Fun Facts About Harvard

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Harvard flag is seen outside the Harvard Cooperative Society (the Coop), a collegiate bookstore on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Fun Facts About Harvard

As one of the most influential universities in the world, Harvard is known for its distinct traditions. Here are 20 fun facts about Harvard.

Harvard’s Historic Beginnings

The Founding of Harvard

Harvard University was established in 1636, making it the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The institution was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, a minister who left his library and half of his estate to the university upon his death in 1638.

This generosity immensely helped the nascent university establish itself during its early years, and it is a testament to John Harvard’s belief in the importance of education.

John Harvard’s contribution to the university went beyond just his library and estate. He was deeply involved in shaping the institution’s early curriculum and guiding its mission. His vision was to create an institution providing a well-rounded education, combining intellectual rigor with moral and spiritual development.

Harvard’s commitment to this vision is still evident today, as the university emphasizes the importance of a liberal arts education that fosters critical thinking, ethical reasoning, and a sense of social responsibility.

Harvard’s Original Location

The original location of Harvard was not in its current place in Cambridge. The classes were initially held in a minister’s home in what is now downtown Boston. After two years, the college moved to Cambridge, where it stands proudly and firmly.

one of the gates in Harvard University

The choice of moving to Cambridge was influenced by the desire to create a community of scholars away from the bustle and distractions of the city. This is a concept that still holds at Harvard.

Cambridge provided a serene and contemplative environment for the students and faculty, allowing them to immerse themselves fully in their studies and intellectual pursuits. The picturesque campus, with its historic buildings and lush green spaces, inspires and nurtures the Harvard community.

Over the years, the physical campus has expanded and evolved, but the essence of Harvard’s original vision remains intact. The university remains committed to providing a space for scholars to engage in rigorous intellectual exploration and contribute to advancing knowledge.

Early Challenges and Triumphs

Harvard has had its share of challenges in its early days. From surviving the Puritan persecutions in Massachusetts to pushing through financial difficulties, facing these hardships, head-on took courage and resolve.

However, these challenges were not in vain. They instilled a strong spirit of resilience at Harvard that persists. This spirit has allowed the university to make remarkable strides in academics and beyond.

Despite the obstacles, Harvard continued attracting talented students and distinguished faculty members drawn to the institution’s commitment to intellectual excellence. The university’s reputation grew, becoming a beacon of knowledge and innovation.

Harvard has been at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and intellectual breakthroughs. From the development of the first computer to the discovery of DNA structure to the exploration of distant galaxies, Harvard’s contributions to human knowledge have been immense.

Today, Harvard is a world-renowned institution known for its academic rigor, commitment to public service, and dedication to the pursuit of truth. Its historic beginnings have shaped its identity and inspired generations of students and scholars to make their mark on the world.

Harvard’s Unique Traditions

Harvard University is renowned for its rich history and prestigious reputation. Beyond its academic excellence, the university is known for its unique traditions passed down through generations of students. These traditions add to the vibrant and spirited atmosphere on campus, creating a sense of community and belonging.

The Statue of Three Lies

One of the most iconic landmarks at Harvard is the Statue of Three Lies. The statue supposedly depicts John Harvard, the university’s founder. However, the moniker “the Statue of Three Lies” stems from the inaccuracies engraved on the statue.

The inscription reads “John Harvard, Founder, 1638,” all of which is incorrect. John Harvard was not the founder but the first benefactor; the university was founded in 1636, not 1638, and the statue itself is not an actual likeness of John Harvard.

Despite these factual inaccuracies, the statue holds a special place in the hearts of Harvard students and symbolizes the university’s rich history and enduring legacy.

Primal Scream Tradition

Before finals start, Harvard students participate in a tradition known as the Primal Scream. Students gather in Harvard Yard and let out a collective scream at midnight, a fun and cathartic way to release stress before the demanding examination period.

This tradition held each semester, is a testament to the tight-knit community at Harvard and the unique ways they support one another during challenging times. The Primal Scream provides a moment of relief and fosters a sense of unity among the students, reminding them that they are not alone in their academic journey.

As the clock strikes midnight, the air fills with the echoes of screams, laughter, and a shared sense of anticipation for the upcoming exams. It is a tradition that brings the Harvard community together, creating lasting memories and forging lifelong friendships.

Housing Day Festivities

Housing Day at Harvard is one of the most awaited events on campus. On this day, first-year students receive their housing assignments for the next three years, causing much anticipation and excitement.

A female student is packing up her things for her dorm.

Each of the twelve residential houses at Harvard has a unique culture and traditions, making Housing Day a vital part of the Harvard experience. The moment when first-year students open their housing envelopes is filled with nerves, curiosity, and hope as they discover which house will become their home for the next three years.

Once the assignments are revealed, the campus comes alive with celebrations. Upper-level students from each house gather to welcome the first-year students, showcasing their house pride through colorful banners, chants, and performances. It is a day filled with energy as students from all houses come together to celebrate the diversity and camaraderie that defines the Harvard community.

Students form deep connections with their housemates at Harvard, creating a sense of belonging and fostering lifelong friendships. Housing Day is not just about the physical assignment of rooms; it is a celebration of the unique residential communities that make Harvard a home away from home.

Noteworthy Alumni and Achievements

Harvard University has a long and storied history of producing exceptional individuals who have gone on to make significant contributions to various fields. Harvard alums have left an indelible mark on the world, from presidents to Nobel laureates.

Presidents Who Attended Harvard

Eight U.S. Presidents are counted among Harvard alums, including John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These leaders exemplify the academic excellence fostered at Harvard and demonstrate the university’s commitment to nurturing future leaders.

John F. Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, played a pivotal role in shaping American history. His leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis and unwavering commitment to civil rights have left an enduring legacy.

Barack Obama, another Harvard alumnus, made history as the first Black President of the United States. His transformative policies, such as the Affordable Care Act, have profoundly impacted the nation.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Harvard graduate and the longest-serving U.S. President, led the country through the Great Depression and World War II. His New Deal policies revolutionized the American economy and laid the foundation for a more equitable society.

Nobel Laureates from Harvard

Harvard boasts an impressive number of Nobel laureates among its alums and faculty. These distinguished individuals have been recognized for their groundbreaking contributions to various fields, from Physics and Chemistry to Literature and Peace.

One notable Harvard alumnus, Martin Luther King Jr., was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his tireless efforts in advancing civil rights and promoting nonviolent resistance. His powerful speeches and peaceful protests continue to inspire generations.

Another Harvard alumnus, Amartya Sen, received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work on welfare economics and social choice theory. His research has profoundly impacted our understanding of poverty and inequality.

Groundbreaking Discoveries by Harvard Alumni

Harvard alums have been at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and inventions that have shaped the world we live in today.

Dr. Albert Sabin, a Harvard alum, developed the oral polio vaccine, which has been instrumental in eradicating this devastating disease. His pioneering work has saved countless lives and is a cornerstone of global health efforts.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a former fellow at Harvard, conceived the idea of the World Wide Web, revolutionizing how we communicate and access information. His visionary invention has transformed every aspect of modern life, from education and commerce to entertainment and social interaction.

These remarkable achievements by Harvard alums serve as a testament to the university’s commitment to fostering innovation, pushing boundaries, and positively impacting society.

Harvard’s Campus and Architecture

The Story Behind Harvard’s Libraries

Harvard houses one of the largest library systems in the world, with over 18 million volumes across more than 70 different libraries. The largest of these, Widener Library, was built from a donation by Eleanor Elkins Widener in memory of her son, who tragically lost his life on the Titanic.

Library resources

The construction of the Widener Library is a testament to Harvard’s enduring legacy and commitment to pursuing knowledge. The library’s creation not only symbolizes the university’s dedication to academic excellence but also serves as a memorial to the lives lost in one of history’s most tragic events.

Within the walls of Widener Library, countless stories unfold. The shelves are lined with books that span centuries, offering a treasure trove of information and ideas to students, scholars, and researchers. It is a sanctuary of learning, where minds are expanded, and discoveries are made.

But Widener Library is just one piece of Harvard’s remarkable library system. As you explore the campus, you will encounter a multitude of libraries, each with its unique character and collection. From the Houghton Library, which houses rare books and manuscripts, to the Countway Library of Medicine, which supports the medical community, these libraries contribute to the intellectual richness of Harvard.

The Significance of Harvard Yard

Harvard Yard serves as the historic heart of the Harvard campus. This iconic space is the site of the oldest university building in America, Massachusetts Hall, which has stood since 1720.

Walking through Harvard Yard, you can’t help but feel a sense of awe as you pass by the historic buildings that have witnessed centuries of academic pursuits. The Yard is a physical space symbol of intellectual growth and achievement.

Throughout the year, Harvard Yard comes alive with activity. It is the gathering place for commencement ceremonies, where graduates celebrate their achievements and embark on new journeys. It is also the site of the Primal Scream tradition, where students release their stress before final exams by letting out a collective scream at midnight.

Surrounded by lush green lawns and towering trees, Harvard Yard offers a tranquil escape from the bustling city. It is a place where students can find solace, engage in deep conversations, or enjoy a moment of reflection.

Harvard’s Architectural Marvels

From the elegant Georgian architecture of Massachusetts Hall to the modernist design of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard’s architecture is a visual feast that reflects the university’s rich history and academic diversity.

With its red-brick facade and white columns, Massachusetts Hall symbolizes Harvard’s colonial roots. It is the oldest surviving building on campus and has witnessed the university’s transformation over the centuries.

As you explore Harvard’s campus, you will encounter a myriad of architectural styles, from the grandeur of Memorial Hall to the sleek lines of the Science Center. Each building tells a story, representing a different era in the university’s development and embodying the values and aspirations of the time.

Harvard’s commitment to architectural innovation is also evident in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, designed by renowned architect Le Corbusier. With its bold concrete forms and geometric shapes, the Carpenter Center is a testament to Harvard’s embrace of modernism and its dedication to fostering creativity and artistic expression.

The Eliot House on the campus of Harvard University, one of the oldest school in the US, after sunset.

As you walk through Harvard’s campus, take a moment to appreciate the architectural marvels surrounding you. Each building is not just a physical structure but a testament to the university’s enduring spirit and its continuous quest for excellence.

These incredible facts reveal the multifaceted nature of Harvard University, showcasing its traditions, triumphs, and the integral role it has played in shaping higher education over the years. From its libraries to its historic Yard and architectural wonders, Harvard’s campus is a living testament to the power of knowledge and the pursuit of intellectual growth.

How Successful Are Harvard Graduates?

One of the most compelling fun facts about Harvard is the staggering success rate of its graduates. Harvard alums don’t just rest on the laurels of having attended one of the most prestigious institutions in the world; they go on to achieve remarkable feats in various fields.

Whether in academia, business, or public service, Harvard graduates often find themselves at the pinnacle of their respective careers. According to Harvard’s resources, their graduates enjoy an “extraordinarily high rate of success” in receiving job offers and gaining admission to graduate and professional schools. This is a testament to the quality of education and Harvard’s extensive network, making it a breeding ground for future leaders and innovators.

Admission Rates to Graduate Schools

Another fun fact about Harvard that you might find intriguing is the high rate at which its undergraduates gain admission to graduate schools. Approximately 80% of Harvard College students eventually earn a graduate or professional degree.

This statistic is not just a number but a reflection of Harvard’s rigorous academic training and the wealth of opportunities. From research projects to internships, students are groomed to be the best in their fields, making them highly sought after by graduate schools across the globe. This is one of the fun facts about Harvard that underscores its commitment to academic excellence.

Employment Rates After Graduation

Regarding employment, fun facts about Harvard reveal an equally impressive narrative. The university not only prepares its students for academic pursuits but also for the real world. All graduating students at Harvard Chan receive a post-graduate outcomes survey, which begins one month before graduation and closes 12 months after graduation.

a young man shakes someone's hand after being interviewed

This meticulous tracking reflects Harvard’s commitment to the success of its students beyond the campus. Moreover, according to the most recent data, Harvard’s graduation rate is a whopping 98%, and these graduates are not just receiving diplomas; they are stepping into roles that impact the world. This is one of those fun facts about Harvard that genuinely encapsulates the essence of this esteemed institution.

Ready to Join the Ranks of Harvard’s Successful Alumni? Let AdmissionSight Guide Your Journey!

If you’re captivated by these fun facts about Harvard and envision yourself as part of this prestigious institution, you’re not alone. Harvard’s allure isn’t just in its history or campus quirks; it’s in the undeniable success of its students and alumni. At AdmissionSight, we specialize in turning that vision into a reality. Our expert guidance has helped countless students navigate the complex college admissions landscape, especially for Ivy League schools like Harvard.

Knowing fun facts about Harvard is just the tip of the iceberg. You need a comprehensive strategy that includes academic planning, extracurricular involvement, and, most importantly, a compelling application that showcases your unique strengths and aspirations. That’s where AdmissionSight comes in. With our personalized consulting services, we aim to elevate your application to the level of excellence that Harvard expects.

Don’t leave your dreams to chance. Take the first step toward a thriving future today by scheduling a free consultation with AdmissionSight. Let us help you become another success story, another Harvard graduate who changes the world. Are you ready to make these fun facts about Harvard a part of your life story? Click the button below to get started!

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