Around The Yard: Thomas Aiken

Returning to for a third season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrativeFor a full list of blog entries, click here.

For more student blogs from Harvard Admissions, click here.

Thomas Aiken
November 10, 2016

“Wait, so you guys have to live on campus for all four years?”

This is the typical reaction from my friends at home when I explain to them that I will be spending my junior and senior years living on campus in Quincy House.

Of the many things that make the Harvard experience so unique, life in the upperclassmen houses is one of the most rewarding in my opinion. While students at most universities spend their later years fleeing the constraints of school for off-campus apartments, almost all students at Harvard spend all four years living on campus.

After freshmen year in the dorms of Harvard Yard, first-year students spend their freshmen spring forming “blocking groups” of up to 8 roommates. On Housing Day, blocking groups are randomly assigned to one of Harvard’s 12 upperclassmen houses. This is a huge moment, as this is the place they will call home for sophomore, junior, and senior year.

I still remember Housing Day like it was yesterday. I sat on the second floor of freshmen dorm Grays Hall with my future roommates, anxiously awaiting our fate for the next three years. My friends and I looked out the window towards Harvard Yard where upperclassmen students from all 12 houses rallied around the John Harvard statue dressed in their house gear and colors, ready to storm the freshmen dorms and welcome the new blocking groups to their respective houses. 

We listened closely as packs of students from the houses moved through Grays, chanting on their way to a given room. Adams, Eliot, Cabot, Mather… It felt like an eternity. Finally, one faint chant started to grow louder and clearer, coming closer and closer to our door.    


Then came a knock on the door, and the celebration began. We would be calling Quincy House home for the next three years.

In many ways, the upperclassmen houses are all quite similar. Each house features dorm rooms, a courtyard space, a dining hall, a library, and a diverse community of students representative of the student body. The houses can be seen as a microcosm of the greater Harvard community. Living within these house communities are the Faculty Deans and House Tudors, who are passionatley devoted to building house community and supporting the students of the house through their Harvard experience.

With time, your house affiliation truly becomes part of your identity at Harvard. Whenever I am connecting with Harvard alumni, the first question they ask is always what house I live in. Every time. Not what I study or the activities I am involved with, but where I call home. When I happen to meet a former member of Quincy House, a genuine connection is made. It is moments like these that really illuminate how formative the upperclassmen houses are to the student experience at Harvard. Not just as students, but years beyond graduation as well.

While every house shares the basic similarities, there also certain traits special to each house, whehter it be central location on campus, nice rooms, or a great dining hall. Above all else, each one carries a tremendous amount of house pride. You would be hard-pressed to find an upperclassmen on campus that does not believe they live in the best house.    

I am certainly no exception to this trend. Quincy House, in my opinion, cannot be beat. With the late night snacks at Quincy Grille, the annual house ping-pong tournament, the “Masters of Fun” (Faculty Deans) Deb and Lee, the incredible dining hall staff, the winter and spring Quincy Formals, the house tudors supporting us, and the amazing community of classmates and friends, I feel so lucky to call Quincy House my home every day.  

The house life has undoubtedly been one of the most rewarding parts of my Harvard experience thus far. Each house community is so diverse and committed to uniting the broad spectrum of experiences and interests that make up the group. No matter what you study or what you involve yourself with outside of class; everyone has a place in the house. As a student-athlete, Quincy House has broadened my horizons immensely and allowed me to become more integrated into our campus as a whole. I have been fortunate enough to build friendships with people I may have never crossed paths with otherwise.

I can only hope that my next year and a half in the house is as great as the first year and a half. Housing Day seems like it was just yesterday. Soon, I will be the one knocking on doors and welcoming the newest additions to Quincy House on their big day. While upperclassmen at most schools are racing off-campus for apartments by junior year, I am perfectly content staying right where I am. Quincy is home.