I know what many of you are thinking; another Harvard bashing article from a student who didn’t get in. Actually, the title of this article is a quote from a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, one of Harvard’s two governing boards. This statement was made in a New York Times article entitled “Harvard Task Force Calls for New Focus on Teaching and Not Just Research“.
For those of us who are involved in college admissions Harvard’s lack of focus on undergraduate education is hardly a surprise. Yes, many undergraduate students get a wonderful education at Harvard. But it is also true that many could have received an even better education at any number of other colleges whose focus is on undergraduate education, i.e. liberal arts colleges.
Harvard belongs to a group known as the COFHE group, a consortium of 31 of the most selective private colleges in the country. The group has several functions but one of them is to evaluate various programs at each of the colleges to compare best practices with each member. Several years ago an internal memorandum was released showing that student satisfaction at Harvard was lower than at almost all of the other COFHE schools. Even the Harvard Crimson has acknowledged this problem.
My point in all of this is not to pick on Harvard. Harvard is a wonderful college for some students. It is not, however, the best choice for many of the students who focus on attending the college. Students should focus on the quality of the education they will receive as well as the various other factors that different people might want to consider in choosing a college. Yes, prestige may be one of the factors a student wants to consider. But if this is one of your criteria, it should be a small one near the end of the list of things you want from a college. Whether a student will succeed in college is often more a function of the student than the college which they attend.
Moreover, by seriously investigating the colleges you might be interesting in attending, you will find out the advantages and disadvantages of each school. With that information, you can make a better and more informed decision on the right college for you.