Married Undergrads Seek Balance

Aside from the personal difficulty of balancing the worlds of home and school, McGinnis and his wife says that they have experienced a lack of institutional support for married undergraduates from the College.

“We can’t live on campus and can’t be a part of the campus community,” says Erica McGinnis, who is now a senior at Wellesley.

According to the Harvard College Handbook for Students, “Harvard College does not offer undergraduate housing in the Houses or dorms to married undergraduates and/or undergraduates with families.”

Students with children, however, “may be eligible for Harvard-affiliated housing through Harvard Real Estate Services,” according to the Handbook.

McGinnis also says that because he is not on the dining plan, which comes along with living in a dorm, “I’m excluded from a lot of academic and social activities,” he says.


McGinnis says he remembered one incident in his sophomore year when he had to meet with his academic advisor to declare his concentration. But, his advisor held his office hours in a dining hall, a location inaccessible to McGinnis, who does not have swipe access because he does not live in a House. Instead of meeting with his advisor like all the other students did, McGinnis had to make arrangements to meet elsewhere.

But Westphal, now a freshman, has seen the College make accommodations for him as a married student. Prior to this academic year, Westphal says he spoke with Freshman Dean Thomas A. Dingman ’67 about whether he should commute to campus each day or whether he could live in a freshman dorm with his peers. After the conversation, Westphal and Dingman decided that Westphal should live on campus—marking an exception to the College’s policy.

This year, Westphal makes his home in a single in Matthews on weekdays. On most weekends, however, he goes to see his wife, who lives in her parents’ house in Everett, Mass.


Before he married, Westphal says he was unsure how he would adjust to the married lifestyle. McGinnis and Nadler says they had similar initial concerns. But even with the challenges that marriage brings, all three says they have no regrets about their decision to get married.

They also says people at Harvard have welcomed their decision to marry young. Although some people were surprised, Nadler says, “most of our friends were accepting and excited for us.”

“At Harvard, people find it cool that I’m married,” Westphal says. “But in high school some people were judgmental.” But he would respond, “It’s my life, it’s none of your business.”

The primary challenge McGinnis says he has faced while married has been the stress associated with raising a child. This month, McGinnis’ daughter will turn 2. In raising her, McGinnis says he and his wife sacrificed friendships and countless nights of sleep.

But both parents agreed that having a daughter changed their lives for the better.

“Just watching her run around brings joy to my heart,” McGinnis says.

—Staff writer Jane Seo can be reached at


Recommended Articles