Are Harvard Students Happy???





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Discus: Ivy League Schools: Harvard University: 2004 Archive: Are Harvard Students Happy???
By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 07:58 pm: Edit

I've been reading all over the boards that the students at Stanford, for the most part, absolutely LOVE everything about it and can't imagine being happier anywhere else... I'm vacillating about which college (Stanford or Harvard) to apply early to, and because the academic records and prestige of both are so great and the student environment is the only thing that I haven't really read about in detail on the Harvard-side, i was just wondering.

Are harvard students happy? Is the campus life fun? If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose Harvard?

By Jab93 (Jab93) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 08:12 pm: Edit

Hello Olivia,

I see you've many different posts in different threads on these two schools. Good luck with your continued college research.

Both Harvard and Stanford are truly amazing, phenomenal, outstanding schools... you will find happy students at both, you will finded disappointed/depressed students at both...
The schools have their own unique vibe/feel... no one on any message board is going to be able to tell you which one is a better fit/match for you. At Harvard, there are many students who turned down Stanford, and at Stanford, many students turned down Harvard. The vast majority are incredibly happy about their decision. Some aren't.

If you really are torn between these two great schools for early decision, you really should do everything in your power to spend some time at each this fall... I know you're in Cali, but you can find pretty cheap flights online. Visit, spend half a week and then the weekend... try "it" on and see how it feels...

Other than that, you will get alot of propaganda and rah-rah cheerleading on this website, from both sides claiming one is definitely better than the other... trust me, that is bullshhhh.

You can't go wrong... neither one is better or worse... you need to figure out which is the best fit for you, personally.

Good luck...
Peace.

By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 08:12 pm: Edit

obviously, i didn't look in the right spot, because i just saw the "social life" thread... but is this:

"One of the main criticism of harvard is the lack of a normal social atmosphere. The school is filled with depressed students who only continue to go there in order to graduate with a Harvard degree. "

the average experience for the harvard student? I realize that some people will love it and some people will hate it... but really... is this like a majority feeling??

By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - 08:14 pm: Edit

thanks, Jab

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:55 am: Edit

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=357023

Published on Monday, January 12, 2004
College Faces Mental Health Crisis
Overwhelming majority of students have felt depressed in last year

By KATHARINE A. KAPLAN
Crimson Staff Writer

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 09:28 am: Edit

Olivia, the best advice I can give you is to get the hell away from these message boards. All you'll hear are the biased rants of either Harvard or Stanford students or others who have some sort of vendetta against either or both schools.

Obviously, the post you cite is exagerrated and misinformed. If Harvard students were really that depressed, the school wouldn't boast the highest freshman retention and four-year graduation rates in the nation. To be clinically depressed one must be, in effect, unable to function. Depressed people find it exceedingly difficult to even make it out of bed in the morning. Tell me then how Harvard students round out 41 varsity teams and several hundred student organizations in addition to fulfilling all of their academic requirements (with the majority maintaining a B+ average or above).

Same argument for that Crimson feature, which by the way was well-refuted in the op-ed section the next day. The survey results were quite innocuous(who in this world has NOT felt depressed at one point in the past year? As they say, I'll have what he's having!) and UHS statistics show that Harvard's "numbers" regarding clinical depression, suicide attempts etc. are in line with national averages.

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 09:33 am: Edit

Wow, if this doesn't say it all-honestly, some of the Crimson articles are truly illuminating on many topics about Harvard. People ought to take note.

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 09:55 am: Edit

Joe, I'd have to disagree. I'll try to find some links, but believe me, the "crisis" was overblown.

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:50 am: Edit

harvard kdis actually report depression BELOW the national average for college kids

harvard students are very happy, yes - but they wont parade around telling you how much they love the place - why? its not that they dont want to, its because if they say they like their school, people call them arrogant pricks

harvard is a great place and people genuinely have a fantastic time - its kind of impossible not too

save the weather and the big sports

this stereotype has certainly outlived its use - but hey, if it makes people feel better about their schools, fine

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:00 am: Edit

the crimsons main conclusions based on:

Have you ever felt overwhelmed or sad at any point in the past year? and voer 90% said yes

if you ask me, Im scared of the other 10% - dear god

this is harvard - you are surrounded by the smartest people in the world - its an intense and at times emotional experience - but at the same time incredibly supportive, inspiring, and invigorating

but if Harvard is #1, then ppl feel the need to craft SOMETHING wretched about it (boohoo, it makes people sad - what?)

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 11:45 am: Edit

The point-how do Harvard students maintain averages of B+ and above? Because there is enormous grade inflation. It works out quite nicely when something like 95% of the class graduates with honors-kind of defeats the purpose, right? Why go to Harvard anyways for undergrad-the star power in terms of profs is simply not there-Princeton has Cornel West (formerly of Harvard), Joyce Carol Oates, Toni Morrison, Chang Rae-Lee, and Paul Krugman. Yale has Donald Kagan, John Gaddis, Paul Kennedy, Charles Hill, Sidney Altman, Jonathan Spence, and Harold Bloom. Stanford has Philip Zimbardo and a great philosophy department. Granted, Harvard has Harvey Mansfield, but who else who actually teaches undergrads? I just think that, if the kids at Harvard are so bright, they would probably learn if put in a closet. There are simply other places to consider-the big H is no longer the be-all-and-end-all for undergrad. I think the tendency there might be to feel a bit disconnected-the point in undergrad is to feel like part of a real academic community-one that focuses on the undergrads as important. Look at the sheer number and size of Harvard's grad schools to see that.

By Caramelkisses06 (Caramelkisses06) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:17 pm: Edit

Joe124
The depth of your insecurity about your own school AMAZES me ... It boggles my mind. I don't think I've ever come across anyone quite so intent on bringing down a great school just to feel better about their own. Do you patrol the Harvard boards looking for opportunities to present your negative non-knowledge to impressionable young minds? Yale is a wonderful school, honestly. You don't need to keep trying to prove something. It's quite sad, really. Do you wanna talk about it?

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:28 pm: Edit

BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:37 pm: Edit

“harvard kdis actually report depression BELOW the national average for college kids” (HStudent)

I wish they did. Unfortunately, the Crimson article reported it the other way around:


as for the Harvard sample:
“The Crimson poll found that … Forty-seven percent felt so depressed it was difficult to function at least once. Ten percent said they had seriously considered committing suicide. „ (from the Crimson article)

as for the national sample
“About 39 percent of college students nationwide reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function at least once in the previous year, according to a survey conducted by the American College Health Association last spring.
Roughly 19,000 students from 33 colleges participated in that survey.
Around 9 percent said they had seriously considered attempting suicide” (source: same article)

summary:
47% H vs. 39% national sample heavily depressed “at least once”
10% H vs. 9% national average “seriously condidering suicide”

But the Oliviakang's original question was not, if Harvard was a great university (which nobody doubts), nor if Harvard students were more depressed than a national average, but if students at Harvard were “happy” (Oliviakang).

The Crimson 6-months inquiry and poll may be statistically flawed the way it was conducted (in the sense that the sample of 361 respondents could have been systematically biased), - I personally can’t judge that – in the article it claimed to have a statistical margin of error of no more than 6 percentage point, but it surely is no “vendetta” (NewYorker06) by people who go on ranting against Harvard, because they have an issue with the school. This was written by a Crimson staff writer, get a grip, Newyorker06!

quote:
“361 students responded to the poll, which was administered online via a secure, authenticated server. Statistics had a margin of error of plus or minus six percentage points.”

So, to come back to the original question of Olivia: if more than 40% (this includes the indicated by the Crimson margin of error) of the student body are “at least once” a year heavily depressed, then it is very hard to argue that (in general) the student body is “very happy” (HStudent), which to my understanding is not exactly synonymous with the mere absence of "clinical depression", NewYorker06 …

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:00 pm: Edit

THANK YOU, VOICE OF REASON! You are one of the few people who uses their mind here. To quote the great Napoleon Dynamite, "Do the chickens have large talons?" Chew on that for size.

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:01 pm: Edit

I used the word vendetta lightly in reference to posters on this board, not Crimson staff writers.

Using these two surveys (which obviously aren't definitive although perhaps the best stats we have to go by) we see that polled Harvard students are slightly (about 10%) more likely to be depressed than the average American college student.

Not too sound incredibly blithe about the whole thing, but is anyone really surprised that, say, keg-happy football players at Auburn would be "happier" than high-achieving, emotionally mature Ivy students? It may be a cliche to state that the most brilliant, advantaged people are often the most troubled, but it's a cliche for a reason.

Joe, you argue that the star power of Harvard's faculty is dim compared to Priceton's and Yale's. For starters, this isn't really true. Zadie Smith, Elvis Mitchell, Michael Sandel, Harvey Mansfield, Niall Ferguson, Steve Pinker, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates, Larry Summers (who taught a frosh seminar this past year) and Louis Menand are all heavyweights among the intelligentsia.

But even if you were justified in your assertion, it seems like an endorsement of Harvard more than anything else. One of the most consistent criticisms of the schools is that big-name prof's ignore undergrads. You seem to be implying that this would be more prevalent at Princeton and Yale!

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:03 pm: Edit

the crimson poll was not administered using the same questions as similar national studies - hence all the controversy surroudning their BS, and discredited results (something that followed quickly on campus)

as to the other poster - all Harvard FAS profs are required to teach undergrads....and many KSG and HLS profs do as well (or open their courses entirely)

Lets stop spreading lies - eh?

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:06 pm: Edit

if non-harvard college kids arent going to contribute anything substantive, please stop speculating and get off the harvard board

By Multinational (Multinational) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 01:13 pm: Edit

"There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."

I've talked about student life in Harvard with many undergrads and they all told me that it is the most stimulating, exhilarating and inspiring place to be. Even if it is true that a large percentage feel depressed (which I doubt, as the 361 students who responded to the survey are likely the ones who have had problems and wanted to raise concern about the issue), I believe it has to do with the fact that highly intelligent people tend to be more emotional and sensitive than average. They experience more ups and downs. If there were a poll on "How many times did you feel enthusiastic and overwhelminly happy last year" I'm quite sure Harvard would have exceptional numbers as well.

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 02:55 pm: Edit

Pish posh-I am not entirely bashing. I am aware of Dr. Gates-he is a contributor to the Times and a very intelligent man. I remember seeing an interview with Prof. Mansfield, who said that he gives his undergrads a real grade and the course grade that appears on their transcripts, often bumped up 2 letter grades. Who has ever heard of these other folks outside of Harvard though, honestly? Oh ok, so what are you telling me-they are more emotional, more subject to highs and lows-this sounds like the symptomatology of bipolar disorder. I get it-everyone who responded to this survey in the affirmative is bipolar-this REALLY helps your case. Go you! Napoleon Dynamite also said, "I already made like infinity of those at scout camp." How do you like THEM apples? And yes, they do have large talons.

By Entropicgirl (Entropicgirl) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:06 pm: Edit

"as the 361 students who responded to the survey are likely the ones who have had problems and wanted to raise concern about the issue"

I was just going to post something to that effect, but I guess I'll just second you instead.

By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:07 pm: Edit

wow, thanks so much.

I'm sorry I used such a controversial (or maybe too simplistic) term like "happy" but that truly was a point that was worrying me about the school.

Being able to read a wider spectrum was... reassuring?

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 03:10 pm: Edit

Joe, a lot of people outside of Harvard have heard of the professors I named. They are just as well-respected as those that you mentioned and, in some cases (Mitchell, Zadie Smith, Larry Summers) significantly better know in the general public.

I can ASSURE you that very few outside of academia have heard of Paul Krugman, Donald Kagan, John Gaddis, Paul Kennedy, Charles Hill, Sidney Altman and Jonathan Spence.

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:11 pm: Edit

Your ASSURANCES mean little-Krugman writes regularly for Op-ed in the times on economics and appears frequently on political cable TV. Donald Kagan just published a book on the Peloponnesian Wars that people actually read-so much in fact that is now being printed in both hard and soft cover. He is a very well known historian of ancient Greece. John Gaddis commentated for the PBS series on the Cold War, something a lot of people watched and which is available on video everywhere. Sidney Altman won the Nobel Prize for Biology. Jonathan Spence is one of the foremost scholars of China anywhere. His books are widely available. The point is-these people publish AND, key ingredient, people actually read their stuff. But you are probably right...

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:15 pm: Edit

"I was just going to post something to that effect, but I guess I'll just second you instead."(entropicgirl)

...no need for guessing, nor second-guessing...

The Crimson actually followed up on the topic this summer, taking up the preventative measures recommended after the first poll in March.

In this article

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=502826

Published on Thursday, June 10, 2004
Improving Care at Harvard

By JUDD B. KESSLER (2003 editorial chair of the Crimson)

the statement clearly was:

"...Harvard is a stressful place, fertile ground for mental health concerns to develop or worsen. The 2002 National College Health Assessment, which surveyed 930 Harvard students, found that 58.6 percent of undergraduates at the College felt things were hopeless during the previous year while 9.5 percent had been diagnosed with depression.

Numbers like these are bolstered by countless pieces of anecdotal evidence that I’ve heard and seen during my time at Harvard. I’d be surprised to meet a student who has made it through Harvard without suffering from a mental health concern."

Of course, this is no reason not to attend Harvard, but it is outright ridiculous to ignore the topic and its (thank god!) recent recognition by the administration.

58.6 % "very happy" undergraduates and 9.5% "exceptionally happy" ones, I guess - give me a f***in' break!

Anybody still to claim a bias in this 2002 sample?

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 04:56 pm: Edit

felt things were hopeless AT ONE POINT in the past year

id say yes to that, and still rate myself as a happy person

Harvard doesnt make ppl sad - these are intense, intelligent people - same youd find at YPS

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:11 pm: Edit

Keep telling yourself that, PLZ!

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:21 pm: Edit

wow you trolls are ridiculous

4 out of 5 common admits choose harvard over yale - and none that I know have ever regretted that decision

By U2tustp830 (U2tustp830) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 07:59 pm: Edit

Unless you are a Harvard undergrad, you really have no right to be so committed to proving that Harvard kids are depressed, ESPECIALLY if the only evidence you have is a Crimson article and a misleading survey.

First of all, Harvard is a stressful environment, this really cannot be disputed. But this is pretty much the same for any Ivy League college. The kids who go to Harvard are for the most part pretty concerned about grades and the multiple other activities that they participate in. So to have students reply in a survey that they felt "hopeless" at one point during the school year can totally be attributed to maybe putting off a paper until the last minute, or having multiple assignments due on a certain day. Who in the world HASN'T felt hopeless when they realize that a lot of work is due?

Second, this whole "survey" thing is messed up. How many undergrads are there at Harvard? About 6600. How many students participated in the survey? A little over 900. This means only one in seven Harvard students even participated in the survey (most of whom probably felt that they had something to say about the issue). To extrapolate the results of that survey and apply them to the entire undergraduate population is misleading.

Someone should find the op-ed response to the depression article.

By Happystudent (Happystudent) on Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 10:56 pm: Edit

This may be a minor point, but the article was released in mid-January. Therefore, the survey was administered in December and January, which on top of being the darkest, coldest, most dreary time of the year in Boston, it is also around the time when semester exams are taken. Who doesn't feel a bit glum/stressed with final exams?

Also, Joe, are you trying to say that the Harvard faculty is relatively unknown? Get a grip kid!

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 04:00 am: Edit

"Someone should find the op-ed response to the depression article."


You mean this one(?):

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=358861

Published on Monday, April 19, 2004
The Slump
Commiserating with classmates can help cure the sophomore blues

By CHRIS J. CATIZONE

excerpts:

"“You’re having the worst year of your life too? That’s awesome!”
I found these words leaving my mouth during yet another conversation about second-year life at Harvard. And over the past year, I’ve had more than a few of these humdrum chats, and I’ve seen enough going on with my fellow second-years that I can state confidently: The Sophomore Slump is real and, trust me, those of you feeling it are not alone. ..."

By Joe124 (Joe124) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:28 am: Edit

Why should an outsider NOT believe a school newspaper's article written by a half dozen students of the school? What possible gain could they attain by bashing their own school needlessly? Are you telling me these students had an agenda? I also think, in response to HappyStudent, that the notoriety of Harvard professors is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy-these profs will get published and publicized on TV/print/radio precisely because they teach at Harvard, not necessarily due to the quality of their scholarship. So, yes, you are correct in saying that they get a lot of face-time, but you should examine why that is.

By Happystudent (Happystudent) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 09:50 am: Edit

Not quite Joe. The academic world is not that petty.

By Newyorker06 (Newyorker06) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:25 am: Edit

Joe, you are truly ignorant when it comes to university professors. Harvard is notorious for its "Star" tenure system, in which only the brightest, most qualified and best-respected prof's receive tenure. These people have to prove themselves over a looong period of time, leading some to criticize H for its elderly faculty.

Harvard does not hire faculty from the parking lot. Rest assured, any Harvard professor interviewed on TV is not getting face time simply because he works at H. He's on TV, and at Harvard because he has proven to be a leading scholar in his field.

P.S.- I remember Larry Summers "firing" a certain professor over concerns that his scholarship was not living up to the school's expectations. Tell me, where did this prof wind up?

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:26 am: Edit

uh the crimson's goal is to attack and embarass the administration - they love to cause a stir -thats their bent -similar to penn and others

the ydn and others are a gushy gushy love the school paper - not trying to make change or address issues....If you want to read that about Harvard, Check out the gazette

By Multinational (Multinational) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:46 am: Edit

The Crimson article actually shows that an atmosphere of liberty and plurality prevails on the campus of Harvard. No other school newspapers would dare to criticize their own alma mater. Why? Because they lack courage and confidence about their school's quality, fearing that a negative article would deter prospective students from applying. If Harvard were truly that hopeless a place, why would it boast the highest yield rate in the nation, the highest graduation rate, one of the highest alumni giving rate?

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 10:48 am: Edit

the funny thing is JOE hasnt even been to college - neither harvard nor yale - so he has NO idea what hes talking about....

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:01 am: Edit

"Second, this whole "survey" thing is messed up. How many undergrads are there at Harvard? About 6600. How many students participated in the survey? A little over 900. This means only one in seven Harvard students even participated in the survey (most of whom probably felt that they had something to say about the issue)." (U2tustp830)

You might find it tremendously enriching for your intellectual background to occasionally take Statistics 101 once you enter college (whichever). There you would learn something about how Gallup or other professional polling institutions find out with surprising reliability about the outcome of elections, before the count becomes official or about estimating with an (ideally small)"margin of error" the distribution among a larger "population". Only this much in advance: you do not need to call on every single one in a population to estimate (with reasonable certainty) its distribution.

930 out of 6600 is a HUGE sample, so huge that you need to imply a SYSTEMATIC bias in the sampling that one would have reason to outright deny the outcome. Besides, with this H subsample taken by the "(2002) National College Health assessment" I would not bet on it that those guys knew nothing about sampling distributions and methods how to more or less eliminate potential bias of smaller (sub)samples.

Some people were quick here to suggest that the Crimson December 2003 poll was systematically biased (implying that the Crimson did not know the business of representative polling). Whatever - we don't have the data here to discuss it, although it is conspicuous how resolutely the college adminstration acted upon an allegedly flawed poll (I would assume that there is enough advice on statistical questions available at H, before the administration acts upon it and literally 'puts money' to it).

What's more important here: I tend to assume that national health assessments are conducted with proper polling methods. At least, I would not bet on the contrary without proof (i.e. that the 930 sample was grossly biased). What's funny here in this thread is that the same people who call on the "national assessments for colleges" as a meaningful benchmark for comparisons suddenly question its validity. Paradox, isn't it?

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:20 am: Edit

"The Crimson article actually shows that an atmosphere of liberty and plurality prevails on the campus of Harvard."

Granted, and more: an ability to confront critical issues that human beings normallly would tend to avoid dealing with. That is very positive and probably in itself reason enough to aspire to attend H.

" No other school newspapers would dare to criticize their own alma mater. Why? Because they lack courage and confidence about their school's quality, fearing that a negative article would deter prospective students from applying."

Not sure about that one. Several Princeton publications have discussed the eating club theme VERY critically and continue to do so. H is not the only school to enjoy the "freedom of speech" and what goes with it in an academic surrounding.


"If Harvard were truly that hopeless a place,"
why would it boast the highest yield rate in the nation, the highest graduation rate, one of the highest alumni giving rate?"

Not sure, if H has THE highest graduation rate, but it certainly is one of the greatest universities (if not THE greatest, overall speaking) in the world - I think that was never questioned by anyone here. On the other hand, I would not tend to believe that institutions like H (not H alone for that matter) are primarily instituitons to promote the "pursuit of happiness" (in a more narrow sense. People don't necessarily go to college (or H specifically) to have a "happy" time there. Therefore, yield is rather unrelated to 'happiness expectations'.

By Hstudent (Hstudent) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

i disagree on your last point

people who get into H, more or less have many many other options open to them - they could attend almost every other schoool -

now, if it were true that harvard were a terribly depressing and unhappy place, these students, who are intelligent kids, would CHOOSE to go somewhere else - the slight prestige edge of H would not be enough to convince such an overhwlming number to come, AND STAY, in an unhappy environment instead of just going to princeton, stanford, etc.

kids who get in come to prefrosh weekend, talk to current students and quickly discover the stereotypes are •••••••• and that harvard is a fantastic place - that was my experience, and I've seen it happen on numerous occasions as people have visted over the past few years...

there is an essence about havard you can only realy understand if you actually go there (including where the parties happen and the ACTUAL amount of studying kids do)

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:14 pm: Edit

"people who get into H, more or less have many many other options open to them - they could attend almost every other schoool" (HStudent)

Economists talk about a "Pareto Optimum" when humans try to maximise their "utility" in deciding what basket of goods they would prefer over which other basket. In this game individual tastes determine which basket a particular indiviual would prefer over a different one.

College applicants also behave "economically rational" when making their college choices. I think we have no argument that individuals who want to have a laid-back time in college and maybe a beach closeby with plenty of tanning time would not have H (or any Ivy for that matter) on the top of their list (most likely H admissions would neither have them on their list). I am not saying you need a beach to become happy, I am just saying that a multitude of factors make up the "utility" of an individual basket from the subjective viewpoint of an individual person.

If a particular basket (the high yield at H topic) is consistently preferred by a large number of individuals over other baskets this simply means that the COMBINATION of factors is deemed superior by a majority. It does not necessarily mean that the majority deems a specific factor ("happiness") to be optimal in that particular basket. In fact, a basket can be deemed superior overall while including items generally deemed inferior, this should not really surprise you.

There are many reasons to attend Harvard - academic excellence and prestige being the most obvious, but not only ones. It's simply not cogent to infer from this fact (reflected in the highest yield anywhere) that students at H must be as happy or even happier than elsewhere. Furthermore, the published data discussed above simply show that this is in fact not the case, although the deviation from the national average is certainly not dramatic. Nor does the fact that there seems to be widespread latent or open depression among undergraduates at H, imply anything on the value of the "basket" (=university) as a whole. The 2 are simply unrelated, although in both directions some people in this thread seem to have trouble realising that.

By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Friday, July 30, 2004 - 12:51 pm: Edit

but even if the mix of everything is what is important and people are deciding to stay because of the superiority of the harvard education and atmosphere as a whole, even the best things in life can be completely ruined if you are not happy or if you do not feel good about yourself even while attending the best classes or having the best resources at your fingertips. So though people might reason that the best library evens out the stressful feelings, that's really not a fair balance. It all depends on how you feel about what's available to you and I am now pretty convinced that, though people probably feeling pushed to stay for the pportunities and the prestige, the yield would not be so high if everything good was tainted and depreciated byu a rampant feeling of depression or unhappiness.

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:01 am: Edit

"...I am now pretty convinced that, though people probably feeling pushed to stay for the pportunities and the prestige, the yield would not be so high if everything good was tainted and depreciated byu a rampant feeling of depression or unhappiness." (Oliviakang)

I don't think, there is a "rampant" feeling of depression that would permeate the image of H college, the articles suggest it is rather latent (and the specific article below suggests that those depressed are actually reluctant to acknowledge it and to turn for proper help) and it is probably not much perceived by 17 or 18 year old when applying at all. So it need not be a "k.o." factor of an otherwise excellent package.

Also, to be fair, the fact that the Harvard college community recently became concerned with the issue is by no means evidence that Harvard is significantly different from comparable colleges in this respect. More generally speaking, this drawback may be generally accepted (if perceived at all) by applicants, as it may be typical for certain 'baskets'.

Although the problem at Harvard obviously exists, I personally doubt that it is Harvard-specific, Harvard may just be one of the most open to air it. So to come back to the 'basket' analogy, this needn't be any reason to refute an otherwise superior basket.

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=350062

Published on Monday, November 17, 2003
Understanding Mental Health at Harvard–Together

By STEVEN E. HYMAN

excerpt:
"Even if services were fully adequate, however, many students in need of care fail to seek help and suffer in silence, often with severely negative consequences. Why is this? Sometimes it is the malign effects of the illness itself. A person who is depressed may feel too hopeless to seek treatment or might feel so worthless as not to merit help. But more often the failure to get help reflects the continuing stigmatization of mental illness—even in a sophisticated community like ours. A person suffering with depression might feel inappropriate shame at not being able to control symptoms through his or her own efforts, a notion that would not even be entertained if the problem were diabetes or arthritis."

By Sakky (Sakky) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 04:42 am: Edit

I think one factor that indicates that Harvard students are actually quite happy, relatively speaking, is Harvard's high graduation rate.
Yes, Harvard students might bitch and moan, but the fact is, almost every Harvard undergrad is going to get the degree. Harvard's 6-year graduation rate of 98% is significantly better than that of almost any other school, including Stanford. As we both know, both Harvard and Stanford are grade-inflated to the extent that is virtually impossible to flunk out, and hence very few students have to leave Harvard or Stanford involuntarily (i.e. for poor academic performance. So that means that almost all of the students who don't graduate do so out of voluntary choice - in other words, they voluntarily drop out, often times because they transferred to another school. And I'm sure you'd agree that Harvard or Stanford students are generally good enough to win transfer admissions to almost any other school they want. So you have to ask yourself, if Harvard students really are that miserable, then why don't more of them drop out and possibly transfer elsewhere? Conversely if Stanford students are really that happy, then why do a lot of them drop out?

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing that Harvard doesn't have problems, particularly with alientation and isolation. And in particular, I think one of the biggest problems is that the Harvard experience, as good as it is, does not and cannot live up to the hype and mystique of the Harvard brand-name. So lots of new Harvard students arrive with starry-eyed visions of what they are going to experience, only to have those visions dashed by reality. But what I'm saying is that, from a relative standpoint, it's pretty clear that Harvard students actually are happy relative to students at other school, for if that wasn't true, lots of Harvard students would be seeking to transfer elsewhere or would simply drop out entirely. When Harvard students say they are unhappy but still choose to remain there and ultimately graduate, they are effectively voting with their feet.

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 08:11 am: Edit

"I think one of the biggest problems is that the Harvard experience, as good as it is, does not and cannot live up to the hype and mystique of the Harvard brand-name." (Sakky)

I did not get that - what, from your pov, does this 'brand-name mystique'promise that 'the product' cannot hold?

"When Harvard students say they are unhappy but still choose to remain there and ultimately graduate, they are effectively voting with their feet."

'Not voting with one's feet' indeed also is an outcome of an 'economically rational' decision, meaning in this case: it cannot be perceived as so aggravating an aspect that the entire basket would lose its (perceived) superiority from the student body's pov. Put more simply: if it is an issue - then not a k.o. factor from most students' pov, which would lead them to overcome the 'barriers to exit' to chose another 'basket'.

By Sakky (Sakky) on Saturday, July 31, 2004 - 01:41 pm: Edit

The brand-name mystique reference is to an attitude held among many who don't know Harvard that Harvard students spend all day, every day, hobnobbing with Nobel Prize winners and people who are so ridiculously brilliant that they don't even really honestly belong on this Earth, or things of that nature. Basically, many people, including some Harvard students before they arrive, have visions that Harvard is so vastly better than every other school that Harvard belongs in a category all by itself. I'm sure you've heard some people say or imply something along the lines of "There's Harvard, and then there's all the other schools".

None of these things are true, of course. Harvard is a very good school, don't get me wrong, but is not automatically vastly superior to every other school out there, as I'm sure you'd agree. At the end of the day, it's just a school, nothing more, nothing less. A lot of people have this notion that Harvard is the symbolic epitome of either brilliance, or power, or wealth, but at the end of the day, it's just a school. A very good school to be sure, but still just a school. Going to Harvard does not automatically launch you into the academic stratosphere or automatically grant you entree into the elite upper-crust as a lot of people around the world seem to think it does.

Now, about voting (or not) with one's feet, I agree with you that not voting with your feet can be the rational choice as well. But that's not the point. The point is that it's all relative. A higher percentage of undergrads choose to leave at other schools than undergrads at Harvard do. This is an indication that Harvard students, for all their problems, are relatively more happy than students at those other schools. Case in point - if Stanford students are really happier than Harvard students, than why does a greater percentage of the Stanford student body than the Harvard student body not graduate?

This whole situation reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke that "The food here is terrible and the portions are too small". Uh, if you really think that the food is truly bad, then why would you want more of it? By the same token, if Harvard students really really were unhappy, then why don't they transfer out or drop out? That's what apparently a lot of the supposedly happy Stanford students do.

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 04:18 am: Edit

"This is an indication that Harvard students, for all their problems, are relatively more happy than students at those other schools...
if Stanford students are really happier than Harvard students, than why does a greater percentage of the Stanford student body than the Harvard student body not graduate?" (Sakky)

I appears as though you introduced a new definition of "happiness" now implying "overall satisfaction with the basket" rather than the psychic wellbeing we talked about before.

As for the former (new definition): yes, exactly what I said: the basket overall is still perceived as superior so the (relative) alternatives are not chosen over it.
As for the latter (implicit definition so far), I hate to repeat myself, but you cannot apply single 2-dimensional correlations to multi-variate interdependencies: graduation rates are a function of a bundle of factors (that may be partially offsetting each other in their impact at that), therefore in this sense, as we understood "happinesss" so far in the discussion, graduation rates are no clear indicator of "happiness". To contrive an example: the fact that students at S have less propensity to graduate than at H might be a function of "less happiness", but it might as well be a function of "more opportunities to succeed in a career without a degree" (remember Bill Gates?). Now careful, this was just an example. I am not implying that we know for sure that S has more Bill Gates types than H. I am simply saying we don't have any real knowledge which bundle of factors in what weighting causes graduation rates to go up or down. So everything based on that is mere speculation.


"This whole situation reminds me of the old Woody Allen joke that "The food here is terrible and the portions are too small". (Sakky)

I don't think that the Harvard student body at large complains about being at Harvard. I think the series of articles had the punch to raise awareness in the administration that something ought to be done about the serious cases (I am not talking about people who can't cheer up on a snowy winter day before exams).

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=357101

Published on Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Students Reach For Help in Vain
College advisers inconsistent in responses to mental health problems

By KATHARINE A. KAPLAN
Crimson Staff Writer

excerpt:
"For Wilkes, who had attempted suicide once before at Harvard and suffered from severe depression, the tutor’s reaction was shockingly dismissive."

By Happystudent (Happystudent) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 01:47 pm: Edit

OK let's assume for a moment that Harvard students are generally unhappy (something I do not agree with)as popularly characterized on College Confidential. For those of you who agree with the assumption, why do you suppose this 'atmosphere of unhappiness' exists at Harvard?

By Sakky (Sakky) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 03:02 pm: Edit

To foreigngrad, while I agree with you that I have not 'proved' that graduation rates necessarily prove happiness, you must agree that neither do suicide rates necessarily prove unhappiness. Graduation rates are a function of many factors. But so are suicide rates.

What I'm finding is a disturbing tendency to use shifting standards of proof depending on whether you are for or against a particular idea. If you like an idea, you apply a very accomodating standard of proof. If you don't like an idea, you apply a very exacting one. That's not fair. If you want to apply a test of multivariable dependencies on me, then you should do the same to everybody else.

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 04:23 pm: Edit

"while I agree with you that I have not 'proved' that graduation rates necessarily prove happiness..." (sakky)

My point was, that nobody can prove this without extensive polling which would again be subject to questionable ambiguities how you rank degree of happiness in answers of the ones polled. This being said, I generally agree with you that we should expect higher graduation rates form "happier" student populations (no matter how such "happiness" manifests itself). The problem is that such simple correlations also exist with other influencing factors, so that we cannot reduce the outcome (graduation rate) to a single factor in the sense that we make inferences on the existence of that factor.

"...you must agree that neither do suicide rates necessarily prove unhappiness." (Sakky)

First of all, I personally never talked about suicide rates, when discussing 'depression' or 'unhappiness' or how you want to call it for the simple reason that in terms of numbers, it is a marginal phenomenon without any significant deviation from the general (national) population: If 5 people out of 6600 make an attempt at their life in a particular year, that of course is very sad, but in statistical terms it is simply negligible. However, the logical interdependance here is a lot more direct than in the above case, in the sense that every suicide attempt also mirrors directly a state of depression or 'unhappiness' of the invoilved individual. While we established that high graduation rates are theoretically conceivable even despite below average 'happiness' it goes without saying, that a suicide (attempt) directly presupposes unhappiness of the involved individual. In summary my opinion on this one is: as long as suicide rates remain marginal in relation to an entire student body (as it is the case at H) then they do not say much about the >99% rest of the sutedent body.


"What I'm finding is a disturbing tendency to use shifting standards of proof depending on whether you are for or against a particular idea."

I beg your pardon? Where did I use "shifting standards". You seem to have misunderstood the context in which I quoted a Crimson article - as I said, I never concerned myself much with suicide rates in this "happiness" discussion as far as it is based on data for the above said reason.

"If you like an idea, you apply a very accomodating standard of proof. If you don't like an idea, you apply a very exacting one. That's not fair."

Careful, you better prove your point with data or quotes before you rag on me like that.

"If you want to apply a test of multivariable dependencies on me, then you should do the same to everybody else."

I have been repeating my arguments for a couple of times, because other people kept bringing the same unlogical arguments (the graduation rate thing). I can see no inconsistency in my arguments so far. Please name it, if you can.

By Sakky (Sakky) on Monday, August 02, 2004 - 04:52 pm: Edit

Oh come now, you post an article which you must admit is sensationalist in that it reports that the "overwhelming majority" of Harvard students have felt depression, and you don't see where that is going?

The simple fact is that nobody has proven rigorously one way or another that Harvard students are unusually happy or unusually depressed. For example, did you ask the Harvard Crimsom author whether he did a multivariable examination of the data he compiled? I'm sure he did not. So why are you asking me to do so? So when you say that I have no proved that graduation rates indicate happiness, neither does the Crimsom article prove that Harvard students are unhappy.

The inconsistency of the argument, once again, is that you are willing to accept a Crimson article without question and without demands for proof, but when I present a counterargument, you demand a very high threshold of proof. Why?

By Foreigngrad (Foreigngrad) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 03:57 am: Edit

"you post an article which you must admit is sensationalist in that it reports that the "overwhelming majority" of Harvard students have felt depression, and you don't see where that is going?" (Sakky)

Meanwhile I posted a couple of Crimson articles that clearly indicate where "that is going": the administration has reformed UHS procedures in dealing with serious cases. As for the 'sensationalist part': I never quoted the 80% number of polled, who talk about ever getting a dizzy feeling, but the lower number of those who indicated that they had been in a real slump at least once during the past 12 months (btw that is the question also asked by the national inquiries) . For mid-age females that may be the norm, for young students it is not. However, I did not hang on to the Crimson poll for a long time, but then discovered 2002 data of the H subsample (again, as reported by the Crimson)


"The inconsistency of the argument, once again, is that you are willing to accept a Crimson article without question and without demands for proof, but when I present a counterargument, you demand a very high threshold of proof. Why?" (Sakky)

Sorry, but this is BIG BS: I am not "willing to accept a (=one) Crimson article without question" (you seem to be alluding to the Dec 2003 mental health crisis article), which is documented alone by the fact that I remarked that I cannot judge whether the Crimson made sure in its polling that the sample of >300 was representative. However, there were not only several other articles to the same effect (remember: the original key question here was: are H students 'happy'?), there also were - and this to me is the most noteworthy source - substantiated data by a NATIONAL poll (Harvard sub-sample >900 !) that again showed that 'depression rates' were ABOVE national average. It is very hard not to recognize a pattern in such (direct) evidence. I never dwelled much on op-ed articles by Crimnson editors as others asked to do, I looked for data.

Now let me give you another piece of evidence, why it is incredibly ridiculous, if people who don't like the results of such polls simply contend that (huge) samples in the magnitude of >900 (or 14%) "must be biased" and need to be dismissed and instead rather come up with fuzzy indirect indicators as graduation rates (I'll have to return to that illogical construct once more, I am afraid):


http://www.hno.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/10.04/08-lifestyles.html

October 04, 2001

HARVARD GAZETTE

Study finds Harvard students healthier than peers
By William J. Cromie
Gazette Staff

excerpt:
"Students at Harvard drink more, smoke less, and have less sex than students at other colleges, according to the first nationwide survey of college lifestyles and health behaviors. Harvardians also are MORE DEPRESSED (emphasis foreigngrad), get into fewer fights, and are slightly more likely to be homosexual or bisexual.

The American College Health Association did the survey by sending questionnaires to 28 schools last year; 16,024 undergraduate students responded including 904 from Harvard." (end of quote)

Please note that his article mentions an earlier (2001)inquiry by the ACHA than the one previously posted above (as menitoned by a Crimson editor). Mark the fact that the Harvard subsample felt (physically that is, not mentally) "healthier" than the national average disproves the earlier suspicion of some posters that participation in such polls in itself is an adverse selection process (i.e. that only the ill or depressed answer to it).

Now let me come back to your ludicrous graduation rate theme which you continue to portray as being qualitatively on the same level as such DIRECT indicators of such large inquiries ("Nationally, 23 percent reported they have been diagnosed with depression within the past year, as opposed to 34 percent at Harvard. Approximately 34 percent of the Harvardians are in therapy or taking medication for depression, versus about 19 percent nationally." - see article above). Sensationalist? bull**** - these are dry facts reported by a HARVARD publication!

The 2001 ACHA inquiry also established that Harvard students have less sex than the national average ("Thirty-nine percent of Harvard males and females said they had no sex partners within the past school year, compared with 29 percent of males and 27 percent of females nationally.") Now while we agree that happiness is conducive to completing graduation, graduation rates per se allow no inferences on (degree of) happiness per se. The same could be said on (inferred) correlations between sexual activity and happiness. Your argument: "...well at H they have a larger propensity to graduate (an undeniable fact), so they must be happier" also is on the same level, as if I had said (which I haven't and don't): "Well, they have less sex (also an undeniable fact), no wonder they can't be as 'happy' as the average."

You cannot compare that: if several years in a row NATIONAL professionally conducted large enquiries with HUGE Harvard subsamples come to the result: above average depression at H was significantly established, then this is first order evidence (forget the Crimson poll, which - I also pointed that out - seemed to be designed to force about a reform in UHS procedures, which proved successsful). However, when we look at other variables such as graduation rates whose correlation coefficients with the variable under scrutiny ('happines') is not even established, that is not even second order evidence. This is simply contrived (although no question, and I repeat that again, too: it is evidence of the fact that students at Harvard have not enough reason to overcome 'barriers to exit' to turn to another 'basket - no less, but no more either).

I am sorry if you don't like what Harvard publications write about ths topic. If you refuse to acknowledge it, then that is your problem. However, you shouldn't blame your refusal to deal with first order evidence on conspiracy theories of others.

By U2tustp830 (U2tustp830) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 01:03 pm: Edit

Foriegngrad, what point are you trying to make? Where did you go to school? If you have never been associated with Harvard then why are you trying to hammer the point that Harvard students are not happy? I would accept your analysis if you came from the school but the fact that you don't (I believe) makes me wonder why you care so much.

All I have to say is that I agree with Sakky: The feeling of unhappiness could well be attributed to Harvard students coming back down to earth and realizing that Harvard is not some magical utopia but its just a school and it comes with its own set of flaws just like any other school

By Happystudent (Happystudent) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 02:14 pm: Edit

Has anyone noticed that all the people on this forum who go/have gone to/or are going to Harvard do not agree with this characterization of the University? Does that count for anything?

By Oliviakang (Oliviakang) on Tuesday, August 03, 2004 - 04:08 pm: Edit

yes... it counts a lot for me, and since I'm the one who wanted to know, I'm satisfied :-D

By Sakky (Sakky) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:23 pm: Edit

And foreigngrad, even you must admit that there are serious inconsistencies with what you did. Since you apparently insist on statistical rigor, fine, let's go down that road. It's not that the data you cite is biased, it's that it's pairwise correlated. In other words, what you really need to do is compare Harvard students not to the national average but to a similar pool of students who are just as academically strong and ambitious and only now you can compare the statistical data. It's obviously true that Harvard students are different from average people in many different ways. So is it that Harvard itself that's causing the problem or is it internal characteristics of the Harvard student body itself that is the problem? Or to paraphrase U2tustp830, is the real problem that Harvard students simply are being screwed by their delusions of granduer about the school?

But anyway, since you enjoy statistical analysis, fine, I'll meet you on the same playing field. Prove to me statistically that Harvard students are more unhappy (read - more depressed) than a similar pool of students. Not to the national average, but to a similar pool of students. In other words, my null hypothesis is that Harvard students are no more unhappy than a similar student pool with similar characterstics. Prove to me the alternative hypothesis - that they are more unhappy than that pool. So now the ball's in your court. You ask me for statistical rigor from me, so now I feel entitled to do the same.

Lest you think that I'm just changing the goalposts, then if you want to say that comparing Harvard students to the national average is not the same as comparing it to a similar pool, then fine, then if you want to say that Harvard students are unhappy but not statistically more unhappy than similar such students, then you should make that point clear. For otherwise, if you don't point that out, then that leaves people to draw the wrong conclusion that their unhappiness has to do with Harvard specifically rather than internal characteristics of Harvard students.

Furthermore, let's not beat around the bush. If you insist on statistical rigor in CC posts, then fine, I will insist on the same. From now on, I think it's fair to expect each and every one of your posts on CC to contain statistical proof of whatever you are saying. If that's your standard for us, then it's only fair for us to demand it of you.

In fact, looking back on some of your old posts, I see that you assert that certain things are probably like this or probably like that, yet you offer no statistical information that proves it. For example, you once told shyboy that it's probably easier to get into the Princeton Mfin program than the Harvard/Stanford MBA program, yet you offered no statistical proof of that. So for all your previous posts where you say that certain things are probably true, what's your quantitative reasoning? Please don't tell me that you're only using quantitive analysis only when it suits you.


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