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Harvard College is one of two undergraduate degree granting schools, and the oldest school, of Harvard Universitymarker, a private university in the United Statesmarker founded in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. The College is instructed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which also instructs the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard Extension Schoolmarker.


The name Harvard College dates to 1639. In 1636 the New College, voted into theoretical existence by the General Court of the colony, was founded—without a single building, teacher, or student. In 1639 it was re-named in honor of the deceased John Harvard, a minister from nearby Charlestownmarker, who in his will had bequeathed to it his entire library and a sum of money equal to half his estate. In the understanding of its members at the time, the name "Harvard College" probably referred to the first (as they foresaw it) of a number of colleges which would someday make up a university along the lines of Oxfordmarker or Cambridgemarker. The American usage of the word college had not yet developed; to the founders of Harvard, a college was an association of teachers and scholars for education, room, and board. Only a university could examine for and grant degrees; nonetheless, unhampered by this technicality, Harvard graduated its first students in 1642. Twenty-three years later, in 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk, "from the Wampanoag...did graduate from Harvard, the first Indian to do so in the colonial period" (Monaghan, E. J., 2005, p. 55, 59).

But no further colleges were founded beside it; and as Harvard began to grant higher degrees in the late eighteenth century, people started to call it "Harvard University." "Harvard College" survived, nonetheless; in accordance with the newly-emerging American usage of the words, it was the undergraduate division of the university—which was not a collection of similar colleges, but a collection of unique schools, each teaching a different subject.

Harvard's principal governing board, the oldest continuous corporation in The Americas, still goes by its original name of "The President and Fellows of Harvard College" even though it has charge of the entire university and the "fellows" today are simply external trustees such as those who govern most American educational bodies—not residential educators like the fellows of an Oxbridge college. In current Harvard parlance, this governing board is frequently referred to simply as The Harvard Corporation.

Harvard's first "professor" was schoolmaster Nathaniel Eaton, brother to Theophilus Eaton (founder and first Governor of New Haven) and Francis Eaton (of the Mayflower). In 1639 he was ousted by the directors, because of his overly strict discipline of the students.



For the class of 2010, the College admitted 2,109 students out of 22,753 applicants for an overall admittance rate of 9.3%. The Class of 2012 admissions pool was 27,278 applicants vying for admission into the pool of roughly 2,100 students, from which 1,948, or 7.1%, ultimately were accepted. The class of 2013 had the lowest admissions rate of any academic institution in the United States at 7%, and highest yield at an estimate 76% before including wait-listed students.

In March 2008, Harvard announced that no transfer applicants would be admitted for the next two academic years in an effort to reduce overcrowding in the undergraduate residential House system. This controversial decision was announced after the academic year 2008-2009 transfer applications had already been submitted. Winthrop House Co-Master Mandana Sassanfar said that the House Masters had been discussing the issue of overcrowding since late 2007 and "decided it was more important to have enough housing for our own students first." This decision has been called “rash,“ “outrageous,” and “heartbreaking” by transfer applicants and others at Harvard and elsewhere.

House system

Nearly all students at Harvard College live on campus. First-year students live in dormitories in or near Harvard Yardmarker (see List of Harvard dormitories). Upperclass students live mainly in a system of twelve residential "Houses" similar to Yale Universitymarker's system of residential colleges. The houses serve as administrative units of the College as well as dormitories and communities. Each house is presided over by a "Master"—a senior faculty member who is responsible for guiding the social life and community of the House—and a "Resident Dean," who acts as dean of the students in the House in its administrative role.

The House system was instituted by Harvard president Abbott Lawrence Lowell in the 1930s, although the number of Houses, their demographics, and the methods by which students are assigned to particular Houses have all changed drastically since the founding of the system. Funds for the Houses were donated, after much debate and controversy over the reforms, by Edward Harkness, a Yalemarker graduate, who thus became the greatest benefactor to the university in Harvard history. At the same time, Harkness funded the development of Yale's very similar residential college system. (Harkness also donated funds to Phillips Exeter Academy, creating the Harkness plan of teaching around oval wooden tables.) Lowell modeled it on the system of constituent colleges of Oxfordmarker and Cambridgemarker, and the Houses borrow terminology from Oxford and Cambridge such as Junior Common Room (the set of undergraduates affiliated with a House) and Senior Common Room (the Master, Resident Dean, and other faculty members, advisors, and graduate students associated with the House). Non-faculty members of the Senior Common Room of a House are either "Tutors" or "Affiliates" and aid the students with day-to-day questions and concerns.

Nine of the Houses are situated south of Harvard Yard, near the busy commercial district of Harvard Squaremarker, along or close to the northern banks of the Charles River, and so are known colloquially as the River Houses. These are:

The remainder of the residential Houses are located around Harvard's Quadranglemarker (or "the Quad," formerly the "Radcliffe Quadrangle"), in a more suburban residential neighborhood half a mile (800 m) northwest of Harvard Yard. These housed Radcliffe College students until Radcliffe merged its residential system with Harvard. They are:

  • Cabot Housemarker, previously called South House, renamed in 1983 for Harvard donors Thomas Dudley Cabot and Virginia Cabot;
  • Currier House, named for Radcliffe alumna Audrey Bruce Currier;
  • Pforzheimer Housemarker, often called PfoHo for short, previously called North House, renamed in 1995 for Harvard donors Carl and Carol Pforzheimer

There is a thirteenth House, Dudley House, which is nonresidential but fulfills, for some graduate students and off-campus undergraduates (including members of the Dudley Co-op) the same administrative and social functions as the residential Houses do for undergraduates who live on campus. It is named after Thomas Dudley, who signed the charter of Harvard College when he was Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Tentative plans have been proposed for expanding the House system using land owned by Harvard in Allston, Massachusettsmarker, across the Charles River from the River Houses. Suggestions include moving the Quadrangle Houses to Allston and building up to eight new Houses there. It has not yet been decided whether any of these proposals will be adopted.

Harvard's residential houses are paired with Yale's residential colleges in sister relationships.

Core curriculum

Harvard requires all undergraduates to fulfill "the core," which requires students to take courses in 7 of 11 academic areas (such as Moral Reasoning and Social Analysis); each concentration exempts students from four. In 2006, Harvard announced it would change this policy to a General Education system which would allow for broader instruction starting for the graduating class of 2013.


Majors at Harvard College are known as concentrations. As of 2008, Harvard College offered 46 different concentrations. Joint concentrations with a primary and secondary departmental focus are allowed by many departments provided the student can demonstrate how he/she intends to combine the subjects meaningfully. In April 2006, as part of a curricular review plan for College students, a Harvard faculty meeting approved for the first time the institution of secondary fields, known as minors at most other schools.

Other special concentrations include the Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, a certification program in Neurosciences run jointly by the departments of Anthropology, Biochemical Sciences, Biology, Computer Science, History of Science, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology. In 2005, Harvard College and the New England Conservatorymarker began offering a joint 5-year program for a combined Harvard Undergraduate degree and NEC Master of Arts.

Degrees granted

The College confers two undergraduate degrees, both Latin-named. The one is the Artium Baccalaureus, abbreviated A.B.; the other, the Scientium Baccalaureus, abbreviated S.B. Until the merger, these were also the degrees conferred by Radcliffe College. With the creation of the new engineering undergraduate school, a third undergraduate degree designation will be established.

Student organizations

Harvard has hundreds of student organizations. Every spring there is an "Arts First week," founded by John Lithgow during which arts and culture organizations show off performances, cook meals, or present other work; in 2005 over 40% of students participated in at least one Arts First event. Notable organizations include the student-run business organization Harvard Student Agencies, the daily newspaper The Harvard Crimson, the humor magazine the Harvard Lampoon, the a cappella groups the Din & Tonics and the Krokodiloes, and the public service umbrella organization the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA).

Media and campus publications

  • The Harvard Crimson is the United States' second oldest daily college newspaper and is doordropped to student rooms.
  • The Harvard Advocate is the oldest continuously published college literary magazine. Famous past members include T. S. Eliot and Theodore Roosevelt. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was once Publisher.
  • The Harvard International Review, one of the most widely-distributed undergraduate journals in the world with 35,000 readers in more than 70 countries. The HIR regularly features prominent scholars and policymakers from around the globe.
  • The Harvard Lampoonmarker, an undergraduate humor organization and publication founded in 1876 and rival to the Harvard Crimson. The magazine was originally modelled on the former British satirical periodical Punch, and has outlived it to become the world's oldest humor magazine. Conan O'Brien was president of the Lampoon. The National Lampoon was founded as an offshoot in 1970.
  • Radio station WHRB (95.3 FM Cambridge) is run exclusively by Harvard students, and housed in the basement of Pennypacker Hall, a freshman dorm. It is known throughout the Boston metropolitan area for its classical, jazz, underground rock, blues, and hip-hop programming, and its seasonal "Orgy" format (the term is a registered trademark of the station), where the entire catalog of a certain band, composer, or artist is played in sequence. Additional listenership is scattered worldwide via the internet.
  • The Harvard Interactive Media Group publishes a quarterly academic review devoted to media studies and video games.
  • The Harvard Political Review, a quarterly undergraduate publication of U.S. and international politics founded in 1969 by Al Gore.
  • The Harvard Science Review, Harvard's longest running undergraduate science publication.
  • The Harvard Undergraduate Research Journal, Harvard's only campus publication that showcases peer-reviewed undergraduate student research.
  • The Harvard Independent, an alternative weekly with news, opinion, sports, arts, and features.
  • Harvard Undergraduate Television produces the world's oldest and longest-running college soap opera, Ivory Tower, and is the only television organization on campus.
  • On Harvard Time is Harvard's premiere comedy news program, similar in style to The Daily Show, and has quickly become the most popular TV show on campus.

Community service organizations

  • The Phillips Brooks House Association is an umbrella community service organization operating in Phillips Brooks House of Harvard Yardmarker, consists of 78 program committees and over 1,800 student volunteers, and serves close to 10,000 clients in the Cambridge and Boston area.

Political organizations

  • The Harvard Institute of Politics, a non-partisan living memorial to President John F. Kennedy that promotes public service and provides political opportunities to undergraduates.
  • The Harvard College Democrats, the largest partisan political group on campus.
  • The Harvard Republican Club, one of the largest groups on campus and the nation's oldest college political group, founded in 1888.
  • Harvard Model Congress, the nation's oldest and largest congressional simulation conference, provides thousands of high school students from across the U.S. and abroad with the opportunity to experience American government first-hand.
  • The Harvard International Relations Council, is the largest student organization at Harvard College and is composed of several different programs that promote international awareness on campus, including a magazine, teaching program, speakers program, and Model United Nations.

Musical groups

Opera companies

  • Lowell House Opera, founded in 1938 and the oldest continually performing opera company in New England, involves members of the Boston community and undergraduates in its ambitious productions.
  • The Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players, founded in 1956, is an independent, nonprofit student theater group dedicated to performing comic opera.

Choral groups

  • The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, a select mixed-voice choir formed in 1971 when Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges merged.
  • Harvard Glee Club, the oldest college chorus in America, founded in 1858.
  • Radcliffe Choral Society, founded in 1898, an all-women chorus.
  • The Harvard Radcliffe Chorus, the largest mixed choir at Harvard University, has a diverse membership consisting of faculty members, staff, community members, and both undergraduate and graduate students. HRC was founded in 1979 and continues to perform twice a year as of 2005.
  • Harvard University Choir, the oldest university choir in the nation, formally established in 1834 but in existence since the eighteenth century, performs the oldest Christmas Carol Services in continuous existence in North America.
  • The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College, founded in 1970, a 100-member choir dedicated to the celebration of black creativity and spirituality through song, dance, spoken word, and other forms of creative expression, explores and shares the rich musical tradition of black culture through African folk songs, Negro spirituals, Traditional and Contemporary gospel, Master Choral Works, and original compositions. All are welcome to join.

A cappella groups

  • Harvard Krokodiloes, an all-male a cappella group, Harvard's oldest
  • Harvard Opportunes, Harvard's oldest mixed vocal a cappella group
  • Harvard Din & Tonics, an all-male a cappella group founded in 1979
  • Harvard LowKeys, mixed vocal, both male and female
  • Harvard-Radcliffe Veritones, mixed vocal, both male and female
  • Harvard Callbacks, mixed vocal, both male and female
  • Radcliffe Pitches, all-female a cappella group founded in 1975
  • Harvard Fallen Angels, an all-female a cappella group founded in 2000

Orchestras and bands

Other performance groups

  • THUD , founded in 1999, known for their creative percussion performance with plastic SOLO cups, brooms, and traditional instruments

Theater and dance

  • The Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club is an organization that connects smaller campus theater groups and supports all campus productions. The HRDC directly oversees productions within the Loeb Theater, which it shares with the nationally acclaimed American Repertory Theatermarker. The HRDC also organizes seminars and workshops to connect students with professionals in the field.
  • Hasty Pudding Theatricals, known informally simply as The Pudding, is a theatrical student society at Harvard University, known for its burlesque musicals. They present original student-written and -composed musicals with near-professional production values. Formed in 1795 as a fraternity, the Pudding has performed a production every year since 1891, except during World Wars I and II. Each production is entirely student-written. Although the cast remains all-male (with female parts performed by actors in drag), women participate in the productions as members of the business staff, orchestra, and tech crew.
  • The Immediate Gratification Players (IGP) and On Thin Ice (OTI), Harvard's two undergraduate improv troupes, are among the oldest collegiate Improvisational comedy groups in the nation. Unlike many college troupes, both groups' constitutions require they present all campus shows free of charge.
  • Harvard blackC.A.S.T. (Community and Student Theater) is Harvard's theater group dedicated to black theatrical production and fostering a black theater community on campus. Past productions include Amen Corner, Before it Hits Home, and The Colored Museum.
  • The Harvard-Radcliffe Dance Company
  • The Harvard Ballet Company
  • The Harvard Ballroom Team, one of the largest national collegiate ballroom teams
  • The Harvard Ballet Folklórico de Aztlán
  • The Harvard Intertribal Indian Dance Troupe performs Native American powwow dances.
  • The Harvard Pan-African Dance and Music Ensemble is dedicated to raising awareness of the depth and diversity of African expressive culture through the performance of dance and music from all over the continent.
  • The Harvard Crimson Dance Team

Academic organizations

  • Harvard College Stem Cell Society A student group dedicated to raising awareness about the ethics, politics, and science of stem cell research.
  • Women in Science at Harvard-Radcliffe

Pre-professional organizations

  • Harvard Student Agencies is the largest student-run corporation in the world. Founded in 1957, HSA is a $6 million non-profit that employs students and provides them with practical business experience.
  • Veritas Financial Group is one of the largest undergraduate organizations at Harvard College and has a global reputation for producing leaders and innovators in the financial services industry
  • Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business The largest undergraduate business organization on Harvard's campus.
  • Harvard Financial Analysts Club is a student group dedicated to teaching undergraduates the core principles and methods used in finance, as well as managing the largest student-run investment fund on campus.
  • Harvard Investment Association An undergraduate student group founded in 1993. It is dedicated to student education on investing and financial markets and providing opportunities for investing experience.
  • The Harvard College Business Club is Harvard's first mainstream business club, geared towards providing a general business education. In large part, HCBC seeks to accomplish this goal through its emerging online social network, which connects undergraduates with business leaders and potential employers.
  • The Leadership Institute at Harvard College is the largest leadership training and development organization at Harvard College.

Unrecognized student groups


According to the university, Harvard is home to the largest Division I intercollegiate athletics program in the U.S., with 41 varsity teams and over 1,500 student-athletes. Harvard is one of eight members of the Ivy League, along with Brown Universitymarker, Columbia University, Cornell Universitymarker, Dartmouth Collegemarker, Princeton Universitymarker, The University of Pennsylvaniamarker, and Yale Universitymarker.

Harvard and Yale enjoy the oldest intercollegiate athletic rivalry in the United States, the Harvard-Yale Regatta, dating back to 1852, when rowing crews from each institution first met on Lake Winnipesaukeemarker, New Hampshiremarker. Harvard won that contest by two boat lengths. Since 1859, the crews have met nearly every year (except during major wars). The race is typically held in early June in New Londonmarker, Connecticutmarker.

Better known is the annual Harvard-Yale football game, known to insiders of both institutions as simply, "The Game." It was first played in New Havenmarker, Connecticut, in 1875. Harvard won the initial contest 4-0. In recent years, The Game is always played on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, making it one of many significant games played on "Rivalry Day."

Sibley's Harvard Graduates

  • Harvard Librarian John Langdon Sibley published 3 volumes of biographies of Harvard Graduates from 1873 to 1885 covering the Classes of 1642 to 1679 and left a posthumous fund to the Massachusetts Historical Society to continue this project: Clifford K. Shipton published 14 volumes covering the Classes of 1690 to 1771 from 1933 to 1975; In 1999 the 18th volume was published covering the Classes of 1772 to 1774.

  • Beginning with Class of 1820 Regular Class Reports were published.

Notable alumni








Performance arts - music, theater and film






For more information, see List of Harvard University people.

Fictional alumni


  1. A record pool leads to a record-low admissions rateHarvard News Office
  2. Yield Holds Steady For 2013Harvard News Office
  3. .
  4. Dudley House site

General references

  • Gookin, Daniel, Historical Collections, 53: Railton, "Vineyard's First Harvard Men," 91-112.
  • Monaghan, E. J. (2005). Learning to Read and Write in Colonial America University of Massachusetts Press. Boston: MA

External links

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