In a seminar I sat in on last week, one of the Harvard professors repeated a theory he had heard that the biggest difference at the margin between Harvard undergraduates and other undergraduates was in their ability to obtain partial credit. He did not explain whether this was because Harvard undergraduates give better wrong answers, or are better at offering up some complete bullshit when they don't know the answer, or are better at the war-of-attrition style argumentation that gets partial credit after initial grades are given.
Anyway, it's not like when I are walking through Harvard Yard, I look into the faces of the undergraduates and they somehow look smarter. They do look a good deal more style-conscious than what I am used to, or, less charitably, their sartorial and other choices mean they walk around with more of a air of affectation, of self-conscious-self-presentation, than what I am used to. Maybe it's in my head, or maybe it's an East Coast thing, rather than being something specifically about Harvard.
There are also seem to be more disconcertingly-too-thin undergraduate women walking around campus than the already nontrivial number I'm used to from Madison. (This is quite different from the generally lower rates of obesity around here.) Maybe it's in my head, or maybe it's an East Coast thing, but maybe it's something about the overachieving tendencies that are a crucial part at least one route into Harvard. Not only am I going to be valedictorian instead of that boyfriend-stealing Muffy McMiffin, I'm going to be thinner than her too! I don't care if I have to argue for an hour to get partial credit for that problem I missed in AP Physics, and if I have to eat nothing but part of a grapefruit for lunch every day from now until graduation!
An entirely different thing that I've noticed in my travels around Cambridge is that there seem to be many more and steeper kinds of discounts and deals available for Harvard students than what I remember from either Iowa City, Bloomington or Madison. This is one thing I've noticed as I've made my from the rural-working-class to the academic-middle-classes to opportunities at vicarious glimpses of the daily lives of current and future elites: not only do the rich have more money, but they also get all kinds of stuff for free or massive discounts as well. Because I am never anything less than 100% honest on this blog, I have to confess that I have identified myself as a "postdoctoral student" on a couple occasions to avail myself of discounts.