The "Typical Harvard Student" Doesn't Exist

Category Student Voices

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College student, Cayla
Cayla Lee Class of '21
Authored on March 15, 2019

Article

When Daniel Chester French, a sculptor, came to Harvard, he chose the "most Harvard looking" man from Harvard Yard to be his model for the John Harvard statue, which thousands of people pass by everyday.

Maybe this is what it meant to be "most Harvard looking" back in the 1700s, but every time I pass through the yard, I'm reminded that this does not represent me and my classmates...

I receive many questions about what "an ideal applicant" or "an ideal Harvard student" is like. In light of this, I decided to interview a few of my close friends to give you a very tiny glimpse of the diversity of lived experiences, paths, and personalities that's here on campus.

First is Mason!

Mason, Harvard student

Mason, Class of 2021

What do you study?

Computer Science and Statistics.

Was this what you thought you would be studying in high school?

For a lot of high school, I thought I was going to be pre-med, and at a certain point I thought i would do CS and Sociology... I switched a lot. I knew I wanted to pair CS with something, though.

What has been your favorite class so far?

Probably my USW 35 class: Dilemmas of Equity and Excellence in American K-12 Education. Yeah, it's a long title so everyone just calls it "USW 35."

What do you do outside of classes?

I'm on Crimson Tech, so I help to do maintenance and develop new features for the Crimson website. I also have a job--I do web development, and I'll be interning this summer at Snapchat.

What’s a meaningful experience you’ve had in college?

There's a lot of things I've gotten to do here that I wouldn't have gotten to do anywhere else or if I had gone to a school in my hometown in rural Tennessee. I meet so many people here from all around the world and interact with different cultural experiences.

What’s your favorite way to waste time?

Oh god, so many ways. I would say Netflix, but I just cancelled my Netflix because I was spending so much time on it! So now I just talk with people for hours in the dhall. I'm definitely more productive after cancelling Netflix.

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Buscuits and gravy. I'm really excited about Southern food. It really makes me happy.

This is T'Ajmal!

Harvard student, T'Ajmal

T'Ajmal, Class of 2021

What do you study?

I study Psychology with a secondary in African American Studies.

Was this what you thought you would be studying in high school?

I had an interest in it in high school, but a lot of people wanted me to do STEM or engineering type things or CS. That’s what I thought I’d be doing when I first came here, but I like [what I study now]!

What has been your favorite class so far?

I like my abnormal psychology class. It’s about how we classify disorders and how that changes over time. Oh, and also my R&B and neo-soul class from last semester was really good.

What do you do outside of classes?

I work in a memory lab at Harvard, and I work at the Smith Campus Center, and I’m involved with this group called Peer Health Exchange where we teach health education to 9th graders in Boston, and I teach self-defense to girls under Girls LEAP, an organization based in Boston.

What’s a meaningful experience you’ve had in college?

My sophomore advisor in my house and his partner are kind of like my adoptive parents. They say they’ve adopted me. I feel really supported. And they have a cat, and they let me play with their cat, so that’s cool.

What’s your favorite way to waste time?

Watching Netflix. I’m watching Grace and Frankie right now.

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chicken tenders. They’re SO GOOD.

And finally, Diego!

Diego, Harvard student

Diego, Class of 2021

What do you study?

Ideally, I would be studying Ethnic Studies, but I’m studying Government with a secondary in Ethnicity, Migration, and Rights to try to learn about policies to help people of color in the US. Race, politics, policies relating to immigration, and also Mexican government/democracy have been my focus areas thus far.

Was this what you thought you would be studying in high school?

Yes.

What has been your favorite or most interesting class so far?

This is such a hard question because there are so many great classes. But I think my favorite class has been Spanish for Latinx Students because I got to learn from an incredible Latina professor about Spanish speaking Latinx people who grew up in the United States, which is a very fascinating linguistic phenomenon and also my experience, and it was cool to talk to other US Latinx people.

What do you do outside of classes?

I serve as co-director for Act on a Dream, which is a student organization that advocates for immigrant rights and immigration reform. We provide community and support for undocumented students on campus while also doing advocacy around national issues like TPS and immigration reform.

What’s one meaningful experience you’ve had in college?

The highlight of my Harvard journey has been meeting my best friends. Getting to know amazing people who come from different backgrounds and yet I relate to so well has been an amazing and unique aspect of my Harvard career.

What’s your favorite way to waste time?

Trying out new restaurants with my friends or boyfriend!

If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I don’t want to be a stereotypical Mexican, BUT Mexican tacos, specifically from taco trucks.


I hope this was helpful in providing some insights into the wide range of experiences and interests at Harvard! I think the diversity on campus is a testament to how a "typical Harvard student" doesn't exist, since everyone I've met here is so unique and different!

Cayla Lee Class of '21

Hello! I'm Cayla, and I'm a junior living in Pforzheimer. My home is Bellevue, Washington, which is about 15 minutes away from the amazing city of Seattle.

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College student, Cayla