Freshman Life at Harvard

By: Joseph Luongo

Campus Sherpa Blog Contributor, Harvard University

At Harvard, housing is very different and unique. Almost everyone lives on campus, approximately 97% all four years, and that is due to our housing system. As a freshman, students are required to live on campus. Over the summer, students fill out a housing questionnaire, more like a test, so Harvard can pair students with roommates that won’t be at each other’s throats. Housing is completely random freshman year, students do not get to request or choose whom they live with. They ask you questions such as: Are you neat? What time do you go to bed? Do you like a quiet room?, and so on and so forth. Then they send the students’ parents the same questionnaire and ask: Are they really neat? What time do they actually go to bed? How loud are they actually? They take forever to sort roommates and dorms because everyone is hand selected by Harvard for each other, which is why Harvard tries to get a very accurate description of students. At Harvard, all dorms are co-ed and all have different things about them such as room size, bathrooms, configuration, number of roommates, study spaces, kitchens, common rooms, etc.

If you take a tour of Harvard, they will tell you all the freshman live in Harvard Yard, the center of the University. However, this is not exactly true. There are seventeen freshman dorms at Harvard and thirteen of them are in Harvard Yard, however, four of them are located outside of the Yard, deemed unlucky and an inconvenience for many. The three “Union” dorms are located about half a mile outside of Harvard Yard. The last dorm isolated from the Yard, called Apley Court, is a former hotel in the heart of Harvard Square, so many do not mind living here. All freshman dorms have a family feel to it and compete against one another in intramural sports and other activities.

Within the dorms, they are organized in “entryways” which could be each separate floors vertically or horizontally, or entrances. Instead of RA’s or DA’s Harvard has “proctors” that live in the dorms with the freshman, one per entryway. Proctors are usually grad students, TF’s (same as TA), or professors and have the same role as an RA would, hosting study breaks, giving advice, etc. All dorms have a lot of history to them and have many prominent past residents. For instance, JFK, yes, the president, lived in my room at Weld Hall. Conan O’Brian returns to his freshman dorm room every year to take the current residents out to dinner. When you move in, you are given a list of every person who has lived in your room, with some lists going back to the 1800’s.

Most argue that freshman have the best living location on campus, at least those in the Yard, because the Yard is the heart of the entire University and steps away from Harvard Square, libraries, classrooms, and the freshman dining hall. All the freshman share the same dining hall, Annenberg Hall, which actually is the Great Hall from Harry Potter (no joke, look it up). Freshman also have the luxury of being able to eat in any of the 12 upperclassman houses’ dining halls, while the upperclassmen cannot use Annenberg Hall. Harvard puts all (most) the freshman in the Yard and has an exclusive dining hall to help create a community around your class. They put them in the Yard so they have the most important parts of campus easily accessible and gradually get used to life at Harvard. Upperclassmen housing is very different than freshman housing. It involves what we call Housing Day and that will be explained in my next post.

Harvard Yard Dorms: Canaday, Grays, Hollis, Holworthy, Lionel, Massachusetts Hall, Matthews, Mower, Stoughton, Struas, Thayer, Weld (The best dorm, mine), Wigglesworth Union Dorms: Greenough, Hurlbut, Pennypacker Harvard Square Dorms: Apley Court

If you’re interested in reading more about Harvard freshman dorms:

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