One of the most important tasks in freshman year is to begin honing in on a choice of concentration - in anticipation of declaring it by the end of the third term of study. Before making final decisions about your own concentration, even if you came to Harvard with strong ideas about what it will be, you should commit to exploring widely. True, certain fields of study - especially in engineering and the sciences - require more advanced planning than others, sometimes as early as freshman year, but even these leave the door open to both curricular and co-curricular exploration and the possibility that what you find along the way may prompt you to move in new (even completely unexpected) directions.
To best prepare for choosing a concentration, be sure to read about all of Harvard's 50. No amount of reading, however, substitutes for one-on-one discussion with experts in these fields. You don't have to be declared in a concentration, or enrolled in one of its courses, to meet with a concentration adviser. Simple curiosity to learn more about it or to find the answer to a question is grounds enough to seek a conversation. Concentration advisers are available year-round to speak with you. Reach out to faculty or staff directly, or call the main number of a department to request a meeting.
Some additional opportunities you should take advantage of during freshman year include:
- Professors and Pastries - a once monthly opportunity to meet members of the faculty, learn about the paths that led them to Harvad, and hear their advice to you
- Advising Corner - a lunchtime program in which departmental representatives set up in the dining hall to answer quick questions of yours or to speak with you at length about your interests - each day, a different department
- Advising Fortnight - a two-week series of departmental advising programs (open houses, etc.) for freshmen starting, in late spring, with an evening concentration fair in Annenberg
These programs are sponsored by the Advising Programs Office (APO). If you're a freshman, you'll hear more from the APO about them.
As you progerss in college, co-curricular opportunities - such as research, study abroad, and public service - can play an increasingly important part not only in helping you think about the particular field that's right for you; they can also help you think about the pathway through your chosen field that will best suit your interests, for instance whether as a concentrator in
- Sociology, you wish to focus on education (experience volunteering as a tutor in an area elementary school having sparked your interest)
- Applied Mathematics, you wish to focus on sustainable development (a summer spent researching agriculture in extreme climates having sparked yours)
and so on. The ways that co-curricular interests can spur curricular ones and, over time, combine with them, are limitless. But to capitalize on such connections, you need to be attuned to them in your own life and work. The public service project you take part in during fall of freshman year may inspire your choice of concentration the following year. It may even serve as the seed for a thesis or other capstone projects you go on to pursue in your senior year.