Freshman Survey Part III: Classes, Clubs, and Concussions

The Class of 2017's Academic and Extracurricular Lives

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In comparison, 58 percent said that they studied for 19 or fewer hours in high school. However, pre-college study habits varied widely between respondents who went to public and private secondary schools. Only 17 percent of students who attended a non-denominational private school said they studied for 10 or fewer hours a week, compared to 39 percent of public, non-charter school students.


Although a large majority of respondents ranked academics as their anticipated highest priority for college, a plurality—40 percent—ranked extracurriculars second, and another 35 percent ranked it third.


Surveyed freshmen were also enthusiastic about their secondary school extracurriculars. A large majority—84 percent—were involved in community service in high school. Also popular were music clubs/bands and student government, at 39 and 37 percent, respectively.

Respondents also reported being drawn to academic clubs in high school: 34 percent were involved in math clubs or competitions, 32 percent in science clubs or competitions, and 25 percent in other academic clubs.


Of those who were involved in student government in high school, 79 percent said they believe that student government has the power to effect change. Respondents who did not participate in student government were a bit more skeptical, with 60 percent expressing faith in the potential of student government.

Many surveyed freshmen rose to the top of their high school extracurriculars. A plurality of respondents—27 percent—were the president or top leader of two clubs in high school, and 26 percent were in charge of one. Two percent were the leaders of six or more clubs, and 9 percent were the editors-in-chief of their high school newspapers.

But not all freshmen obtained a top leadership role in their extracurriculars—19 percent led zero clubs.


One particularly popular high school extracurricular was athletics. Sixty-nine percent of surveyed freshmen reported being involved in athletics in high school, but just 12 percent of respondents were recruited to play a varsity sport at Harvard. An additional 9 percent of the class planned to walk on to a varsity team at Harvard.

Three quarters of freshman athletes, including both walk-ons and recruits, said they were likely or very likely to play their sport for all four years. However, recruited athletes were more likely than intended walk-on athletes to envision themselves graduating as four-year athletes, coming in at 93 and 47 percent, respectively.

Intended walk-on athletes were disproportionately drawn to certain sports. Among the intended walk-on athletes, more than 27 percent said they plan to try out for the men’s or women’s lightweight or heavyweight crew teams. Only three were ambitious enough to say they plan to walk on to the men’s basketball team that made it to March Madness the past two seasons.

Twenty-two percent of incoming recruited and walk-on athletes reported having received at least one concussion while playing a sport. Of those, two-thirds said they had been concussed once. But for most, these experiences did not dissuade them from playing their sports. Just 5 percent of all athletes and 19 percent of those who had been concussed from sports said they felt that concussions had affected their approach to their sport or desire to play that sport.

Athletes and non-athletes reported differing academic backgrounds. Coming into Harvard, 33 percent of incoming recruited athletes said that BC Calculus was the highest level of math they had completed prior to college, compared to 43 percent of non-athletes.

Athletes also expressed different academic plans for Harvard than their non-athlete counterparts. Although the “Gov Jock” is a commonly referenced stereotype among Harvard students, just one incoming recruited athlete expressed plans to concentrate in government. In comparison, 11 percent of non-athlete respondents were interested in becoming government concentrators.

On the other hand, economics, the most popular concentration among Harvard students, was disproportionately represented among incoming recruited athletes. Thirty-two percent said they expect to become economics concentrators, compared to 15 percent of non-athletes.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.

—Staff writer Cordelia F. Mendez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CrimsonCordelia.