Harvard Grade Inflation

Harvard Grades, Grades at Harvard, Harvard College Grade Inflation

It’s hard to get into Harvard. It’s easy to stay in (photo credit: chensiyuan).

It has long been known that getting into Harvard is very difficult but graduating from Harvard — once admitted — is rather easy. Harvard grade inflation has been rampant for years. It has now been revealed that the median grade at Harvard is an ‘A-‘, with an ‘A’ being the most commonly given grade to Harvard students. Yes, you read this correctly. We told you that grade inflation is an issue at Harvard College! And the grade inflation is rampant across the three divisions of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences — Social Science, Arts and Humanities, and Science, as well as at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

According to an article on Harvard grade inflation in “The Crimson,” “The new information challenges the belief held by some that grade inflation is less prevalent in courses in the sciences than in the humanities. The mean grade for undergraduates, as well as the breakdown in each of the divisions and at SEAS, has not been made public.” The article goes on, “‘Isn’t it time to think about doing something?’ [Harvey] Mansfield asked University President Drew G. Faust at the meeting. ‘Many remedies exist. Others can be found. But perhaps above all what we need is a change of attitude.'”

Does it surprise you that an ‘A’ is the most common grade given to Harvard students? Did you think that it would be more difficult to graduate for Harvard than it seems? Why do you think that Harvard is such a big grade inflating offender? They’ve had this reputation for years so why hasn’t there been change? Let us know your thoughts on the mater by posting below! We look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Marco says:

    This issue of grade inflation at Harvard is ridiculous. These students got onto Harvard for goodness sake! They’re brilliant and smart. Of course they’re all gonna get As.

  • Einstein says:

    Harvard is a joke. U.S. News rewards it for its low standards rather than penalizes it.

    There is a reason Harvard has never produced a Plato, or a Shakespeare, or an Einstein.

    It has a shallow curriculum and low standards.

    Its students are just a bunch of dumb investment bankers in training.

    Give ’em A’s before shipping ’em to Wall Street to screw over the economy.

  • Yep says:

    Nothing is as dumb as a Harvard student.

  • Jeffrey M. Vogelgesang says:

    I think all Ivy schools should get together and have a common policy. It is a shared problem. If I went to a different Ivy school without grade inflation and got a B average and was competing with Harvard grads with an A average who were no better than I, guess who is admitted to the elite graduate school. I agree that almost anyone who is admitted to Harvard is a superb student (goes for the others also), but there is an issue of basic fairness here. I would assume that undergraduate transcripts include class rank and a profile of the entire college (also desirable would be a profile of the major department) to differentiate the best of the best from those who were merely the best. That would partly resolve the problem. If they don’t do this, shame on them! There does need to be a common solution enforced by the deans, because it is very hard for a professor, or even a school, to fight grade inflation. One of my professors had a major battle for giving a student who perhaps should have failed a “C”. He was concerned about grade inflation in the early 1980s! But he was a department chair, and had the luxury of doing this because he was not vulnerable. (I’m glad my undergraduate school listed my class rank; it is possibly owing to this that I was admitted to that graduate program) There is a lot of pressure felt by a “tough grader”, especially if (s)he is not department chairman or tenured. Ironically, the students who take a course from a known “tough grader” are, on average, better students who have entered the course because of their love of learning in spite of the lower grade they might receive. There is pressure on schools to “go along” with inflated grades so that their students won’t be placed at an unfair disadvantage when they apply to graduate schools, etc., which is why they need to get together and come up with a common solution so that standards are equally applied.

  • Ben says:

    I have heard this said for years “The hardest part of Harvard is getting in. After that, it’s easy.”

    Harvard certainly seems to make it substantially easier on their students.

    In the wiki articl on grade inflation, it says “Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield is a longtime vocal opponent of grade inflation at his alma mater. In 2013, Mansfield, after hearing from a dean that ‘the most frequent grade is an A’, claimed to give students two grades: one for their transcript, and the one he thinks they deserve. He commented, ‘I didn’t want my students to be punished by being the only ones to suffer for getting an accurate grade’.”

    But all Harvard is doing is promoting their students to the best grad programs. My college had a different (more rigorous) take on grades. And my profs didn’t care if we were “punished”
    for getting an “accurate” grade.

    So in the end this is an argument for going to Harvard. Fabulous rep. Easy academics. Near guaranteed entry into whatever grad program you want.

  • Ben says:

    And one last thought. This is why standardized tests matter. In my opinion all classes should be graded based on final exams using national standardized tests. That would remove all the “bias” in grading. Alternatively if Grad schools started adjusting GPAs for the school (e.g. reducing Harvard’s by, say, ten per cent, that would also reduce the incentive to inflate grades.

    But don’t expect Harvard to unilaterally disarm themselves, and don’t expect grad school admissions committees to suddenly start being fair, and to increase their own workload.

    A high GPA also boosts the grad schools standings…so…it’s a self-reinforcing bias. Admit “higher” GPAs….look better….attract more applicants…earn more admissions fees….which only encourages more grade inflation. Rinse, lather, repeat.

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