The Absentee’s Guide to Visitas

Were it not for recent shootings in Boston, yesterday would have marked the start to Harvard’s annual Visitas, a smorgasbord of events meant to titillate those prospective students not already titillated by the “Intro to Congress” cheating scandal, the faculty email scandal, and HUDS chicken francaise. While it’s unfortunate that the weekend has now been canceled, we can fill you in on some of the details. Prefrosh — what you missed!

The relevant point is that we have everything Yale has, plus science. Perhaps this matters little to you; perhaps you intend to curl up with Plutarch and Wittgenstein. But had you been my prefrosh, I would have advised that you at least sit in on a computer science lecture, maybe a class on abstraction with Greg Morrisett or an algorithms course with Michael Mitzenmacher. So many people realize junior or senior year that they should have studied computer science that it’s best to get the jolt early.

My roommates were angel investors in Jeremy Lin; we had a framed photo of his head up on our wall way back in 2009. We went to his games and cheered his shots, and two years later, he was a bona fide star. This could happen to you!

Although basketball season is over, crew season is just picking up. Today, the men’s lightweights are going up against Navy, and the women’s lightweights against Princeton. Crew, being expensive, exclusive, and vaguely homoerotic, is something Harvard is very good at. If you’re interested in walking on, they run novice programs out of the Newell Boathouse in the fall. There’s also house rowing in the spring.

Making eyes with the physics celebrity who won all of the science fairs is a quintessential part of Visitas. If you’re anything like I was senior year of high school, that’s probably about as far as it goes. In the fall, he’ll scuttle off to study quantum field theory, and you’ll get a boyfriend who wants to be an investment banker.

However, if you happen to be more forward, or more intoxicated, you may find yourself hooking up with similarly intoxicated prefrosh during Visitas. This has its advantages. Come September, when others are frantically trying to shed their previously prudish selves, you may have already outgrown that phase. Either way, all of this will be a distant memory once First Chance Dance rolls around.

Prefrosh weekend plays host to a rash of performances and concerts. Eleganza, the classier of Harvard’s two annual fashion shows, showcases all the god-given, holistic-admissions-selected good looks the school has to offer, and it’s always a raucous scene.

Harvard’s music groups are all vying for new talent – The Bach Society Orchestra, the Mozart Society Orchestra, the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, the Krokodiloes, the Din and Tonics, the Pitches, and the Hasty Pudding. If you can sing, you’ve got it made. If you can’t sing, audition anyway (one of my fonder memories is of trying out for Harvard’s jazz a capella group with a rap by Eminem).

Some of the friends you make here will be friends for life. They will be there for you through thick and thick and thick and thin. You have four years ahead of you to forge these kinds of friendships.

I hope you’ll choose to do it at Harvard.