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Harvard– One Man's Explanation of Why He Attended

As I explained in a previous post, I recently asked a variety of friends and acquaintances how they selected the college they attended.

This respondent attended Harvard as an undergraduate in the mid-1980s. He is now a lawyer living in Michigan. His story is interesting because it demonstrates that serendipity can have an important role in selecting a college. It is also interesting for what it says about the value of a Harvard education: his conclusions are somewhat surprising for most folks (but not really for me, as I taught there and can attest to his comments on the quality of teaching at Harvard).

Here is his story in his own words:

“I didn’t think very critically about which college was the right “fit”. All I knew about college was gleaned from family trips to University of Notre Dame for football games. I knew I wanted to go away to college, and I had been to Washington DC so I applied to Georgetown. I applied to University of Michigan Ann Arbor as my “safety” school. And at the last minute, my Dad told me he had spoken with a friend whose daughter had gone to Harvard and enjoyed it. So I applied to Harvard.”

“When I got into Harvard, I was so overwhelmed with people’s responses to that fact that it seemed to me the right thing to do to go there. I had never been to Boston and had no idea what Harvard looked like and no real appreciation for its history. In fact I almost cried when I rode into Harvard Square because it didn’t look at all like “college” to me!”

“It turned out to be a wonderful experience for me, not because of the undergraduate academic offerings (three or four truly exceptional courses) or the career guidance (zero) but because of the terrific students and graduate students I met and became friends with. It is a part of my life I treasure. Looking back, I’m not at all sure that I couldn’t have gotten an equally wonderful (though of course different) experience at any number of other colleges. I will say though that the Harvard name has opened many doors for me, many of which I am probably not even aware.”

So my question for all you Harvard graduate wannabes: Is Harvard really what you are looking for in a college? What does this man find to have been the best aspects of his Harvard education? What was lacking at Harvard that might not be lacking at other institutions? What is most important to you?

Mark Montgomery
Montgomery Educational Consulting

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Reader Interactions


  1. hi sir…my name is mahsa..i realy want to communicate with some body who can help me…i want to know how the harvard university accept people to study there.if u have some informaition pls send me an email..if no maby u can tel me where and how i can get informaition about thanks u read my email..i will be happy if u answer my question and help me.bye

  2. Hi, Mahsa.
    If I had the magic formula for getting students into Harvard, I’d be a rich man. In fact, no one has the magic formula. I advise students who aspire to go to Harvard and many other great universities in the US. If you seek general advice for how you can increase your chances, you might read Cal Newport’s book, “How To Be a High School Superstar”. If you’d like me to help you prepare for a quality education in the US, let me know. Good luck!

  3. I am very interested in your suggestion about preparing for a quality education in the U.S. Could you, Mr. Montgomery, aid me in any information that could prove beneficial to me, namely pertaining to applying to Harvard College?

  4. Hi, Austin,
    We are quite able to help students with their college plan, including students who aspire to attend Harvard and other top universities. Our blog, as a whole, provides a lot of information that we hope you find useful. We also encourage you to contact us about becoming a client so that we can provide you with personalized, tailored advice. Every student is different. There is no “cookie cutter” answers I can provide. So if you are serious about your bid for Harvard, you might want to consider joining the 26% of other students in the US who get professional help. Let me know if you’re interested, and we’ll get to work right away.
    Thanks for writing in!

  5. I am interested in being a client, yet the actual possibility yields itself to cost, specific benefits, etc… In total, however, I am interested.


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