Law School Discussion

how miserable is life at harvard? :)

how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« on: March 26, 2009, 04:43:50 PM »
So I'm deciding between Harvard and Berkeley. I'm having a hard time saying no to Harvard, but I'm wondering about the quality of life there. I've heard some recent horror stories about current students at Harvard being miserable, doing nothing but studying, etc. Along with my pre-conceived notions about the school and the supposed "type-A" personalities filling the halls there, its a little scary. I was just wondering what life is really like from current or accepted students or anyone who knows.

Do the opportunities at Harvard drastically outweigh a more laid-back environment at Boalt? I would have to leave all of my friends, my significant other, my family for (not to mention beautiful weather) Boston! I get that its *Harvard* and Boalt is lower ranked (there seems a common assumption I would only choose "HYS" or Columbia/NYU with $$. Obviously a ton of East Coast bias going on. Want to weigh in?

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2009, 04:48:08 PM »
Did you read 1L?  I hear Harvard has tunnels because of how cold the winters are.  You should probably visit!

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2009, 04:58:26 PM »
just to finish my thought, I hear 800 people are accepted into Harvard to fill a class of 500. Theres no way those 300 people who choose not to attend make up the classes of Stanford and Yale. Other than the handful of people whose plans change, there must be a lot of other people out there who choose a school that isn't HYS or Columbia/NYU w/ $$$. I would guess some take the full-rides from other schools? I would guess some of those reasons would be for quality of life?

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2009, 04:58:55 PM »
hahahh i heard tunnels were for the rain~ coz 'law professors should not get wet in the rain"- quoting from Martin Shapiro from Boalt. hoenstly... i think u'll be a lot happier in berkeley. at least u still hear people talking and laughing in the halls of boalt. but its hard to resist harvard. consider where you wna work.

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2009, 05:01:47 PM »
haha yeah I read 1L (probably why I feel this way even though everyone assures you its way different now). I also went to an admitted students weekend. Some of the current students seemed like law school robots (sorry :) they were probably tired..) Even some presenting looked unhappy while presenting..

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2009, 11:51:04 AM »
I've found HLS very friendly, nice and overall a fun place. I don't care for the north east one bit and would much prefer the Bay area in that regard, but as far as the school itself goes, its great! People are generally very friendly and helpful, share notes and outlines and are welcoming with study groups and the like. I was really torn between SLS and HLS. I liked Palo Alto about a million times better than Cambridge, but SLS has a tiny faculty with several large holes in it. The people they have are great, but the variety within the faculty is necessarily much smaller. Although it isn't a critical thing, the alumni base is also much smaller. I decided I could put up with 3 school-years in a crap city for a school I liked better and have been happy with my choice.

I didn't apply to or visit Boalt so can't say much about them. I somewhat doubt that the student body is a lot more laid back, but I can only say that by comparison to other similarly-ranked schools. There's an unfortunate effect in some schools where only a fairly small percentage of graduates get the top big law jobs, clerkships etc, that puts pressure on students to try really hard to do better than their peers. There's a huge difference between trying really hard to learn the material and trying really hard to outdo your classmates. In the former you share notes and outlines and study together. In the later you hide books in the library and are generally unhelpful toward others. HLS is very much in the former group, even in this economy everyone I know has big law jobs (everyone who wanted them anyway) and nearly everyone who tries for a clerkship gets one. People work very hard, but the environment isn't very competitive. I haven't spent any time at Boalt and don't know anyone currently there so can't say what it is like going to school there, but just going by the numbers there will be in some respects greater incentives for antisocial behavior. I'd guess that the student environment at SLS would be at least as friendly if not more so than at HLS and its in your area. Perhaps you could push a bit more on their doors and have what may be the best of both worlds for your situation:)

I don't know a lot about the differences in opportunity between HLS and Boalt. I'm sure it will depend a lot on what you want to do after law school and where you realistically expect to be in your class (for example, the top few students at Boalt will have fantastic opportunities, the lower quarter may have some major difficulties).

best of luck!


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Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2009, 01:19:10 AM »
Don't worry about the type As, they're everywhere at all law schools.

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2009, 05:04:53 AM »
BikePilot is generally cosigned. Rumors of our misery are greatly exaggerated. I don't know anyone who studies all the time and is therefore miserable. Some people are grinds, but it seems to be because they want to be.

Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2009, 06:31:36 AM »
I would think that generally, the schools where there is not an enormous disparity between the opportunities for people at the middle/bottom and for people at the top would be the least miserable.


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Re: how miserable is life at harvard? :)
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2009, 09:30:58 AM »
I didn't get into Harvard, but I chose Boalt over some of those other East Coast schools (Columbia et al.) for a lot of the reasons you mentioned (family, friends, significant other all in the Bay Area, already lived here and liked it, etc.), so that's where I'm coming from. The opportunities at Harvard certainly outweigh those at Boalt, perhaps significantly if you're shooting for ultra-competitive things. No question about that. That said, it depends on what you want out of your career. You will have stellar opportunities coming out of both, especially if you figure out what you want and push to make it happen.

I think you are definitely over-estimating the extent to which Harvard is full of robotic Type-A stress-cases. Every law school has some people like that, and both of these law schools will have plenty of people who are more laid back. If I were you I would be focusing more on whether you want to pick up your life and move to the East Coast for three years v. the greater career opportunities that Harvard would bring you, rather than the vibe of the student bodies.* I have found that being around my support network during law school has been invaluable, and I think it's made me do better academically, and manage my stress better. But Harvard is Harvard. I guess I'm saying I don't think you'd be crazy to choose Boalt, but I don't think it should be because you worry about your classmates at HLS being lame. Good luck with your decision!

*More of a tangent that is not really useful to the OP. I kind of disagree with this folk wisdom that there is a perfect correlation between more opportunities and less stress. While that is certainly true on a macro-level (particularly when comparing schools where a large number of people really have to worry about not getting jobs v. schools where most people pretty much get a job), I don't really think it's so clear when comparing, say, UVA and U Chicago, for example. Some schools do have distinctive cultures. Really they do. My friends at Stanford are just as competitive and stressed-out (if not more so, honestly) as my classmates at Boalt. They may have more opportunities, but they are just competing for the things one notch higher on the totem pole. There is always something to compete for.