Harvard is more than a university. It’s a tradition. No other American institution of higher learning has such a prominent place in the nation’s history or imagination. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest university in the United States. (And the oldest corporation in the Americas.) It is perhaps the U.S. university that is both closest to the British model of university education, yet distinctly American in identity and outlook.
Harvard was founded as a small institution with the mission of educating Protestant clergy. It grew as the United States did, expanding in size and scope, and diversifying its student and teaching communities. Today a Harvard University degree commands respect not only in the United States, but around the world – Harvard counts seven U.S. presidents among its alumni. And over 40 Nobel laureates among its current and former faculty.
Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. This is a highly urban setting that joins colonial-era buildings and landmarks with Massachusetts’ burgeoning hi-tech industry. Harvard is a large university, with high-profile graduate and professional programs. About two-thirds of its over 21,000 students are enrolled in its professional and graduate schools. (These include the world-renowned Medical School, the Business School, the Law School, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, the Divinity School, the School of Public Health, and the Graduate School of Education.)
Despite the university’s size, the Harvard educational experience is usually an intense and companionable one, with students benefiting from low student-to-faculty ratios and opportunities to get involved with the local community. Connections made at Harvard University often last a lifetime, with graduates becoming part of a vigorous network of over 330,000 alumni spread out around the world.