You may have been a star in high school. Whether that meant being the Troy Bolton of the basketball team (do the kids still get that reference?) or being the emotionally pained Miley Cyrus hiding her true identity as world-famous star Hannah Montana (best of both worlds, amirite?), you can’t get through Harvard alone. Luckily, the College has outfitted you with three superstar advisors (most of the time) who will do their best to explain the convoluted Harvard lingo and guide you through your freshman year.
Armed with an infinite supply of GIFs and chunk of change to spend solely on you, Peer Advising Fellows (or PAFs, to normal people) are like cool older cousins whose job is to make sure you feel comfortable and don’t die. PAFs vary in dedication: some will totally ignore your texts. Some will smother you in affection, carrying you to class and giving you cookies every weekday ending in “-day.” One will throw a rock through a window at a party, and you’ll be like “LOL that looks like my PAF” and then she’ll turn around and you’ll realize that is indeed your PAF. The best (and these are most) are somewhere in the middle—happy to help when you need it, but ultimately hands-off. At the end of the day, they’re there for you, so every question is fair game. Except, apparently, “Will you go out with me.” PAFs are forbidden to date their PAFees. Or at least that’s what mine told me. Regardless, we were definitely soulmates.
That 28-year-old living down the hall? She didn’t just take a series of gap years (because you really need to have seen the world before you’re ready to change your concentration from pre-med to ec). She’s your proctor—Harvard’s word for an RA, and your designated mentor/friend/authority figure/baker for the next year. Proctors work with your entryway PAFs to make your life better, hosting study breaks, dolling out advice, and offering friendly pieces of wisdom. But these somehow-affiliates-of-the-University are not only there to be your friend—it’s also their job to enforce the No Alcohol in Freshman Dorms rule. Just how this rule is enforced depends on the proctor, but don’t get too cozy with these people who may seem like your fellow students. They can also get you in trouble. (Alternatively: get very cozy with them and develop a mafia-style inside connection that will all but ensconce you from any kind of discipline.)
Academic advisors are grad students, administrators, and even the occasional professors who in theory guide you through the trials and tribulations of academic life. You’ll meet with them on Opening Days, and will really hear from them when you them to lift the advising hold so you can sign up for classes. Once a semester. Like, actually. It’s partially because some of them are impossible to reach (automated email reply: “*insert professor* will be out of the office from October to retirement”), and partially because that English Literature grad student they assigned you knows way less about Multivariable Calculus than you anticipated. Mr. Advisor, should I take Math 1b or Math 25? “Follow your dreams,” you say? Ah. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.