If you're a first-year, you've undoubtedly spent much of the past month or so surveying the 12 houses, the whole time angsting over where you want to live the next three years. And surely this past week, you got even more stressed about whether you'll get one of those four hallowed choices you put on your lottery form.
Today you finally found out your fate. Are you one of the lucky winners?
The immediate answer should come as no surprise: maybe, maybe not. But what might surprise you is that even if you didn't get the house you wanted, your three remaining years here still may not be spent in vain.
When you get right down to it, what is a house? It's a room and food. Last time we checked, every house had these accommodations. A house also means friends, which you should be able to find no matter what house you're in. Finally, every house has the nice property of not having to eat in the Union and not having to deal with a proctor ever again.
Remember, if you don't like your house, you can transfer out after one year, so don't panic. But in all likelihood, this probably won't be necessary. If you survived, and perhaps even enjoyed the first-year dorm experience, then you'll probably enjoy the house thing, no matter where you end up.
The following page comes straight from the hearts of upperclass Crimson editors who live in the various houses described. These aren't scientific judgments, and you should take them with a grain of salt. If all goes well, the house you go to will turn out better than we predicted.
Good luck--wherever you end up.
Okay, so Adams House does look a bit like a mausoleum.
But hey, it has the biggest, most ornate rooms on campus. If you don't like the dark, just buy a lot of lamps. They'll be worth it for the built-in bookshelves, closets the size of a Currier House single, and common rooms the size of a Dunster House triple.
Adams also offers some of the best house-organized social events at Harvard. Aside from the traditional Winter Formal and Spring Waltz, Adams has yearly Halloween and Mardi Gras parties, complete with dancing which would make most people blush--until they learn how to do it. And every Tuesday the house committee sponsers Cafe Mardi, which offers, among other treats, sexpresso.
One of the biggest disadvantages of Adams House is lunch. Not the food--Adams meals are much better that anything you could get from Lowell or the central kitchen of Winthrop, Kirkland and Eliot. It's the lines that can stretch out to Plympton St. that are truly maddening. Of course, you have to feel a bit sorry for the Quadlings who do not have time to go to their own houses for lunch--but you don't have to be nice to them. Hissing at strangers is well within house protocol. But don't fret, if Barbara is checking IDs, she will wave you past the trespassers--because we live there.
Other A-house bonuses: you can leave the house at 10:02 for a 10 a.m. class, there is a change machine in the laundry room, you never have to go outside to get to dinner or the library, and Tommy's Lunch is only three steps away. Who needs light, anyway?
Everybody knows how busy and hassled it can get in the Square. But Cabot residents, unlike most undergraduates, have the best of all worlds. After a day amidst the business of the Square, they can head home to the grassy Quad and the peaceful halls of Cabot.
The secret about Cabot is that the reason most people don't want to go there--primarily the long walk--is actually not a problem. The shuttle bus runs regularly, and a 15-minute walk is a wonderful way to start and finish the day. Better than therapy to alleviate the tension and stress of college life, this time allows you to think calmly about whatever you like--no matter how hard you may try, you simply can't do your reading, write your paper or finish your problem set while trudging through the Common.
Admittedly, most Cabot residents were Quadded against their wishes. And initially, they hated it. They dreaded winter, being late for classes every day, and dealing with the escort service every night. But now many love it and wouldn't live anywhere else.
Why? The rooms are beautiful, even if the abundance of singles means you can't share them. Yes, singles sometimes engender loneliness. But they also allow for privacy, and you can always go hang out with people if you try. Who would not agree it is preferable to choose when to see your friends than never to escape them?
Cabot also boasts a wonderful grill, endowed with soft frozen yogurt, calzones and tri-weekly live music. Plus, you don't have to go outside to get there. Unbeknownst to most, Cabot, like Adams, has tunnels. Unlike Adams, it also has places to go. In contrast to many other houses, Cabot has a dance studio, a weight room, sound studios and all the other amenities of modern life.
So if you get Quadded and end up in Cabot, take heart. It is really a wonderful place--a treasure that most students never discover.
Judging from this year's preliminary Crimson housing poll, Currier was once again the least popular choice among first years.
This shouldn't be surprising; nobody ever wants to live there until they get randomized there and realize it that was probably the best worst thing that ever happened to them.
Cheer up guys--and this is an order! Currier House is fun, great--a blast, even!
Honestly, almost no Currierite would now want to live in any other house, River or otherwise. Why would they? River houses are dirty, rat-infested, small, cramped, and just too old to admire after a month or two of watching chunks of plaster fall onto your lap from the ceiling everyday.
And because of overcrowding, now even seniors don't get singles in some houses (like many Currierites' old 'first choice' house Winthrop, for example.)
Now, back to Currier. We have a great grill. We have Parky. We have the 10-man, the fishbowl, and the best house parties on campus. We even have kitchens, as well as some suites with fire-places and dishwashers. And, we have elevators and other modern conveniences.
But mostly, we've got spirit--and the shuttle bus, which can come in very handy, because while river rats brag that they can leave for a class at five minutes before the hour, we can brag that we can leave (via shuttle, of course) five minutes after the hour--and be on time.
So remember, being "Curriered" is nothing to lose sleep--or ruin your spring break--over. It's a time to celebrate!
They used to say that Dunster House was where "geek meets chic." Nowadays, the extremes have been toned down: there are still geeks, but they're somehow less geeky. And Dunster's once-infamous crowd of the Euro-chic has magically been transformed into a forceful contingent of the radical chic. Yes, Dunsterites tend to be very liberal and frequently artistically-inclined, but thankfully, they lack the smoky snobbiness that characterizes their Adams House cousins.
Beautiful architecture, a lively cultural scene and an ever-growing set of offbeat house traditions (an annual Carribean-style goat roast and frequent bathrobe brunches among them) lend Dunster a unique character. And, boasting a strong bunch of hardcore recyclers, Dunster is rapidly becoming enviro-house as well.
Distance, someone important once said, is a relative thing. True, Dunster is as far as the Quad is from the Science Center, but a pleasant stroll down residential Athens Street makes the daily walk to the Yard bearable. And given the allure of Dunster dining hall's popular fresh-baked muffins, you may not even mind getting up a few minutes earlier for breakfast.
Harvard is Eliot. Eliot is Harvard. And you're not invited.
Unless, that is, you happen to be an alumnus of Philips Exeter, pay tuition with your trust fund, and have a last name like Wigglesworth or Sackler. That's the way it is and that's the way it always has been.
"Eliot is everything Harvard represents carried to its logical extreme," wrote Michael E. Kinsley '72 in a Crimson editorial on February 1, 1970. "Eliot House--where the preppies are preppier, the jocks jockier, John Finlier and Alan Heimier than any other place at Harvard."
Since Kinsley's brief flirtation with its halls, Eliot has remained the last bastion of the blue-blooded Harvard of the past. Heimert and the preppy jocks have reigned supreme.
That is, up until now. In February, Heimert, who has been master for longer than most first-years have been alive, announced he is stepping down at the end of the semester.
The new non-ordered choice system, which Heimert strongly opposed, has already had some effect by permitting plebian non-legacies to enter the house. They do have to wash the dishes, though.
Eliot House is still more Harvard than Harvard. But it may not be that way for long.
By now, all first-years should be familiar with Kirkland's stereotype as the College's "Jock House," a label that may have attracted some and discouraged others.
But whatever stereotypes Kirkland House has been tagged with--and whether you are a football player, a mathematics whiz, or both, for that matter--K-House is for all people.
With sweats as the standard attire in the bright and cozy dining hall, Kirkland House is the perfect place to return to after a long day of classes.
But the best part about the dining hall is the food--or the hearty portions of it, at least. Most of us don't care how it tastes, as long as we get a lot of it. And if the generous portions of Harvard grub don't satisfy you, K-House boasts the finest house grill on campus (and one of the only ones that allows tabs). Of course, if you still have a few late-night cravings, the house is conveniently located only two blocks from Pinocchio's.
For the musically inclined, Kirkland House boasts five grand pianos. If you ever do get down to studying, Hicks House, a quaint restored home, is the perfect place to read.
The house does have its drawbacks, such as having rooms on the small side, but it is a close-knit community and you shouldn't go wrong if you end up in this house.
The only good reason for objecting to Leverett House is the design of the Towers. Although the rooms are big, they are underheated and ugly. McKinlock, the old, traditional part of Leverett, is as nice as any other River house: fireplaces in every room, hardwood floors and poor plumbing lend McKinlock a lot of charm.
It is a myth that Leverett food is the worst among the River houses. Leverett's food is cooked at the same kitchen as Winthrop's and Lowell's. They are all equally bad. The distinguishing features of the Leverett dining hall are its trapezoidal shape and the abundance of announcements the House Committee makes during every meal. You cannot usually go through an entire meal without being interrupted by someone clinking a glass at the other end of the room.
Leverett is a diverse house. There are varsity athletes, junior varsity athletes, intramural athletes and independent athletes. And don't forget the house spirit leaders who organize numerous events, including a very strong community service program (HAND). The rest of Leverett residents can be classified as "other"--the same generic "other" that lives in Quincy.
Three years ago, depressed first-year students who were randomized into Lowell House sang a song called "Lowell's Bells"--to the tune of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells"--to voice their displeasure at their new home. Those were the days of the Phi Beta Kappa quads and a house library open so many hours that it gave Store 24 a run for its money. In those days at Lowell House, every night was a Tuesday night.
But all that's changed. A glance around the dining hall reveals athletes, 'Poonsters, political activists and drama folk. Indeed, some veterans of the old days now complain that the house is filled with too many "Eliot House" types.
The preppy presence is there, but it's not overbearing. The house seems more a cross section of Harvard than the domain of any one particular social group.
But forget about the people for a second. Lowell sits on what is perhaps the best house location on campus. It's near enough to the Square to not have to worry about rushing to class, and it's far enough that you can avoid the annoying crowds across the street at Adams House.
An added plus to the house is the teas that the masters--the Bosserts--provide each Thursday. Mary Lee Bossert concocts so many tasty treats that they alone make Lowell a decent place to reside for three years.
Do you spend most of your time playing a varsity sport? Or do you spend most of your time crafting intricate math proofs?
Oddly enough, if the answer to either of these questions is yes, Mather will suit you perfectly. On the one hand, the house's high concentration of sweatpants and baseball caps is rapidly increasing its fame as "the other Kirkland." On the other side of the spectrum, you'd be hard-pressed to find more math majors congregated in one place outside the third floor of the Science Center than you would in Mather.
Before you get too excited, realize there's a catch: while the house is a veritable haven to those diverse passions, the same can't be said for those on the spectrum between the two extremes. Mather is a very cliquish house, and, well, a lot of people don't fit into a particular clique.
Luckily, the house's facilities partially make up for its social fragmentation. True, the concrete doesn't make for the most beautiful setting, but the house--which has two buildings, a low rise and a tower--is quite functional. To begin with, the food is the best you'll get along the River this side of the Guest Quarters Suite Hotel. And if you live here, you can drop the word "double" from your vocabulary, since you'll have a cozy little (yes, this does mean little) bedroom all to yourself for three years.
If you live in the tower (as most seniors and some juniors do), you'll actually have a single bedroom the size of most people's common rooms, with the catch that, well, you won't have a common room yourself. In the tower you'll also have the bonus of an unobstructed view of Peabody Terrace (with Boston in the background).
Although it may take a while to get used to Mather's factional social atmosphere, its well-above-average living arrangements should offset this drawback and make living in this house a pretty pleasurable experience.
The way most Harvard houses are set up, with entries usually consisting of only two rooms per floor, you'd think the planners designed them specifically so that you could get through your college years seeing as few people as possible.
Luckily, there's one place on campus you can find a respite from this antisocial setting: North House.
Although it's one of the smallest houses, you end up knowing more people in this house than you do in most others. This comes largely due to the house's long hallways and centralized setup, both of which encourage frequent congregations.
Besides the impromptu gatherings, there are plenty of planned ones, too. Nights are spent hanging out at the grill, where those feeling unsatisfied by dinner can buy food ranging from frozen yogurt to cheesesteaks. Movies are frequently shown on the big screen TV in the grill area, often making the JCR a social hotspot at night. And then there are the old standbys: milk and cookies every Sunday night and open houses on Friday afternoons.
Those in the know have already found that North House has the best dining hall and some of the nicest rooms on campus. And you can't beat the great house masters, Woody and Hannah, whose enthusiasm and love for the house creates a genuinely friendly atmosphere.
The Quad will become home to you; it won't take long before you really appreciate the peacefulness and the spirit that every "Quadling" feels about where he or she lives. The walk is a stress reliever, and the shuttle bus is a way of making you feel like a sardine. It's all in the spirit of things, and everyone has fun. Welcome to North House! If you're lucky enough to have gotten assigned here, you're going to love it here.
Quincy House is fine. Not great, but fine.
The rooms are fine. New Quincy rooms are spacious but ugly. Old Quincy rooms are nice but cramped. On the whole, Quincy rooms are OK. Nothing special. Just OK.
House life is fine. There are nice people--not too cliquey, not too preppie, not too artsy, not too sportsy, a little nerdy. There's a grill. There are video games. There's a weight room. There are dances. There's foosball. There are language tables. There's a beer-tasting seminar. Nothing wrong with that. But nothing to write home about, either.
The masters are fine. Rosa Shinagel is very hip. Michael Shinagel is very snooty. So on the average, they're fine.
The food is fine, too. Quincy Deli Day is excellent (most Deli Days are). Quincy fish pizziola is horrible (most fish pizziolas are). Quincy pioneer sandwiches are OK. That's Quincy House for you--a pioneer sandwich. Nothing spectacular. Just fine.
Last Friday, Senior Tutor Christine M. Flug was spotted at Pinnochio's at midnight. A few weeks ago, Phylicia Rashad of "The Cosby Show" spent the night and dined with students. Laid back is the stereotype here, and for once, the stereotype fits.
Winthrop is relaxed partly because of its small size--those who make it to even one Winthrop party will know it's possible to get to know most of the residents. And the usual tendency to form cliques is not a problem since house events among the 310 students can bring everyone together.
Just this week, for example, Radcliffe Union of Students President Ann E. Blais '91 accused AALARM Co-Founder E. Adam Webb '93 of murder in a week-long murder mystery spoof written by Winthrop students and held during meals.
Winthrop faces a few problems, though. With the influx of more sophomores and transfers, some students will have to live in the new DeWolfe St. building a block away. And senior singles are no longer guaranteed.
But the big green library, the friendly grill (with movies every night) and the jello wrestling and tie-dyeing of the spring Thropstock Weekend make Winthrop a great place for three years. And there's even a tire swing