The Houses serve as the foundation for the undergraduate experience at Harvard College.
The entire spectrum of learning occurs in the Houses, from formal, for-credit courses to informal, hands-on activities. As stewards of House spaces and the unique resources they contain, House Masters set the conditions for singular learning experiences for Harvard undergraduates. Through thoughtful interventions and support, the House Masters provide fertile ground for student-, tutor- and faculty-driven initiatives to take root in the Houses, and for these organic learning activities to thrive. Examples include The Bow and Arrow Press at Adams House, The Russian Bells at Lowell House, The Dunster House Opera Society at Dunster House, Physics Night in Leverett House, Burns Night at Cabot House and The Drama Society at Kirkland House.
At their core, every Harvard student is an intellectual. The Houses are places for students to develop as thinkers, to begin to define their unique voices and to imagine how they might use their talents and interests in their lives after college. House Masters, along with the members of the Senior Common Room, facilitate informal and personal interactions with accomplished people from a range of sectors and fields, with positions and events shaped by both the interests of students and the areas of specialization of House Masters. Speaker series and dinners compliment these ongoing conversations.
The life of the House extends beyond the intellectual. They maintain robust cultural and social opportunities for the entire House community. Houses are home to their own film, music, art and drama that range from small-scale jam sessions to a full opera involving students, faculty and participants from outside of Harvard. A variety of social functions such as the legendary "Mather Lather," Masters' Open Houses formal dances and coffee hours provide students an opportunity to relax and interact with members of their House community.
Houses also offer an opportunity for students to develop as leaders. For example, the House Committees (HoCo) undertake a wide range of activities for the betterment of the House community. They serve as a resource for the members of the House, act as a forum for discussion about house related issues, and serve as a vehicle for fostering House spirit. They organize large-scale events for the House and empower House members to realize their own ideas for improving the House experience by providing funding, manpower, publicity, and other forms of support. One activity organized by the HoCo is Housing lottery day, a fun and colorful welcome to the House community.
Houses intentionally work to support the personal well being of their students. They house dance and yoga studios, provide healthy and nutritious dining options, support running clubs, and organize massage study breaks. Houses also field a variety of sports teams that compete in an intramural program. The Resident Dean and Tutors also provide informal support at study breaks or over meals to encourage students to establish balance in their work and to maintain perspective when confronting the pressures that can accompany their academic and other pursuits.
Harvard House Facts:
Harvard Houses are intergenerational living and learning communities led by senior members of the Harvard faculty and their spouses or partners, known as House Masters, who together live in residence. Their three interrelated goals are to foster an active academic, learning life in our Houses; to create a community of a diverse body of students; and to support and nourish the personal well being of each student.
To meet the academic, intellectual, social and facilities needs of their students, they are served by an Allston Burr resident dean, resident and non-resident tutors, and other members of the House staff.
How many Houses are there?
Ninety-seven percent of all undergraduates live in one of the 12 residential Houses. A 13th House, Dudley House, serves non-residents and includes graduate student members.
How many students live in each House?
Each House accommodates 350-500 students with its own dining hall, common rooms, and facilities for academic, recreational, and cultural activities.
The Senior Common Rooms in each House harken back to traditions of the Oxford and Cambridge residential and tutorial college system upon which Harvard’s system is based. The Senior Common Room consists of all non-undergraduates associated with a House, which including the Masters, the resident and non-resident tutors, visiting scholars and artists, university professors, administrators, alumni, and Cambridge community members. Their association with the House offers undergraduates a wide variety of older colleagues from diverse academic fields and professional specializations with whom they can consult and from whom they can learn.
What is the Junior Common Room?
The Junior Common Room is the main lounge and living room for students and tutors in a House. All undergraduate students affiliated with the House are members of the Junior Common Room.