Freshman Seminars

Freshman seminars are small discussion-based classes taught by members of Harvard’s faculty. (Seminar instructors come from every corner of the university.)  Seminars afford students a rare opportunity (especially in the first year) to do hands-on learning with a faculty member and a small group of highly motivated peers.  Many seminars also feature guest speakers, concerts, exhibitions, studio or lab work, or field trips that enhance the learning experience they provide. Freshman seminars are an ideal means of exploring potential concentrations or pursuing new interests.

This year’s Freshman Seminar program features 129 seminars on a dizzying array of topics in a wide range of fields.     

Seminars are specifically designed with a first-year audience in mind. To lessen any anxieties you may have about exploring new subjects, seminars are only offered on a SAT/UNS basis and cannot be taken for a letter grade.

Students can enroll in one seminar per term. The Freshman Seminar program is very popular. To maximize the likelihood of being admitted to a seminar, you are strongly encouraged to apply to as many seminars – each term – as interest you. Click here for information about applying to freshman seminars.

Are freshman seminars required?

No.  But you should seriously consider pursuing them.  Upper class students asked to reflect on their undergraduate careers frequently cite freshman seminars as among the most gratifying intellectual experiences they have had in college. 

How do I sign up for a freshman seminar?

Students apply for freshman seminars before the start of each term. For information on applying to freshman seminars, please reference the application instructions on the Freshman Seminar website. 

How are freshman seminars graded?

All freshman seminars are graded SAT/UNS (letter grading is not an option).  (Note that SAT/UNS is not the same as Pass/Fail. In order to receive credit for a freshman seminar, your instructor must evaluate your work as being at the equivalent of a C-minus or higher letter-grade level.) 

Freshmen admitted to Freshman Seminars may earn non-letter-grade credit up to a maximum of 2 courses (4 credits per course).

(Note: freshman seminars can only be counted towards the 84 [or 96 for Honors] graded-course-credit requirement for your degree in the case of seminars that also fulfill concentration requirements.  Because freshmen are expected to enroll in no fewer than three letter-graded courses per term, they are ordinarily not allowed to enroll – in the same term – in both a seminar and another non-letter-graded course.  An exception to this rule is Computer Science 50.  Students who wish to take CS 50 in its non-letter-graded option may also enroll in a freshman seminar in the same term.)  

Can I take more than one freshman seminar?

Freshmen may enroll in one seminar each term and, by extension, a maximum of two seminars in their freshman year.

Can I get concentration credit for taking a freshman seminar?

In some cases yes.

Review the requirements for specific concentrations in Fields of Study in the Handbook for Students, and contact concentration advisers with any questions.  (To find their contact information, go to the “Contact Us” link on individual concentration pages on the Concentrations at Harvard College website.)

Can I get Gen Ed credit for taking a freshman seminar?