10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student (PART TWO)

There are plenty of useful tips for incoming Harvard freshmen. Hint: don’t overdo it on the merch!

Harvard Square in the evening, July 15th, 2014

Students should make the most of deals and coupons on and for shops in Harvard Square (photo by f11photo/ Shutterstock.com)

In Part Two of my piece on the top 10 tips by a Harvard student, I’ll give a few more insights, including how you can travel around the northeast States pretty cheaply and how to make the most of the student deals in Harvard Square. 

If you’ve missed Part One of this guide, check out that section here for some useful bits of advice on how to make the most of in-house Sunday brunch, where to study and eat in the Smith Center, and the importance of maintaining a healthy sleep schedule when at Harvard. 

You can also check out this article if you want more information on the five top self-care habits and practices that I picked up from my time as a Harvard student. 

  • 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Try Not to Schedule Classes on Fridays 

The first tip here when it comes to picking your classes for the new semester: unless you have your heart completely set on a Friday seminar or workshop, try to keep that day free. 

I can’t tell you how cathartic it is and how nice it feels to have your Friday free every week when you’re a Harvard student. This gives you time to catch up on work at a leisurely rate, whether you want to camp out in a local coffee shop for the morning or sit in the dining hall and study with your mates for the afternoon. 

Having your Fridays free to do work in your own time also puts less pressure on your Sundays. Speaking from experience, there were plenty of times when I would take the Saturday off from academic pursuits, and then find myself trying to squeeze all my class work into my Sunday afternoons, which would as a result become particularly stressful. 

I found that when I took time to get my class work done on Friday and Saturday morning (if we didn’t have a rugby game that day), then I could spend my Saturday afternoon and evening doing a fun social activity with my friends. I could also then take a Sunday away from work to go on a day trip with some mates, explore parts of Boston I hadn’t seen before, and have a long, relaxing brunch with peers (see Part One of this piece)!

  • Don’t Go Ham on Buying Harvard Merch

This one might seem a bit controversial at first: most prospective Harvard undergraduates get really excited about all the swag and merch that they’ll be able to buy at the Coop and wear around campus. 

However, and take my word for this as I speak from personal experience, you’ll find that the novelty of dressing head-to-toe in Harvard clothing as you wander around the campus, get dinner, and sit in your lecture halls quickly wears off around midway through the first semester of your freshman year. 

You rarely see upperclassmen wearing Harvard letter sweaters, caps, or sweatpants around campus, and that’s because the novelty of going to Harvard has worn off for them: yes, they’re proud to be at this college, but they also see it more as a home than the mythical brand freshmen think of when they first arrive in the Yard. 

All of this is to say: don’t go ham on buying Harvard merch and clothing. I ended up buying a lot of Harvard sweaters, tops, caps, and even a pair of sweatpants and some socks in my Freshman year, and I have since given away all of these items (except the socks)!

  • 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Make the Most of Student Deals 

Another top tip is to make the most of the wide array of student deals on offer in Harvard Square (especially look out for these when you’re a freshman, as you’ll receive a lot of discount coupons). 

Excitingly, Harvard students get full free access to the Museum of Fine Arts on Huntington Avenue and the exceptional Harvard Art Museums, as well as to the on-campus Harvard Museum of Natural History. Try to make the most of this free access: these museums are well-stocked and brilliantly curated. They can also be excellent spots to study. 

Every Harvard student will get $65 of credit automatically loaded onto their HUID every semester (this is called BoardPlus). You can use this money for a number of on-site facilities, but I’d recommend checking out the following spots:

  • Barker Center Café: the sandwiches at Barker are expensive, but they’re absolutely delicious (as are the sweet baked goods). 
  • One of the house grilles: I’d recommend Dunster, not that I’m biased. If you’re looking for Fries on Fleek, head to Quincy, for the best Quesadillas and access to a foosball set and pool table, go to Dunster basement. 
  • The Caspersen Student Center at Harvard Law School: if you want to pretend you’re in Legally Blonde (who doesn’t?) then head to the HLS and grab some sushi, coffee, or a cake at this student center with your BoardPlus. 
A Greyhound bus driving through California, June 10th, 2018

The Greyhound is a cheap way to get around the northeast from Boston (photo by Sundry Photography: Shutterstock.com)

  • Get Used to Using the Greyhound

For those people who want to get out of the Cambridge, Mass. bubble over the weekends, you should get used to booking cheap return tickets on the Greyhound bus from South Station. 

I used the Greyhound on multiple occasions, whether it was heading down to New York City to see friends over Spring Break or on various weekends, up to Vermont to stay with a mate’s family for Thanksgiving, or down to Maryland for a few days in my second year. 

Believe me when I say that the Greyhound is a game-changer for students: I was often able to get pretty last-minute round-trip tickets to New York (a 5-hour bus ride from Boston) for around $20. Compare that to the far more expensive Amtrak or flight rates for travelling to places in the northeast. 

Considering how cheap this mode of transport is, the Greyhound buses that I travelled on were relatively comfortable and the experience was pretty stress-free. I would often have two seats to myself, and people tend to plug into their phones and zone out on these trips so you can get some sleep or read a book in peace and quiet. 

  • 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Keep Your HUID and Room Key in a Safe and Convenient Place 

This is another useful tip: make sure you’re storing your HUID in a convenient space that’s also pretty secure. I would often stuff mine in a pocket, which was a silly thing to do: every time you lose your HUID, you have to add $25 to your university bill to get a new one. 

You’ll need to use your HUID for pretty much everything at Harvard, whether it’s getting into your house, your lecture halls, paying for food at on-site cafés or vending machines, or swiping in for all of your in-house meals. 

For that reason, it’s useful to get a phone card holder or to invest in a slim card wallet so that you can always access your HUID quickly and effectively. 

When it comes to your room key, consider attaching it to a lanyard and carrying it around in your backpack (you’ll need one of these anyway to hold your books and laptop as you go to classes). Try to avoid resting this key on the mantel of your room’s door: a lot of students do this, so it’ll be the first place someone will look if they’re trying to get into your room.

TL; DR: Final Thoughts on Part Two 

In this article, I’ve included five more tips on how to make the most of your time at Harvard, and here’s a quick summary: 

  • Be strategic with your class schedule: unless you can’t imagine your semester without a certain Friday class or seminar, aim for a three-day weekend. 
  • Don’t get sucked into the merch game: control yourself on the Harvard merch front, because it’s unlikely that you’ll wear any of it after the first year. 
  • Embrace a Harvard Square deal: Harvard Square is expensive at the best of times, so you should try to make the most of the coupons and discounted rates you’ll get in the opening weeks of the semester, especially during freshmen year. 
  • Hop on the Greyhound: embrace the Greyhound, and get cheap returns out to some awesome places in the northeast, like New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, Maine, and New Hampshire. 
  • Look after your HUID and room key: every time you lose your HUID, you’ll get $25 added to your yearly bill, so find a way to make sure you keep hold of it. 

Hopefully, you’ll have found some of these tips useful. If you’re looking for some more in-depth advice on the US college admissions process generally, check out this article

If you’re looking for tips on how to ace your Harvard interview, have a look at this piece I wrote about my own experience. 

Lastly, check out the A&J Education website to book a free consultation with one of our experts and find out more about creating a successful university application.

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