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Freshman Survey Part I: Meet Harvard's Class of 2017

The Incoming Freshman Class By the Numbers

By Francesca Annicchiarico and Samuel Y. Weinstock, Crimson Staff Writers

Part I 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 II ran on Wednesday, Part III ran on Thursday, and Part IV of the series will run on Friday.

Men in Harvard’s incoming Class of 2017 expect to earn far more money after graduation than their female classmates expect to earn, according to a Crimson survey of the freshman class that arrived on campus last week.

While 48 percent of males expect to earn more than $70,000 in their first year after college, only 28 percent of females predicted they will earn more than $70,000.

The gap was also pronounced within lower and high expected income brackets. Thirteen percent of female respondents and 6 percent of male respondents said that they expect their first post-graduation job to earn them less than $30,000 per year. Nine percent of male respondents said they expected to earn more than $110,000, but only 3 percent of females indicated such high anticipated earnings.

The Crimson conducted an email survey of the freshman class from Aug. 5 to Aug. 28, and 1,311 incoming students responded—nearly 80 percent of the Class of 2017—although not all of them completed the survey. Questions covered demographics, college admissions, and attitudes and experiences related to studying, cheating, extracurricular activities, sex, drugs, mental health, politics, religion, and technology. We assume that a random sample of students responded to the survey and consequently ignore any selection bias.


Every year, the College touts the racial and geographic diversity of its admitted class. And largely, the results of The Crimson’s freshman survey align with the demographic data reported by the College.

Respondents were evenly split by gender. Sixty-two percent reported that they were white, 25 percent said they were Asian, and Latino and African-American students accounted for 11 and 10 percent of the class, respectively, with some students identifying as multiple ethnicities.

Most freshmen said that they were either the oldest or youngest child in their family, while 16 percent said that they were middle children. Sixteen percent said they did not have siblings.

Ninety percent of freshmen said that they identify as heterosexual, 4 percent said they identify as homosexual, 2 percent said they were bisexual, and 3 percent said they were “questioning.”

Of those respondents who identified as homosexual or bisexual, most said that they had come out sometime during high school, while about 18 percent reported doing so during middle school and 22 percent this past summer.

Recruited athletes make up 12 percent of the class, according to the survey, while another 9 percent of non-recruited freshmen said that they planned to walk on to a varsity team. Men were somewhat more likely to say they were a recruited athlete than women.

Recruited athletes were far more likely to say they identified as heterosexual than as another orientation. Only three recruited athletes said they were homosexual, bisexual, questioning, or other.

Recruited athletes, according to the survey, are also disproportionately white and African-American.


The majority of the Class of 2017 hails from the suburbs. Most went to public school, and a plurality in the class call the Northeast home.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they are from the suburbs, and 27 percent come from urban areas. Eight percent hail from a rural environment.

Forty-one percent of surveyed freshmen are from the Northeast, 15 percent are from the West, 14 percent are from the Midwest, and 8 percent are from the Southwest. Eleven percent said that they are from outside of the United States.

Sixty-one percent of the surveyed freshmen indicated they went to a public high school, and 38 percent said they attended a private one. Less than one percent of the respondents were homeschooled.

According to the survey, students from the Northeast and outside of the United States were disproportionately likely to have attended private school, while freshmen from the Midwest, Southwest, and West disproportionately tended towards a public education before coming to Harvard.


The survey shows that incoming freshmen have different ideas about how they want to spend their immediate post-graduate years than the seniors who graduated last spring.

Half of respondents to the freshman survey said they plan to go to graduate or professional school immediately after earning their bachelor’s degree. In a Crimson survey of graduating seniors last spring, however, just 18 percent said they would immediately enroll in graduate school.

Among the least popular employment fields among freshmen is consulting, which according to the survey will attract less than 4 percent of the freshman class. By contrast, 16 percent of seniors surveyed last spring reported that they had found jobs in consulting.

Other employment numbers from the freshman survey were roughly comparable to those reported in last spring’s senior survey. Eight percent of freshman survey respondents predict they will find employment in the finance sector after graduation, while another 8 percent plan to work in technology or engineering.

Many freshman respondents said they expect to be in a different industry in 2027 than in 2017. While only 5 percent plan to work in government or politics immediately after graduation, 15 percent see themselves working in those fields later in their careers. Similarly, while just 6 percent expect to work in the health sector after graduating, nearly a quarter of the freshmen plan to find jobs in the health industry 10 years down the line.

The gender gap was also apparent in career choice. Men were far more likely to hope to eventually work in finance and entrepreneurship than women, while women were much more likely to aspire to careers in nonprofits and public service, health, and media or publishing.

Students who went to public high school were more likely than their private school counterparts to say they intend to seek out careers in education or health 10 years after graduation, and private school students were disproportionately attracted to eventual work in business, finance, and arts, sports, or entertainment.

Despite the diversity in their employment plans, incoming freshmen were remarkably consistent about where they expect to live after graduation. Nearly three fourths of respondents said they thought they would remain in the Northeast after Harvard, and 63 percent of the students who moved to the Northeast to go to Harvard said they expected to stay in the region after graduation.

—Staff writer Francesca Annicchiarico can be reached at francesca.annicchiarico@thecrimson. Follow her on Twitter @FRAnnicchiarico.

—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.

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