The Graduating
Class of


by the numbers


By Virginia L. Ma and Madison A. Shirazi

The Class of 2023’s Harvard experience was shaped in many ways by Covid-19. Seniors were  sent home in the spring of their freshman year due to the pandemic, and spent the entirety of their sophomore year learning remotely before returning to campus in fall 2021. 

Covid on Campus

Despite nearly every member of the Class of 2023 being fully vaccinated and boosted — a requirement for on-campus living imposed by the University — more than 80 percent of seniors reported having contracted Covid-19 at least once, compared to roughly two-thirds of last year’s survey respondents. The University dropped its Covid-19 booster requirement on May 8 in conjunction with the expiration of the United States’ Covid-19 public health emergency.

Half of respondents reported contracting Covid-19 exactly once, and a quarter reported contracting Covid-19 exactly twice. Two-thirds of respondents who contracted Covid-19 believed that the exposure might have taken place on campus.

Sixty percent of respondents who contracted Covid-19 reported testing positive in spring 2022, when Harvard lifted many of its Covid-19 restrictions. A quarter of respondents who contracted Covid-19 reported testing positive at some point during the 2022-23 academic year. Harvard stopped offering PCR Covid-19 tests in September 2022.

To Dorm or Not to Dorm

Four percent of respondents lived in Harvard’s dorms in spring 2020, after Harvard sent most students home in March of the same semester. Six percent lived in residence in fall 2020 and 19 percent in spring 2021, during which the Class of 2023 was not invited back to campus.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents did not live in Harvard’s dorms at any point when classes were remote, and 94 percent were on campus continuously since fall 2021, once classes resumed in-person.

Among students not in residence when classes were online, three-quarters lived at home at some point, about one-quarter in a rental in the Boston area at some point, and about one quarter in a rental outside the Boston area at some point.

Welcome to Zoom School

The pandemic upended seniors’ lives, and had an impact on their academic plans and experiences throughout college.

More than four in five respondents reported that the pandemic affected the difficulty of their coursework, as classes moved online before shifting back to being held in-person. Of those, 53 percent reported that the pandemic decreased the difficulty of their coursework and 47 percent reported that the pandemic increased the difficulty of their coursework.

The percentage of students who reported that the pandemic increased the difficulty of their coursework varied by concentration. Half of students concentrating in the arts and humanities reported that the pandemic increased the difficulty of their coursework while only 37 percent of students concentrating in the social sciences reported the same.

Covid-19 also affected topic choice and the ability to do research for seniors who wrote theses.  Twenty-eight percent of surveyed seniors said their thesis was impacted by the pandemic. Among these seniors, 11 percent said it changed their topic. Eighteen percent said it affected their ability to do research, compared to 32 percent of last year’s surveyed seniors.

School’s Out — For the Semester

More than three-quarters of seniors who took time off from school said it was primarily because of the pandemic. Ninety-two percent of seniors who took at least one gap semester said they did not regret doing so, while nearly 29 percent of students who did not take time off reported regretting not taking a leave of absence.

Future Plans

Covid-19 also had an impact on seniors’ postgraduate plans. 

Fifty-two percent of respondents said their career plans were “informed somewhat” or “informed greatly” by the pandemic.