Feature image from iecn.com.

The Admissions Hero family consists of over 100 students at colleges across the United States, with each person bringing to the table his or her own unique perspective on admissions and the college experience. In the @Demographic series, we sit down with a few of our consultants at a time to hear their thoughts on some commonly-asked questions about college, colleges, and college admissions.

Q: “So, think back to before you actually matriculated as a Harvard student. What would you say surprised you most about Harvard when you actually arrived on campus?”


Harvard College Freshman Convocation September 1,2015.


A: The People


“The majority of the students at the school are extremely humble and wonder why they got in. You’re accepted, and you [feel like] you’re gonna be the dumbest one in the class, or that ‘everyone’s gonna be smarter than me.’ But that’s not the case. Most people feel that way [about themselves.]”

— Lily C., Harvard Class of ‘18

“Most Harvard students would say the following, and I would agree with this, that there’s obviously the perception that Harvard students are very uppity and out-of-touch, in a sense — [because] they’re rich and all that. It really turns out that when you get to know people, [they’re] normal. They’re normal, like you. The vast majority of people are friendly, and the people there are really nice.

For example, one of my roommates — it was obvious that he came from a very wealthy background. He’s posted pictures of himself with Steph Curry and Obama, [but] it turns out that we could have really good conversations as roommates. We joke around all the time, things like that.”

— Richard O., Harvard Class of ‘19



A: The Academics


“One thing that was the most surprising for me was how focused Harvard is on the liberal arts. And by that I mean — they don’t really offer specific classes, and they really discourage you from trying to really focus yourself on pre-professional tracks. They want you to just experiment, and their motto is ‘learning to learn.’

Which is not what I was expecting; I was expecting to go to college and get all of the knowledge that I would use in my future job, and it really has not been what my experience [at Harvard] is. It’s a lot of just sampling really general classes that probably won’t be applicable to what you do afterwards, but they’re just kind of interesting to know.

I personally prefer this [learning style], because I don’t know what I’m going to do after college [yet,] but I’m sure if someone actually is very sure about they want to do after they graduate, this might not be ideal for them. Because in that case, I feel like you would feel like you’re being taken away from your focus and you’re not really getting to do what you want.”

— Serena M., Harvard Class of ‘18





A: Orientation


“The thing that surprised me most was how [comprehensive] and in-depth the orientation was in terms of spelling out for me the day-to-day things. That was something I didn’t expect an orientation to be able to do, and Harvard’s did.”

All of the little things that you think are gonna add up to be really stressful — there were so many people there that were willing to take the place of your parents and your friends and all the people that you would’ve asked those questions to, because they were so welcoming and prepared to help you figure it all out.

It wasn’t too hand-holdy, but it was just enough so that you felt like ‘okay, there are a million people all looking out for me,’ and I can ask anyone anything and they’ll have an answer.”

— Lily C., Harvard Class of ‘18



Have a question you want to see us answer? Want to hear a certain demographic’s opinion on a certain issue? Email your questions and intended demographics to jeanette@collegevine.com and they might be featured in a future post! 

Jeanette Si

Jeanette is part of the class of 2018 at Cornell University, double majoring in Information Science and China Studies. She hails from a public high school in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and enjoys geocaching, skiing, and gaming in her spare time. Admissions season has given her humility, resilience, and the ability to answer ten different prompts with one personal statement.