What is Harvard Known For?

Few institutions are better known than Harvard University. 

Few of the world’s institutions can rival Harvard’s research output, teaching quality, or influence on academia. Even among the vaunted Ivy League colleges, Harvard stands out as the best.

The oldest university in the United States, Harvard was established in 1636, before the founding of the country. 

Over its nearly 400-year history, Harvard has been associated with winners of every important award, including hundreds of Nobel laureates, Rhodes scholars, and Marshall scholars. 

More billionaires have graduated from Harvard than from any other school, with 188 at last count.

Graduates from Harvard have become leaders in their perspective fields. Harvard counts among its alumni numerous presidents, including George W. Bush and Barak Obama. Legendary artists have graduated from Harvard, such as T.S. Eliot and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Equally impressive is the school’s faculty. Current teachers include Cornell West, whose books Race Matters and Democracy Matters have established him as a public intellectual. 

James Bryant Conant University Professor Danielle Allen is a MacArthur Fellow and a Marshall Scholar.

That level of success comes in part from the outstanding support available to the school. Harvard is one of the world’s wealthiest colleges, enjoying an endowment of approximately $41.9 billion

With that money, Harvard can operate numerous ground-breaking research projects, including the Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging and the Safra Center for Ethics.

Remarkable as these attributes may be, they only scratch the surface of Harvard’s incredible reputation.

What Majors & Academics Are Harvard Known For?

Harvard University
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

All of Harvard’s achievements and accolades start in the same place: academics. All of Harvard’s many programs are excellent, but there are a few that stand out even among this vaunted crowd.

Tying back to the school’s founding as a seminary, the Harvard School of Divinity is recognized as the world’s best program for studying theology. 

Combining religious inquiry with practical application, the school’s divinity degree trains students to put their studies within the context of other religions. 

This approach has been spearheaded by faculty members such as Dean David N. Hempton, the author of several books on religious history.

Outside of the humanities, Harvard Medical School is considered by many to be the best in the country. 

Respected ranking outlet U.S. News & World Report not only lists Harvard as the top medical school overall, but several of its programs also take the number two spot in their respective categories, including internal medicine, pediatrics, and anesthesiology.

These achievements are not only from the school’s superb faculty and alumni but from the resources available to them. 

The Center for Connected Health at Harvard Med takes a collaborative approach, bringing together medical students and experts in other fields to address some of the most pressing scientific questions. 

The school’s department of dermatology alone enjoys over $9 million in annual funding, allowing them to take advantage of partnerships with local hospitals and operate research clinics.

This commitment to groundbreaking research can also be found in Harvard’s psychology program. 

The psychology department counts among its faculty Steven Pinker. In addition to writing several award-winning books, such as How the Mind Works, Pinker operates Harvard’s Cognition, Brain, and Behavior Group. 

Thanks to the Group’s efforts, we gain a greater understanding of the brain’s function and capabilities.

These amazing majors are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Harvard’s academic offerings.

Is Harvard a Good School?

Not only is Harvard a good school. By nearly every metric, it is one of the best.

U.S. News & World Report, the most respected of the ranking outlets, puts Harvard tied for number two in the country, below only fellow Ivy Princeton and alongside M.I.T. and Columbia. 

The specialized lists from U.S. News reveal some equally important and sometimes surprising aspects of Harvard. 

Not only does the school rank among the top ten for writing in the disciplines, critical theory, and undergraduate research, but it’s also listed as the third-best school for overall value.

Despite its more varied ranking criteria, Niche.com finds Harvard equally extraordinary. Because of the school’s academic reputation, its research production, and its overall value, Niche.com gives Harvard an A+ grade. 

Harvard takes the number one spot in several of the site’s individualized lists, earning recognition as the nation’s best school for biology, political science, and many other majors.

Harvard Traditions

Harvard Schlesinger Library
Public domain photo by Daderot via Wikimedia Commons

As you would expect of a school that’s almost 400 years old, Harvard has some longstanding and respected traditions.

One of the longest-running is known simply as “The Game.”

 Since 1875, Harvard and Yale have worked out their rivalries on the football field, making their annual gridiron contest a highlight of the year. At the time of this writing, Yale leads the series with a record of 68-61-8.

To build connections among members of the Harvard community, the school hosts the annual celebration known as Yardfest

A massive cookout and dance party, Yardfest is open only to Harvard students. In addition to the food, students can listen to the best sounds from their campus, as the performers are all winners in the school’s battle of the bands contest.

The four-day ArtsFirst Festival gives Harvard artists their time to shine. From performance art to visual arts such as painting and sculpture, the festival combines community building with self-expression, ensuring a rich cultural experience.

Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at Harvard

Harvard may be best known for its Ivy-lined walls and dusty halls lined with erudite thinkers. But the fact of the matter is that studying at Harvard can be a good time, thanks to the many clubs and extracurricular activities on offer.

One of the most important is the school’s First-Year Social Committee. As you can probably guess, the FYSC works to make connections among those new to Harvard, helping them feel secure in their new home.

Through the FYSC’s Host Family Program, students from outside of Boston can get a little bit of comfort by joining up with a local family. 

The program connects students with a family from the Harvard community and then lets them go from there. Activities can span from dinners and vacations to just regular check-ups, making sure that new students never feel lost or disregarded.

Another notable extracurricular activity is working at the Harvard Lampoon. The legendary humor magazine served as the launching point for comedians such as Conan O’Brien and The Office creator Greg Daniels. 

Even today, the Lampoon remains a major cultural institution whose highbrow humor is read and shared by millions across the globe.

What Sports Are Harvard Known For?

As we saw from the description of The Game above, sports play a surprisingly important role in daily life at Harvard. 

In fact, the famed Ivy League to which Harvard belongs is not an academic distinction but an athletic conference, one that organizes the football and basketball games its member schools play.

The Harvard Crimson participates in 42 NCAA Division I sports, more than any other school in the division. Harvard has fielded a football team since 1873, winning ten national championships since then. More significantly, the Harvard team played a vital role in designing the forward pass, a technique that has become the standard in modern football play.

The university’s men’s ice hockey team is one of the oldest intercollegiate teams in the country. In its almost 125-year history, the team has brought home the NCAA championship once and the ECAC championship ten times, most recently in 2017. 

Although not nearly as old, the women’s ice hockey team has had its own share of success, winning the national championship in 1999 and the ECAC championship four times.

Before The Game, the Harvard and Yale rivalry played out between their men’s rowing teams, which continue to battle each year on the Thames river.

Why Harvard?

It’s hard to believe that any student would not want to go to Harvard. The word Harvard is synonymous with academic excellence, figuring heavily in pop culture.

But the praise heaped upon Harvard isn’t just a matter of reputation and rumor with no substance. 

Rather, Harvard has the numbers to back it up, from its fantastic research breakthroughs to its long list of outstanding alumni.

Of course, to the surprise of no one, thousands of students apply to join Harvard every year. Like most elite schools, the university has a very low acceptance rate. 

In 2022, Harvard accepted just 4.59% of its 42,749 applicants, a record low.

Those who do get accepted not only get to study in the country’s oldest institution but also on a surprisingly fun and lively campus. 

As we’ve seen, Harvard has many great traditions and clubs to keep students from being overwhelmed in their studies. 

And with an athletic program that includes championship football and hockey teams, even sports lovers will find a lot to enjoy at Harvard.

In short, there are so many reasons to go to Harvard. The school offers everything that a student could want in a college experience, from the best in teaching to an exciting campus life.