Swigert Advises First Year at Harvard Difficult For Students With Limited Means -- Work and Loans Available

The following article was written by J. M. Swigert '20, of the University Employment Bureau, for the benefit of teachers and others who may be in a position to advice prospective applicants for Harvard.

Probably no college in the country treats the financially needy student more generously than Harvard. Each year almost $200,000 is distributed to undergraduates in the form of scholarships, more than $60,000 in loans and aids, and more than $200,000 in student employment. The total assistance rendered to undergraduates annually probably amounts to something like a half million dollars, even during these difficulty years.

It should be understood that these figures apply to the undergraduate division of the University only, and do not include financial assistance rendered to students in the various graduate schools.

The aid furnished to all students of the University amounts to more than a million dollars annually.

Minimum Annual Expense $1100

In spite of its liberal backing of needy students, Harvard is not an easy place for the average man who must earn part of his expenses. The estimated minimum expense of $1100 is somewhat above that which prevails at state universities and many colleges of small size. Also, because of the tutorial system and general examinations, and the fact that, unlike in most colleges, a student is expected to begin advanced work at the commencement of his sophomore year instead of his junior year, more time must be devoted to studies than in some college, which means correspondingly less time for outside work.

The first year at Harvard is an especially difficult one for the student with limited resources, unless he is sufficiently brilliant to have entered with a scholarship. A study of the Class of 1936 just completed by the Student Employment Office in cooperation with the Dean's Office and the Committee on Admissions indicates that although approximately 325 Freshman were given some sort of financial aid by the College, only 107, or about one-half of those who applied, secured employment of any kind. Of those who did find work, the neediest men earned only 75 percent of their estimated requirements, the less needy 54 percent, and the least needy 48 percent. Of the $20,000 earned by Freshmen, $17,000 came from jobs within the University, and most of these were in the Freshman Dining Halls.

Freshman Year Difficult

This means that the Freshmen who does not secure a scholarship or a waiter's job has very little chance of financing his first year unless he has independent resources. He can hardly rely upon a loan from the College, because the average loan to Freshmen amounts to only $83, and during the past year only 49 men received assignments. Officials of the College feel that they should conserve the loan funds for upper classmen because a Freshman has not yet had an opportunity to show whether or not he is deserving, and also because loan funds are revolving funds, the installments of which must usually be repaid within three years. If the student begins to borrow his first year, he must commence re-paying his debts before he has graduated.

In view of the foregoing facts, it would seem generally to be unwise for a man to enter Harvard as a Freshman unless his resources aggregate $900 or $1000. If he has a scholarship of, say, $300, he has a good chance of getting through the year with $600 or $700 of his own. If he has a scholarship and a job in the Freshman Dining Halls he will need only about $300 or $350. This is assuming that he comes from a distance, and must live at the College.


If he lives within commuting distance, his total expenses should amount to only $500 or 600. However, he will not be eligible for a waiting job, which means that his only chance of reducing this amount appreciably is through receiving a scholarship.

Of course, not all scholarships are given on the basis of academic promise. Any student who is interested in entering Harvard should be sure to go through the pamphlet on Expenses and Financial Aids very carefully. He may find that in some cases preference is given to men from his locality, or to men bearing his family name. In such case, even though his scholastic record may not be of the highest, he may be able to secure substantial financial assistance.

Summer School students who teach in high or preparatory schools might render a service to pupils interested in coming to Harvard by bringing these facts to their attention. Each year a few students who do not secure scholarships or waiting jobs enter the College hoping somehow to earn enough to carry them through the year. The College would like to see them succeed, but its facilities for aid, after all, are finite, and it cannot render assistance beyond its own resources. It is distressing to see these over-hopeful Freshmen obliged to drop out in the middle of the year for lack of funds, after having spent time and money for little more than disappointment and discouragement.

It would seem better for the aspiring student to wait a year, until he has secured at least a prudent minimum of money, than to come on stubbornly or impetuously and undergo such a disheartening experience.