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Op Eds

Freshman Survey: Tl;dr

By Jennifer A. Gathright

Something impressive: 70 percent of incoming freshmen responded to The Crimson’s freshman survey in August.

Forty-six percent of incoming Yale freshmen responded to the Yale Daily News’s counterpart. Maybe the YDN has lost some clout since Rory Gilmore’s departure from leadership. Or perhaps, quite sadly, the gap in participation rates confirms Yale’s status as the more artsy and alternative Ivy. Incoming Yale freshmen were probably too busy writing their next screenplays, listening to FKA Twigs, and just being cool in general to bother checking their emails.

I should also probably note that, despite the fact that I come dangerously close to mistaking correlation for causation throughout this entire op-ed, I did indeed take Stat 104. (Side note: Only three people filled out the Survey Monkey I posted in the Harvard Class of 2016 Facebook group for my Stat 104 final project, so The Crimson clearly has better communication pathways than I do.)

So here’s a rundown.

The Crimson’s freshman survey effectively conveys that incoming Harvard freshman do indeed live in the world. Folks who plan on concentrating in Economics and STEM fields believe that they will make more money when they graduate than those who plan on pursuing the humanities do.

On a more serious note, the survey also affirms that issues of safety, diversity, and inclusion need more attention here. Incoming females think about sexual assault far more than incoming males. The survey also indicates that most legacy students are white, and white students are more likely to have paid for things like private admissions counseling.

That was intense. But those who have read the freshman survey also know that some of its contents were extremely funny. For one, its conclusion that international students have had more sexual partners than non-internationals brings to mind the wildly untrue but nonetheless amusing idea that members of the Woodbridge International Society live their lives to the lyrics of Pitbull songs (I don’t play football but I’ve touched down everywhere. Everywhere? Everywhere!).

To the kid who got in to 30 schools: Do less. To the ten percent of you who cheated on an exam in high school: Really?! And to the 1.7 percent of you who plan on spending ten or fewer hours studying per week, will you please keep me updated on your progress and teach me your ways?

Forty-five percent of incoming freshmen described themselves as “somewhat interested” in joining a fraternity, sorority, or final club. The Crimson did not find out what percentage of those males have subsequently made the decision to try and walk on the crew team.

Although I still fail to understand the motivation behind the emphasis on certain statistics in these articles, I nonetheless appreciate the holistic nature of The Crimson’s reporting. The observation that incoming Jewish students are on average more supportive of legalizing marijuana was extremely random. But, for those two students who did not read the survey and happen to be reading this op-ed, you’re welcome. I just made it a little easier for you to perform religious profiling when you’re looking for buddies who would be down to get high.

Also, the paragraph titled “Apple Nation” told me that a bunch of people here own Mac computers and iPhones.

I guess what I really want to say is that everybody (yes, I’m talking to you two) should just read the freshman survey. If you believe that Harvard is bursting with diversity, the survey results may rightfully ask you to question that view. But, as you read, do so with a watchful eye.

Some statistics are important—we should all care that 72 percent of incoming freshmen come from families whose income exceeds that of the average American family by over $29,000. However, let us be skeptical about the urge to categorize this class into groups like rural Jewish stoners. Mere existence does not necessarily make a connection interesting or important.

In any case, the freshman survey will make you laugh, because, much like this op-ed, some of it does not make sense. It may even make you cry glistening tears, especially since you’re in a pretty emotional place right now and you’ve been thinking a lot about your time at Harvard and what it means and all of the classmates you’ve met and all of the ones you haven’t and data visualization always gets you feeling some type of way. I don’t know.

Jennifer A. Gathright ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Lowell House.

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