Inside Look: Harvard’s Housing Traditions

July 16, 2015

Housing in college is an experience that can help create your college experience. From food to friends, housing can provide great opportunities to meet new people and have a lot of fun. Every school has different housing traditions, and caseyc, Harvard ‘17, tells us about how Harvard sets itself apart. 

At one of my admitted student receptions, an alumna told me the easiest way to determine if someone actually went to Harvard: “the first question they should ask me is, ‘Which house did you live in?’”  Each of Harvard’s 12 houses has its own unique characteristics, and the residents of each house quickly fall in love with their respective houses from the moment they are assigned one on Housing Day.  

Until 1995, blocking groups (the group of up to eight people you have chosen to live with) used to be able to choose their houses, which gave each house a unique identity defined by its residents.  Nowadays, groups are sorted randomly into their houses, to allow for more interaction between the diverse groups of the student body.  Assignments are delivered each year on Housing Day, the Thursday before Spring Break.  The night before Housing Day, blocking groups participate in River Run, in which the group takes a drink in each of Harvard’s nine river houses as a tribute to the Housing Gods with the hope that the group isn’t sorted into the Quad, the part of campus that is a 15 minute walk from Harvard Square. After a successful River Run, groups wait anxiously Thursday morning in anticipation of the house assignment delivery.  Members of your future house come to your dorm room to deliver your letter and leave you with new house “swag.”  Housing Day culminates in dinner in your new house.  

I live in Mather, which is noted for its Brutalist architecture style, and is the only house on campus with guaranteed singles for all residents.  Our claim to fame is that Conan O’Brian once lived here.  I love Mather for its great housing, close-knit community, and gym that’s open 24 hours.  The river houses are typically more desired as the result of their close proximity to Harvard Yard, where classes are held, but residents of the Quad shouldn’t be disappointed with assignment there.  Quad housing is some of the best on campus, with spacious rooms and (more importantly) better opportunities for single bedrooms starting your sophomore year.  The Quad shuttle runs every ten minutes, so getting to and from the Yard is no issue at all.  So to all prospective Harvard Students and current freshmen- don’t worry about which house you are assigned to.  You’re going to love it!

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Browse Successful Application Files

w_quan
Harvard ‘20


Accepted to Harvard

Excited about the world.
b_rod
Harvard ‘20


Accepted to Harvard, Yale, MIT, Columbia, UVA

Lover of physics, math, and chess. Football player and bass player. California born and raised.
theginger
Harvard ‘21


Accepted to Harvard, Yale, Brown, UPenn, Bowdoin, Amherst, Wesleyan, Georgetown, BC, Swarthmore

Hi! I'm a prospective Neuroscience and Religion double major. I love to sing, run, and help others.
harvardredhead
Harvard ‘20


Accepted to Harvard, JHU, UPenn, UVA, Colorado, BU

I'm a redhead from Colorado and so excited to be attending Harvard this fall!

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