Attending Harvard Together, Siblings Support One Another

Randi B. Michel

Harvard siblings Petra Janney '14 and Niall Janney '12, have the good fortune of having a sibling not only in the same school, but also on the same diving team.

Empty SUVs and tearful goodbyes—the scene is a familiar one for the many students arriving at Harvard each year. Parents drive away, slip into cabs, or disappear into a subway station, leaving students to face a new town, a new roommate, and the long-awaited ideal of life at college.

For those unaccustomed to independence, the college experience presents an entirely new lifestyle and sense of responsibility—whether they are ready for it or not.

Students face tough choices during their first year—both in academics and extracurricular activities—all the while adjusting to the challenges and rigors of Harvard’s arguably intense freshman year.

While the College makes an effort to support first years when they arrive, certain students walk on campus with a built in support network—their siblings.

For freshmen like Petra B. Janney ’14 and Alex M. Stanton ’14, the transition to life at Harvard was less overwhelming—and in more ways than one.



This fall, the two girls joined older brothers Niall M. Janney ’12 and Michael J. Stanton ’13 at Harvard, with these brothers not only becoming a source of familiarity and advice but also the girls’ teammates on Harvard’s swimming and diving team.

But going to school with one’s older sibling has its caveats. Having an older brother in the same zip-code may ease the transition to college, but it can also mean an occasionally watchful eye and a looming presence.


For some freshmen, contact with advisers is limited, partially because some students are paired with academic advisers outside their specific field of interest. For Petra and Alex, this is where a sibling at Harvard can make all the difference.

The Advising Programs Office provides freshmen with a network of advisers—a proctor, a freshman academic adviser, a peer advising fellow, and a resident dean of freshmen. According to the APO, these advisers are supposed to provide first-year students with resources for both academic and non-academic advice.

But even with the APO’s extensive advising network, it is hard to compete with a sibling’s advice.

“Niall knows me much better than my advisor. Though he has been here for a shorter amount of time, he knows how to help me personally,” Petra says. “He’s also involved in the same sport as me, so he has dealt with a lot of my specific concerns.”

Alex described her brother’s role as very similar, especially early in the semester. “He really helped me adjust, and any question I had I knew I could go to him and he had been through something similar,” she says. “And with diving, he helped me figure out my routine and schedule.”


But Niall, Petra’s older brother, admits he had some apprehensions about having his sister join him in a college social environment.


Recommended Articles