If its undergraduate experience is objectively inferior, conventional wisdom is that Harvard on your C.V. will still reign supreme. As one commenter on a college-news blog wrote last year in response to an applicant who was accepted at all but one of his Ivy League prospects, "In my opinion, Harvard trumps all the other schools. In this economy, being part of the Harvard brand might open doors. Congratulations, young man."
The blogger's attitude underscores what's wrong with perceptions of Harvard and higher education, broadly speaking: The quality of one's education derives from a community of human interaction, not the growing lecture circuit that Harvard embodies. Three years ago, I fantasized about attending Harvard—and when that dream was realized, I anticipated I was in for one of the most intellectually stimulating experiences of my life. Instead, I got one of the least.
Don't make the same mistake. If you receive a notice of acceptance from the Harvard admissions office next month, enjoy the moment, but consider how disappointed you may be three years from now. If you aren't accepted, or if you never applied, consider yourself fortunate: you will receive a better education in the bargain.