His forthcoming book, The Harvard Mystique, was launched as a simple project during Fox’s sophomore year. During his first year as a first-year prefect, he says he found himself frustrated by his inability to answer many of his prefectees’ questions. Fox turned this frustration into creating a small guide to Harvard life to better serve incoming first-years.
The project began with Fox surveying students via e-mail and in person about a range of issues—from academic life to sexual relations—in order to uncover the student perspective on Harvard life.
The small-scale project came to dominate Fox’s sophomore year and by May he had surveyed over 3,000 students, talked to professors and staff members and even solicited outsiders’ views on Harvard students.
“I enjoyed it; I was having a lot of fun,” Fox says of his project.
When Fox finished his research, he was faced with more data than he could possibly compress into a short pamphlet; he opted instead to dramatically expand the project’s scope.
He spent the summer after his sophomore year with his laptop on a beach in Nantucket working on what would become The Harvard Mystique. Divided into nine chapters that examine such topics as Harvard’s student body and life beyond the campus, The Harvard Mystique covers an expansive number of issues. One of Fox’s main goals was to make the book all-inclusive, reflecting the interests of all groups on campus.
Some interesting statistics from Fox’s research include Harvard students’ four least favorite aspects of their university experience: “the accessibility to and interaction with faculty, the social life/dating scene, the weather, and the health care.”
Fox also found that Harvard students are more likely to be involved in an all-or-nothing relationship than pursue casual dating. Fox explained that the mentality of Harvard students, as continuously focused on future goals, leads them to shy away from casual dating because it has the most uncertain payoff in the long run and therefore is too risky an investment.
By the time his summer was over, Fox had finished his 300-page guide to Harvard life, but he didn’t know what to do with it. It was certainly no longer the small guide he had originally planned to distribute himself.
Instead, he sent the manuscript to several publishers and to his surprise, Random House, which also publishes student guides like The Princeton Review, showed interest.
Random House is currently editing the book and plans to release an initial 20,000 copies next September before distributing in North America, Europe and Asia. The Harvard Mystique is to be the first in a series of what Random House intends as comprehensive guides to individual college campuses.
The guides will be especially helpful for prospective students who, as of now, have no other means of gaining such all-encompassing views of the universities they are considering.
Fox believes that his own guide will help to inform prospective students who currently choose Harvard simply because of its name.
“This guide will help them research more in-depth before making such an important decision,” he says.
As its introduction states, The Harvard Mystique aims to present “what it’s really like to go to Harvard.” At its core, the book serves to debunk many of the vaunted myths associated with the university. “I tried to make it as candid and comprehensive as possible,” Fox says.