Harvard Student Tells World That Harvard Does, In Fact, Suck

Every once in a while, some poor sadsack will break his way out of the Harvard dungeon, and try to tell the world that Cambridge is actually a freaky Stepford hellhole where people wear crimson sweatshirts because they hide the blood. Usually this does nothing more than give Yale a superiority hard-on. But this time the sadsack is a Harvard junior named Alexander Heffner, and this time he’s writing for US. News and World Report.

Heffner’s piece, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, says what most of us already know about going to Harvard: don’t. His biggest complaints concern the faculty/student ratio in most classes, and the fact that people would rather gather in little groups and flash their Final Club rings à la Type-A Captain Planet than talk to you in the dining hall. Heffner writes:

Click here to find out more!For nearly the past three years, I have been a student at Harvard, a university whose formula for undergraduate prestige has created an international reputation far beyond that of even its closest competitors. But as any undergraduate who actually attends the school knows, the Harvard education is overrated. Harvard’s traditional emblem of Veritas, in practice, is a one-dimensional search for truth that weds students more to cold facts than to their teachers or classmates.

….For three centuries, Harvard has led a masterful public relations campaign to claim the mantle of what is best in American education, even if that means less community, less intimate interaction with professors and classmates, less “we” and more “me.” In reality, more often than not, faculty here are inaccessible, students are unengaged interpersonally, and two way education is an anathema.

Down with cold facts! IvyGate hates those. Heffner isn’t the first to express ambivalence about his chosen education, or remark publicly on his unhappiness. Complaining about Harvard seems to be a requirement of attending Harvard, in the same way that owning a Ferrari gives you license to bitch about the price of premium gas. But Heffner, to be clear, isn’t looking for sympathy. He’s trying to warn the girls over at Harvard, Please that they should tranquilize themselves while they’ve still got the chance:

Don’t make the same mistake. If you receive a notice of acceptance from the Harvard admissions office next month, enjoy the moment, but consider how disappointed you may be three years from now. If you aren’t accepted, or if you never applied, consider yourself fortunate: you will receive a better education in the bargain.

Just in case you’re starting to think that Heffner is some kind of grassroots hillbilly with a full scholarship and a heart of gold who woke up one day to find his nose to the Harvard grindstone, we should probably also tell you that the kid went to Andover. And if his raves about its intimacy are any judge, apparently courses at Andover consist of sleepover powwows on the area rug and fresh-baked cookies from somebody’s grandma:

I remember being impressed by the student-teacher ratio—small classes, sometimes just four or five people—and by learning so much about and from each other. I often feel obliged to tell people, even if they don’t ask, that it was Andover (not Harvard) that taught to me to think and write critically.

We don’t want to disparage Heffner too much, because he has a point about those huge lecture courses–it’s hard to do anything but play Sporcle and sporadically drool. But that’s the beauty of an Ivy League education, no? Skip the kumbaya and go straight for the bonus! We’re betting Heffner will last another week before Harvard calls in its PR SWAT team–or before he’s sacrificed and eaten by a group of rabid McKinsey interns.

  • Cornell ’11

    Finally, a Harvardian who doesn’t drink the Harvard kool-aid. Kudos to Heffner!

  • Harvard ’11

    As a Humanities concentrator at Harvard, I have to say this has not been my experience at all. I can’t speak for those studying gov or econ, which are the biggest concentrations, but in my department the largest class I’ve had was 17 students (to one professor and one TF), and I’ve had three classes with two or three students and a brilliant professor all to ourselves. My only experience with gigantic lecture classes is in science cores, which are indeed lamentably horrible.

    • Fuckaduck

      I feel sorry for you

  • Harvard ’12

    Harvard is what you make of it. Sounds like Heffner is taking the wrong classes and probably bad at connecting with people because I’ve met so many amazing and interested people who both teach and inspire me.

  • http://caveatbettor.blogspot.com Caveatbettor

    Harvard is a tax-advantaged hedge fund, with some professors and classrooms in a side pocket.

    • Fuckaduck

      Yup. It’s just a front. A shill. And a lame one at that. X)

  • Anonymous

    What’s he complaining about? I thought the whole point of going to Harvrad is to get recruited by Goldman Sachs. Nothing more.

    • Duh…

      Then he should’ve gone to Yale…. Have awesome classes, actually have a social life, AND get recruited by Goldman Sachs. He should’ve gone to Yale.

      • Cornell ’12

        “actually have a social life”

        Ha! You’re joking right? Either you go to Ylae or you’re just drinking a different flavor of Kool-Aid.

      • Fuckaduck

        Ah shit. Clicked like on accident.

        Dude, lol, yeah Cornell below is right.
        But:
        Cornell ’12!?! Is this a joke on purpose or accident? The irony!! lmfao.

        In all sincerity, university kids have all been duped in a big scam. Education takes place in real life. Unschool (YouTube it if you must) or continue being moo-ing suckers. 

  • Anonymous

    From harvard 11′s comment, Harvard is doing something right – using the money-oriented majors to subsidize the humanities, Way to go.

    • Cornell ’10

      Incorrect. Across the board Humanities majors are overwhelmingly more profitable than “money-oriented” ones. This is because while “money-oriented” majors require labs, equipment, materials, etc. (all of which are *incredibly* expensive), a humanities program needs three things: a professor, a room, and books. That’s it. Again and again studies have proven that the humanities are the only financially solvent field of most universities. Thanks for trying, though.

      • Fuckaduck

        Thanks for trying to be snarky. We appreciate teh effort.

        A humanities program doesn’t need any of the things you just listed. A mentor can help. But you want to learn humanities….locked away from humanity? 
        “Oh no, no. They let us leave campus sometimes.”

        Ha. No. You get a humanities ed out among HUMANz. Give ‘er a shot. You’ll see what I mean…and how I got so durned witty and intelligent. Don’t worry. You can do it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m also a humanities concentrator, and almost every course in my concentration has been seminar-sized. The few lecture courses were great, with sections taught by awesome grad students–and even those few large survey courses have since been replaced by classes that are capped at 30. The complaint about difficulty making contact with professors or finding advisors for research projects, I can’t relate to at all. Maybe this kid is just unpleasant and everyone tries to avoid him.

    • Fuckaduck

      Yeah or maybe your lectures are fucking boring, brah. Just guessing.

      Blaming the victims… the one’s who got duped…the one’s who invested years of their late formative years in a scammy scam-loaeded scam only to get set up and then demoted as a fall guy on their jobs in “finance”…..is for psychos.

  • ILB

    I think this is probably more the result of people widely disliking him than an institutional flaw.

    Also what compels Eve Binder to mention Andover in her articles? The fact that she was the dumbest girl at Brearley?

    • confused

      Seriously? The Harvard guy’s whole argument is basically “Andover is better than Harvard because [like every small high school] it gives you more personalized attention.” If Eve had just name-dropped Andover in an unrelated argument, I could maybe understand your point. (Though is still doesn’t make sense; wouldn’t you expect a Brearley girl to mention Dalton or Collegiate?) But right now you’re just coming across as a bitter jerk who didn’t read the article.

      • Anonymous

        umm, Andover isn’t a small high school. It’s rather large and has a huge endowment. 

        • Fuckaduck

          …a huge fake endowment made of fake digital moniez.

      • Fuckaduck

        All universities and colleges and instituions (straight jakket 4 u?) are big daycares. This pot-meet-kettle thing is so prevalent on this board. Get the eff out from under your florescent nightmare and start studying for enrichment. Give tossing your administrations’ salads. Don’t be afraid. You can do it. And that nagging insecurity, lonliness, and total lack of self can be fixed. True story.

        • Fuckaduck

          That is, give UP tossing those saladz. Heh. X)

  • Lowell ’13

    Sounds ungrateful to me.

    • Fuckaduck

      “Dear Jebus, 

      Thank you for my boring, 2-D, conveyor-belt institutionalization. I am grateful for my state-of-the-art sycophant faciliteeeeee.

      Amen.” 

  • Anonymous

    The Eve had name-dropped Andover in an unrelated argument, I could perhaps understand your point. (Though is still doesn’t make sense; would not you expect.

    hp coupon code

  • Harvard ’10

    Yeah not my experience at all either, and I was a physics concentrator. Why would he write this, then? Well, Harvard is definitely what you make of it, and some people just get unlucky, too. Maybe the poor guy is bitter about the social scene because he happened to end up with lame friends instead of the engaging and fascinating people most of us meet; that happens sometimes. Maybe he’s had a string of bad professors, that happened to me at one point too. But if he’s had luck that bad, then he needs to try a little harder — there’s no map to the great people and the awesome classes and professors, but they’re not that hard to find.

    Or maybe he doesn’t really believe any of this and just really knows how to sell an article this time of year. One part of his message at least is a good one — for those who weren’t accepted this year, don’t worry! Harvard’s definitely not for everyone, and there are so many great opportunities ready to be found at other colleges, even – gasp! – Yale.

    • Fuckaduck

      This is the number one parroted phrase I hear with regards to schooling: “It is what you make of it”

      Yeah well you can’t make a chocolate sunday out of an anal baby. No two ways about it. 
      The tree that falls in the “empty” forest still makes a sound. Reality exists regardless of your faulty observations.

  • Quaker

    What I posted on the Crimson editorial deriding Heffner:

    Perhaps his comment ““As any undergraduate who actually attends the school knows, the Harvard education is overrated” should have read “As any undergraduate [who attended a high school that taught you to think, ie Andover or Exeter]…”

    I feel like many people, especially the writers of this editorial, are missing the point. The point isn’t that Harvard is a terrible place. The point is that it does not live up to its expectations, and it pales in comparison to the education he received in high school–he went to Andover, with amazing resources and teachers and peers that taught him how to think and discuss and analyze, and then he got to Harvard, where a “seminar” is probably around 17 students, and it’s likely that they have to raise their hands and be called on by the professor. The experience doesn’t compare. While I cannot speak with 100% certainty on Andover classes, I went to Exeter, where the largest class size allowed is 12 students and you never raised your hand–you had to learn how to have a discussion with a group of people. Before I got to college, I had heard from many, many Exonians that the college experience, in terms of academics, could not compare to Exeter at all (except perhaps some liberal arts colleges, which Heffner addresses). I am also at an Ivy (not Harvard–I didn’t even apply), and I can say many of my classmates have the same feeling that we had heard about. The classes could not compare. Sure, the social life is much better, but that’s not the point.

    For those who went to a school where they took perhaps 12 AP classes and sat in rows and raised their hands, Harvard probably provides an amazing experience and amazing resources. But for those of us who have academic experiences like the ones you receive at Exeter and Andover (not limited to the two, of course), Harvard and other Ivies cannot even compare. We would probably be better situated at small LACs, as Heffner recommends. (Just one anecdote: out of 12 terms of English classes at Exeter, I received one A and two A-’s, and the rest were mostly B+’s. I took an English class as a sophomore, after not doing any real writing my freshman year–a seminar meant for majors–and received an A).

    • Fuckaduck

      Mmmm. I’m gonna go with your phrasing, that “Harvard is a terrible place”. 

  • Harvard’13

    I agree with Harvard’10 & Harvard’12 wholeheartedly.  Yes, I believe Harvard is teaching me how to learn, but more importantly, it’s teaching me how to navigate through all of the offered opportunities, how to prioritize, how to manage my time, and how to network meaningfully while staying genuine.  All four deeply are interrelated.  I am often faced with a decision of the following.  Do I go to class that seems to be why I came here or do I go to this wicked cool lecture a faculty member, industry leader, or visiting professor  is giving that I found out about through the gazette?  Do I study for this class or do I attend random student production and/or event that I’ll be sure to enjoy with my friends?  The H is teaching me to balance my life and how and where to place value on things whether that be interpersonal relationships or nuggets of knowledge and rediscovering my love of learning!  

    I’m a joint science concentrator and have experienced classes from the size of 11 to over 600.  I rather like the varying class sizes.  Intro classes force me to get to know my TFs really well and utilize faculty dinners and office hours.  Being resourceful and assertive are qualities Harvard can indirectly teach you and I am appreciative that probably more than I am of the standard education.  This isn’t at all to say you can’t be taught this anywhere else or at anytime during your life, but I definitely find the highlights of Harvard to be the people and therefore it’s network. Doors open with this network.

    I will say that I’ve definitely complained to my blockmates about Harvard and occasionally say that I wish I went somewhere else on a free ride and experience crazy school spirit, but in the end I value Harvard for what it is to me, an amazing network of people and a place to be challenged which may not be academically but it still allows me to grow as a person.

    • Fuckaduck

      Yeah and the worst part is that you pay the school to screw up constantly. I feel bad for you.

  • people

    Harvard Students Tell World That Professors and TF  of the Life Science  at Harvard, In Fact, Suck. 

  • Harvard student

    I will say  that TF of the Life Science at Harvard will ruin your life because  they intentionally  let your grades slip.

  • boy

    SO RIGHT , this is SO RIGHT,  the TF of the Life Science at Harvard suck…

  • Student

    Some TFs at Harvard don’t understand English…

  • Zbsuba

    He wants more interaction with faculty and more communal environment!? He can go to a small Liberal Arts college. Another over privileged  brat whining about the unbearable lightness of his privileged existence.