Harvard: The View From Inside

But forget lectures--the question you want answered is whether the social life is as terrible as you've heard.

Legend has it that Harvard is inhabited by a tribe of pasty-faced "former" geeks for whom social life consists of reading Nietzsche into the wee hours and obsessively checking e-mail. That isn't true, of course...or at least, it isn't entirely true.

Social life begins at home, first in randomly assigned entryways, and from sophomore year in blocking groups of up to eight people (the core group of friends with whom you receive your Housing assignment). For students in a rush, grab-and-go lunches in Loker Commons are the norm, but it's not so unusual either to linger over an empty tray in your House dining hall through three cycles of conversation.


Don't worry, Harvard does have parties, at least on the weekends. Extracurricular groups and House committees plan dances (ranging from the tragically lame Bare as You Dare to the pleasantly lame Leverett '80s Dance). The calendar is sprinkled with formals, especially in the spring--look for the Eliot House Fete, which features chocolate-covered strawberries and swing dancing.

Room parties are often fun too, particularly if you know the hosts; other times they're just loud, sweaty and invaded by the cops at 1 a.m. when the search for alcohol moves elsewhere (check out the Crimson Sports Grille). But for the athlete elite and the first-year women who love them, final clubs, exclusive all-male artifacts from Roosevelt's time--either Roosevelt--offer late-night festivities.

Interrupting the routine are a few marquee social events. The Adams House Masquerade on Halloween weekend succeeds in drawing huge costumed crowds. Head of the Charles, a regatta weekend in the fall, is more fun for the legions of tourists than the students they inconvenience. And while it's a shadow of its former self, the Harvard-Yale Game in November is one time you'll see a real outpouring of school spirit.

The rest of the year, sports teams go about their business quietly--so quietly, you might not notice that Harvard has some surprisingly good teams. Men's swimming won the Eastern championships last month, and women's soccer finished its regular season seventh in the country. Only a few of the rest of us actually make it to games, though--if you want to join a large and enthusiastic bleacher crowd, try the Big Ten. Athletes' facilities across the river are fantastic, but here in Cambridge, gyms like the MAC and the QRAC don't exactly sparkle.

When it's warm, Harvard Square is a magnet for young people in less cosmopolitan suburbs. The Pit People are just the most colorful example--they're the flock of pierced, dyed, leather-clad youths next to the T stop.

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