Freshman Survey Part IV: Sex, Drugs, and MacBook Pros

Crimson design staff

Part IV of a four-part series on Harvard’s incoming Class of 2017, based on data collected by The Crimson in an online survey conducted in the month of August. Part I ran on Tuesday, Part II ran on Wednesday, and Part III ran on Thursday.

They scored well on the SATs, but it appears Harvard freshmen aren't quite as good at scoring in bed.

Only 35 percent of the Class of 2017 had sex before coming to Harvard, according to a survey of incoming freshmen conducted by The Crimson last month.

Of those who have done the deed, the vast majority—81 percent—said they lost their virginity in high school, and most—62 percent—said they have only had sex with one partner.

Recruited athletes seem to be having better luck: 53 percent of them said they have lost their virginity. In comparison, only one third of incoming Harvard freshmen who were not recruited to play a varsity sport reported that they have had sex.

Sexual activity was just one of a range of topics explored in The Crimson’s email survey of the incoming freshman class. The survey drew 1,311 respondents—nearly 80 percent of the Class of 2017—although not all of them completed every question on the survey. Exploring beliefs, anxieties, habits, and vices, the final installment of a four-part series on the survey’s results looks at how the newest members of the Harvard community live their lives when they are not building their resumes.

DOING THE DIRTY

Men were more likely than women, private school students more likely than public school students, and Jews more likely than any other religious group to report having had sex before they arrived on campus.

Respondents who identify as homosexual or bisexual are more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to report that they have lost their virginity. Forty-five percent of homosexuals and 56 percent of bisexuals reported having sex versus 35 percent of heterosexuals. Of those freshmen who say that they are questioning their sexuality, only 20 percent said they have had sex.

Forty percent of private school students said they lost their virginity before Harvard, compared to 33 percent of public school students, 18 percent of charter school students, and one of six homeschooled students.

Among surveyed freshmen, self-reported sexual history also differed between religions. Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, and Protestants reported the least sexual activity, with 0, 16, 25, and 28 percent respectively saying they have had sex. According to the survey, half of Jews, 38 percent of agnostics, 36 percent of atheists, and 34 percent of Catholics have lost their virginity.

Males, on average, reporting having had more sexual partners than females did—1.95 for the former and 1.70 for the latter. Seven men claimed to have had sex with 10 or more people, but were excluded from the averages of sexual partners.

ASKING FOR HELP

The Class of 2017 arrives on campus in the wake of a year that saw students call for reforms to the University’s mental health services.

As Harvard increasingly encourages its undergraduates to utilize the University’s growing mental health services, the vast majority of incoming students who were surveyed—87 percent—said they have never sought mental health counseling. Among those who have, most said they come from middle- and upper-class families. Twenty-one percent come from the survey’s highest income bracket—a combined parental income of more than $500,000 a year—and 61 percent come from families with an income of $125,000 a year and higher.

Heterosexuals are the least likely sexual orientation to say that they have attended counseling: only 12 percent reported having done so. Thirty-three percent of students who identify as bisexual said they have been to counseling, as did 18 percent of those who say they are homosexual and 14 percent of those who say they are questioning their sexual orientation.

Even less likely to say they have attended counseling are those who plan to compete on Harvard’s athletic fields and courts. Eleven percent of those who identified themselves as athletic recruits said they have been to counseling, compared to just 7 percent of prospective varsity walk-ons.

LIGHTING UP

According to Freshman Dean Thomas A. Dingman '67, survey data collected by the Freshman Dean’s Office through alcohol.edu, an online alcohol prevention course completed by incoming freshmen, has found that about 70 percent of undergraduates do not identify as drinkers before arriving in Cambridge. But The Crimson’s survey indicates that members of the Class of 2017 are not strangers when it comes to booze.

Sixty percent of respondents said they have tried alcohol, and 35 percent of surveyed freshmen claimed to drink at least once a month. Sixty-four percent of men and 57 percent of women reported having had a drink. Eighteen percent of surveyed students from urban areas, and 9 percent overall, said they have a fake ID.

While 22 percent of respondents said they have tried marijuana, only a small minority reported having tried hard drugs. Less than one percent said they had tried cocaine, and less than two percent said they had done mushrooms. Less than three percent reported having tried ecstasy or molly, a colloquial term for a form of the drug. Men were slightly more likely than women to report having tried marijuana, while the two genders were just as likely to report having tried hard drugs

CONFIRMING STEREOTYPES

Harvard University has long had a reputation as a bastion of liberalism, and the survey respondents do little to buck that trend. Sixty percent identified as liberal, 25 percent called themselves moderates, and only 15 percent said they are conservative. And while 239 students described themselves as very liberal, just 33 identified as very conservative.

Along religious lines, the Class of 2017 is noticeably more divided. Thirty-two percent of respondents described themselves as either atheist or agnostic, while 42 percent identify as Catholic or Protestant and 9 percent as Jewish. Smaller percentages identify as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Mormon.

Twenty-four percent of surveyed freshmen identified as either religious or very religious, with Protestants, Muslims, and Mormons more likely to do so than their peers. Respondents who identified as Jewish were the least likely of those who reported a religion to describe themselves as religious or very religious.

PLUGGING IN

Microsoft may have roots in Cambridge, but it seems that in Harvard Yard, Apple is king. Sixty-eight percent of surveyed incoming freshmen said they own a Mac, and 70 percent said they have an iPhone.

Seventeen percent of respondents said they have Androids. All but nine percent of respondents said they have a smartphone, and only one percent of surveyed freshmen said they are entering Harvard without a cell phone.

Those from families with a higher income were significantly more likely to report owning a Mac laptop or an iPhone. Ninety-three percent of those whose parents’ total income is over $500,000 a year—the highest income bracket on The Crimson survey—have an iPhone, compared to only 55 percent of those students whose parents together make less than $40,000 a year—the lowest income bracket. Similarly, 91 percent of those in the highest income bracket reported owning Macs, compared to 47 percent of the lowest.

And like many millennials, it seems that incoming Harvard freshmen spend a lot of their time using social media. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed said they have Facebook accounts, and 47 percent said they have Twitter accounts. Respondents reported spending significantly less time on Twitter each day than on Facebook. Among those who have Twitter accounts, the majority reported spending fewer than 15 minutes a day on Twitter, and half of those with Facebook accounts said they spend more than an hour each day on the site.

—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at matthew.clarida@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.

—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at nicholas.fandos@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @npfandos.

The interactive feature accompanying this article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: Sept. 8, 2013

Due to an editing error, a graph in an earlier version of the interactive feature accompanying this article incorrectly stated the percentage of respondents who reported having had sex. In fact, that figure was 35 percent, not 65 percent.

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