The First Summer

For freshmen, their first summer at the College provides an opportunity for personal exploration and building resumes, if they can afford it

Gwen Thomas ’17 described herself as “totally lost” while trying to plan her freshman summer, beginning her search in March of that year. She ended up teaching through the CIVICS program at the Institute Of Politics.

“Everyone had it figured out,” she said. “It didn’t occur to me that people did stuff over the summer as freshmen.”

Similarly, DeFeo said she felt overwhelmed by the scramble to make summer plans after winter break.

“Everyone comes back from winter break and is kind of like, ‘Oh! We need to figure out our summers.’ And it’s Harvard, so everyone is really intense about it,” she said. “And I’m just this kid from New Jersey, like, ‘Oh god, what am I doing?’”



With a vast array of options, from public service to research and study abroad, as well as a perception that future internships leading to full-time employment focus less on freshman summer experiences, freshmen said they aimed to invest in personal interests.

“Most employers say that what students did in their freshman summer typically isn’t the factor that got them the interview and the job,” said Deborah Carroll, OCS associate director of employer relations and operations.

With this in mind, many freshmen and upperclassmen described the summer after freshman year as a time of relaxation and exploration. Some freshmen pointed to academic research as an interest to be developed over the vacation.

According to Jeffrey Berg, an assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, the 2015 cohort of PRISE fellows, students who conducted research as part of the Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering, included 39 freshmen or 32 percent of the total group.

For other residential programs like the Behavioral Laboratory in the Social Sciences, the Program for Research in Markets and Organizations, the Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program, and the Summer Undergraduate Research in Global Health, freshmen represented 20 percent overall, ranging from 6 percent to 30 percent across the programs, he wrote in an email.

However, many freshmen say that they are still unsure of what opportunity they hope to pursue this summer.

“I really wanted to take the summer off and re-evaluate my year, see what exactly I was interested in and not jump into something thinking that I would like it,” Yong Dich ’19 said.

For her part, Anna M. Raheem ’19 said utilizing the time to explore can then lead to discovery of what students want to do in the future.

“Having fun and exploring can actually be very important in figuring out what you want to do,” Raheem said. “If you never try anything out, how will you know if you like it or not?”

Ashri Anurudran ’19 observed that many of her peers are looking for opportunities outside of the office.


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