Reflecting on Your Life

The purpose of Reflecting on Your Life is to create an opportunity for freshmen to reflect – outside the classroom – on what matters to them and why. Specifically, students are asked to grapple with multiple important questions such as:

  • Where am I headed and what is my ultimate personal dream?
  • How might my college experience influence my dream?
  • What do I value and will my time in college impact my values?
  • What are my responsibilities, if any, to my community and to make the world a better place? 

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I expect from each session?

The program features a time for quiet thinking and writing, as well as interactive exercises and activities that encourage the sharing of different perspectives and ideas.

What are the benefits of participating?

Reflecting on Your Life can provide a welcome respite from the typical frenzy of the day-to-day at Harvard and a chance to think critically with others about values and purpose.

History of the Program

Recent surveys of graduating seniors revealed that even our most satisfied students felt that a key experience was missing. One graduating senior wrote:

My experience in classes here at Harvard was excellent overall. Yet I wish I had a chance as a freshman to discuss with fellow students, in an organized way, some questions about ‘how to live my life.’ I did quite well in economics and history and chemistry. There were plenty of such courses. Yet there was no class where I could discuss questions such as, ‘what do I really stand for?’ ‘Where have my personal values come from?’ ‘Are these values immutable?’ Do I expect them to be any different by the time I graduate from here in several years?

Another student asked:

What constitutes living a ‘good’ life? Is this a different question from asking what constitutes living a ‘useful’ life? And how about what constitutes living a ‘successful’ life? They sound similar, yet the nuances are different.

And a third example:

What do you believe are life’s essential conversations?

In 2007, Professor Richard Light proposed an initiative to address these findings, and with the help of Professor Howard Gardner, Tom Dingman, Katie Steele, and a group of undergraduates, Reflecting on Your Life: Grappling with Important Questions was developed.