Unfortunately (or fortunately! Harvard loves its storied elitism! There are a lot of “Harvard specific” words and phrases that are important for any well-informed freshman to know. You don’t want to be the kid who shows up to class seven minutes early (on time, according to the my.harvard schedules), or refers to your course of study as (gasp!) a major. For those looking to ease the terminology transition, here are a couple of words from the pros:
Concentration: This one is simple, and it is a trademark of the school. It is simply a major, and using “concentrate” as a substitute for “course of study” is an easy way to humblebrag about attending Harvard, and lets your high school friends know that you’ve already changed. It’s also the official term used on the REAL FACEBOOK (thanks Mark Zuckerberg)!
Harvard Time: Not to be confused with the comedy group “On Harvard Time,” this means that all of your classes (and by extension, most of your extracurricular activities) will start seven minutes after their scheduled time. Classes still end on the hour, so just think of it as a built-in passing period. Like high school, except not high school.
Comping: Instead of just letting you simply join a club as you would at any normal school, at Harvard we like to make you spend a semester learning the “ways” of the club before you are actually allowed to become a part of it. Normally this entails a variety of interesting and non-demeaning activities, ranging from doing logistical work the leaders of the club do not want to complete to doing other logistical work that the other leaders of the club do not want to complete. Unfortunately, that’s often how you are going to get involved on this campus.
Berg: Short for Annenberg. In a sentence, “Hey, just finished section. Wanna meet at Berg in five?” An easy way to show that you have acclimated to the school, and that you are comfortable navigating the intimidating fish tank that is the freshman dining hall.
TF: Speaking of section, these will be the actual teachers for many of your larger lecture classes (think Ec10, CS50, etc.) Most professors choose to grace you with their presence infrequently during the semester, and the TFs (short for teaching fellows, graduate or Phd students) are the ones who will work with you on a day-to-day basis to make sure you understand the material. Pray for a good one!
HUDS: The lovely people who make your meals everyday. Wait for faculty dinner’s apple crisp before you complain.
HFAC, HCCG, HCAP, HAUSCR, HSA, etc.: If you cannot decipher these type of club acronyms, used quickly and often without explanation in a sentence, you can normally at least tell what the “H” stands for. You will see the full range of these clubs at the overwhelming activities fair on Friday, but don’t worry too much if you don’t recognize the club from the acronym. No one does.
Punching: Something freshman guys often care about but shouldn’t. It means getting chosen to essentially “rush” a final club the way your friends at large state schools are doing at frats, and it’s not something to worry about until at least your sophomore year (and even then, not something that should occupy too much of your mind).
Quadded: In case you haven’t yet been to the faraway land known as the Quad, being “quadded” is what happens on housing day, where a third of our school is exiled to the former Radcliffe campus. Quadlings, as they are called, defend their Quad community fiercely and seem to have a pretty good time in their little corner of the Harvard universe. It is a longtime school tradition to make fun of those who are quadded, but the actual experience appears more mixed.
Formal: The name sort of speaks for itself, but these come later in the semester and are essentially less awkward, less formal dances than the ones you had in high school. They’re normally held at off-campus venues, and the main one for freshman is during second semester and is, shockingly, called the “Freshman formal.”
The Kong: Where hungry freshman (and sophomores, juniors, and seniors) go for late-night, questionable-quality Chinese food. After a long pset session at Lamont, nothing is quite as good as some salty scallion pancakes shared with equally hungry and weary friends.
Nochs: A pizza place a little off the grid from Harvard Square. A lot of people end up at Tasty Burger after late nights, but this place shows you really know the area. Try it at least once - people have mixed opinions about the quality of the food, but going with a group of friends one late Friday night is an unofficial Harvard tradition.
The Freshman Wander: Most closely identified with groups of freshman guys (identifiable from the Harvard keychain that hangs from many of their back pockets) who wander from final club to final club chasing down rumors that one club is letting in freshman guys. It is basically a long walk that begins at a freshman dorm room when one friend says he “knows a guy” at a party and ends at that same dorm room three hours later after a full walk around the river houses has proven that the friend did indeed not “know a guy.”
FOMO: Short for “fear of missing out.” Related to “the Freshman Wander.” Try to avoid it - the grass is NOT always greener on the other side, and CS50 psets cannot be completed on the last night without at least some loss of sanity and sleep.
Psets: Basically, homework. Not the most fun part of your experience here, but at least they are due less frequently than the homework you had in high school. That is, unless you are taking a math class. Anyways, unfortunately Camp Harvard cannot last forever, and psets will become a very regular (and somewhat painful at times) element of your life. Welcome home, freshman!