10 top tips by a Harvard student (part one).

July 7, 2022

I learned a lot of things during my time at Harvard, from all the different American words for cooked eggs to the cultural importance of Dunkin’ Donuts in Bostonian life and society.

However, I wanted to write a piece more specifically for the prospective Harvard undergraduate who’ll be moving to Cambridge, Mass in late August of this year. Here are my 10 top tips by a Harvard student to help you make the most of your time at this brilliant place, split into two parts so I’m not overloading you with too much information all at once.

If you want to jump ahead to Part Two of this piece, click here. You can also find out more information about the US application and admissions processes here, or about the pros and cons of eash residential house here.

1. Head to Inman or Central Square

If you’re looking for the best pubs, Italian restaurants, or high-quality American diners, hop on the Red Line or bus downtown to Kendall, Inman, or Central Square and get lunch, dinner, or drinks away from the touristy Harvard Square.

Here were some of my favourite places to eat or drink at when I was at university:

The Druid, 1357 Cambridge St., Inman Square

This awesome bar is a cosy haven that serves up immaculate pints of Guinness and hosts live Celtic music several times a week.

Koreana, 158 Prospect St., Inman Square

I’d never tried Korean BBQ before heading to Boston, but became an immediate convert as soon as I visited Koreana for the first time with my rugby team. The prime beef short ribs, in particular, are absolutely gorgeous.

Trina’s Starlite Lounge, 3 Beacon St., Inman Square

If you’re craving an atmospheric American night diner-style experience, this place is your best bet in the whole of Cambridge. As well as serving up decadent burgers, corn dogs, and an assortment of original cocktails, Starlite also has a number of excellent craft ales and New England IPA’s on tap.

The Mad Monkfish, 524 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square

Previously known as Thelonious Monkfish, this Central Square institution hosts live jazz pretty much every night of the week. If you’re more fussed about the food than the music, you won’t be disappointed: The Mad Monkfish serves up an eclectic range of delicious sushi bites and fresh seafood entrees.

The Middle East & Zuzu, 472-480 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square

This iconic Central nightclub keeps to an original and innovative programme, hosting quirky trivia, up-and-coming bands, and themed parties every week.

The Garment District, 200 Broadway, Kendall Square

You can easily spend hours upon hours in this warehouse-style store, that sells retro and vintage second-hand clothes at very cheap prices. In particular, check out the By the Pound blow-out that takes place every morning when the shop opens: the price is $2 per pound of material, which is pretty incredible value for money.

2. 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Never Sleep on Sleep

At the risk of sounding a bit like a broken record when it comes to talking about the importance of sleep for productivity (see my other article on self-care lessons from my time at Harvard in the Studying in the US section of our website), this is a massively important tip.

Harvard can be a pretty competitive and draining environment, which isn’t that surprising if you think about it: you’re surrounded by peers who are highly talented and hard-working and who take the initiative to be productive whenever the opportunity presents itself.

As a result, you may feel pressured to buy into the “hustle” mindset that is so prevalent at places like Harvard, whereby you constantly have to be working in order to have success. I saw a lot of peers fall victim to an extreme version of this mindset, sacrificing a healthy sleep schedule in order to work longer and longer hours. In the end, their productivity levels actually dropped, as humans aren’t wired to work effectively and efficiently on a few hours of sleep every night. More importantly, their mental and physical health suffered drastically as a result.

The simple message is this: don’t sleep on sleep. I always aimed to get between 7 and 9 hours a night, and I was able to regularly do this while also playing rugby, attending to my studies, and leading an enriching social life at college. There is enough time to find this life-work balance at Harvard: you just have to be smart when it comes to managing your time.

3. 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Make the Most of In-House Sunday Brunch

Annenberg (pictured above) may have its flaws for students who have to eat there during their first-year at Harvard (the large size, a generally lower-quality of food than that at the upperclassmen houses), but the daily hot breakfasts are an excellent perk.

Once you’re in your upperclassmen residential house, you’ll find yourself missing these weekday hot breakfasts, so it’s best to make the most of the in-house brunch spread every Sunday from 11am. You can find a selection of hot food (the cheese-filled chicken breasts are a personal favourite), an assortment of salad and vegetable options, as well as bagels with smoked salmon lox, capers, cream cheese and finely chopped onion pieces.

Here’s a top tip from a Sunday brunch lover: head for the hot options first, arrange a garnished salad on the side of your plate, then sit down with your friends to enjoy a relaxing catch-up over some great food. You can then head back into the servery to toast yourself a bagel and make a gorgeous lox and cream cheese creation to take up to your room or on the road for your Sunday afternoon plans.

Sunday brunch is the best meal Harvard houses serve, so make the most of it.

4. 10 Top Tips by a Harvard Student: Embrace the Smith Center

The Smith Center is situated right next to Harvard Yard, just across Massachusetts Avenue and a stone’s throw from Harvard Square’s JP Licks and the university’s Widener Library.

The Smith Center (or the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, to give it its full name) was fully refurbished during my time at the college, opening its doors in time for the fall semester of my Senior Year in 2018.

The resulting renovation is one of the best places to study, hang out with friends, and enjoy a cup of coffee or a bowl of Asian-style food from Bon Me on campus.

You can grab a gorgeous nitro-style cold brew or a freshly made doughnut from Blackbird, get stuck into a bagel and a delicious crema coffee from Pavement, or try some food from the Dominican Republic at Las Palmas.

My personal favourite place to sit and eat in the Smith Center was Saloniki’s Greek kitchen and restaurant: the lamb souvlaki and Mykonos salad are just two of the delicious food items on offer.

There are a number of excellent study spots in the Smith Center: either head into the main atrium on the first floor to revise, read, or write in an airy, modern, chilled-out environment, or find a small nook or study room to work in peace and quiet.

My favourite spot was on the top floor: use your HUID to get up to this spot and reserve a sofa or armchair by one of the windows to study with a gorgeous panoramic view of the Boston skyline.

5. Don’t Skip Breakfast

Another self-care piece of advice on the 10 top tips by a Harvard student here: make sure that you’re not missing breakfast during your time at university. Breakfast is included in the Harvard meal plan, so you’ll find a spread of cereals, bagels, fresh fruit, coffee and juices in your house’s dining hall from between 6.30 to 7am onwards to 9.30 or 10am every morning.  

I know a lot of students who skipped out on breakfast in order to lie in a little longer or get a quick study session in before heading to early morning lectures or seminars. I’ve definitely been guilty of doing that as well, but whenever I did I felt a lot worse for it.

By contrast, when I took the time to have a proper breakfast before heading up to the Yard for my classes, or when I had a breakfast with my rugby teammates after an early-morning lift or fitness session across the river, I felt rejuvenated, energised, and ready for the day ahead.

Studies show that breakfast helps to improve your cognitive performance for the rest of the day. Put simply, if you’re a Harvard student who wants to perform better in your classes and feel more on the ball socially, you should make sure you’re getting enough sleep and you’re eating a high-quality breakfast every day.

TL;DR: Final Thoughts on Part One

There are a number of tips I’d recommend to prospective Harvard students, and I’ve included five of them in this article. Here’s a quick summary:

I’ll bring up some more useful points in Part Two of this piece on 10 top tips by a Harvard student, including how to approach buying merch (hint: no-one ever actually wears it after college) and how to schedule your classes more effectively.

If you want more in-depth information on how to apply to the US, or on the American university admissions process, check out our A&J Education website to chat with one of our experts.

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