You’ve reached the end of summer; the excitement of getting into Harvard has faded into a fear of not finding friends. Though this process is difficult for many, a select group of students have it especially hard: the fifth-gen high-income community. If you’re an FGHI student, we have the perfect guide for you: six steps for hiding your wealth and connecting with the commoners.
Step 1: Change your overbearing, ostentatious social media presence. If your Instagram feed is flooded with pictures of vacations in the Maldives and ski trips in Switzerland, quickly archive those posts before freshman fall. The not-so-subtle “I was just accepted to college and gifted an excessive amount of crimson-colored candy and college gear” posts must also go. Follow this hard-and-fast rule for determining which posts to preserve: Bury any evidence that the IRS could use against your parents when investigating them for tax evasion.
Step 2: You love your wardrobe — a thoughtfully curated, sizable collection of expensive yet edgy items. Hiding the crazy cost of your closet is made easy with one simple response: “Where’d I get this outfit? I thrifted it in my hometown. It was a great find!” Use it in excess; there are no repercussions — it’s bullet-proof.
Step 3: Commoners know that the students who have their laundry done by Harvard Student Agencies are rich. Don’t argue that the 30 minutes saved is a necessary tradeoff, a reclamation of valuable time — if you think an additional 30 minutes of work a week is worth the $1,599 HSA charges for the laundry service, your affluent attitude is showing. If you’re enrolled in the program, the key to reframing the situation is claiming that your parents forced you to sign up. It wasn’t your choice — you wanted to be like the rest of your plebeian peers, but your parents could not bear the thought of you (gasp) doing your own laundry. They figured you don’t know how to work a washer or dryer machine, a task typically completed by the brigade of housekeepers your parents employ. Next year, unenroll — wikiHow has “how to do your laundry” tutorials that you can study over the summer.
Step 4: You attended Phillips Exeter, or Phillips Andover, or maybe Harvard-Westlake, Choate Rosemary Hall, Groton, or Trinity. If you paid to receive your education, this step applies to you. The things you learned are not common knowledge: Office hours are not normal, summer internships are not standard, teacher-student relationships are not readily attainable, LinkedIn connecting and networking are foreign. You should not imply that your peers are navigating Harvard with the same ease — and you should offer advice and never belittle people without an intimate understanding of the inner workings of elite academia. Attending Harvard is weird. Simply put, most people our age don’t come here or think about it. You must know and accept this fact.
Step 5: Harvard Square is significantly more expensive than most neighborhoods. However, you might not recognize this because you’re accustomed to high prices and high-end restaurants. Even if you have the bank balance to effortlessly afford the overpriced goods sold in the Square, you must eat out sparingly, only when your friends suggest. In conversations, complain that the cost of eating out is ridiculously unaffordable and that the restaurant options are excessively formal. Announce that you miss McDonald’s and that you envy your friends who matriculated to state schools with fast food offerings. Don’t worry if you’ve never eaten at McDonald’s or if all your high school friends went to Ivy League colleges; nobody is fact-checking. Once a week, declare that Annenberg food is delicious, asserting that it is “so much better than public school lunch,” even if you have never stepped foot in a public school.
Step 6: Lastly, don’t disclose your legacy status. Regardless of the fact that your entire family tree attended Harvard, or universities like Harvard, you must frequently express that you feel “honored” to attend, “overwhelmed” by the elite environment, and “surprised” that you were even admitted. For those of you who share a last name with a hall or house on campus, change your Instagram handle from your first and last name to your first and middle. And, of course, have your roommates sign nondisclosure agreements.
After following steps one through six, you can successfully fool your friends until winter break begins and you hop on the first charter flight back to your family’s winter chalet.
Congratulations! A pseudo-ordinary semester awaits.