 18 percent and the Spee Club at 17 percent.
The Phoenix S.K. Club, or the P.S.K., drew the worst unfavorable rating of any final club. More than 41 percent of respondents said they view the P.S.K. unfavorably, followed by the Fly Club (39 percent), the A.D. Club (38 percent), and the Porcellian Club (37 percent).