Choosing Courses For Incoming Students

How Should I Start Thinking About What Courses I Want To Take?

There are two main considerations when choosing courses during your first year (two semesters) at Harvard: 

  1. What are my academic interests?
  2. What are the Harvard College curriculum courses I will complete?

You will also need to know how to know what courses to look for, what tools you have access to in your search, and how to know what courses you need to take. You can also Watch our webinar on Building Your Advising Network and Choosing Courses.

What Are My Academic Interests?

While this question certainly suggests a focus on your “concentration” interests, it is also important to think about all of the things that you would like to study while you are at Harvard. What are the subjects that you studied previously and would like to continue studying? What are new subjects that you have the opportunity to pursue at Harvard? What areas do you think would be helpful in your future career pursuits? What skills and experiences would you like to have as part of your Harvard coursework? What faculty have you dreamed about studying with?  

How Will I Know What Courses To Look For?

  • The Harvard College Handbook for Students outlines the courses that you will take to complete each concentration and secondary field. 
  • Exploring Academic Fields provides a brief overview of each concentration and outlines some of the introductory or “gateway” courses that you will take to pursue a particular field of study.

What Tools Do I Have Access To For Course Selection?

  • My.harvard Course Search Tool
  • Syllabus Explorer - This tool allows you to look for courses using search terms that may be found on a course syllabus. You can search by topics, texts, or people. 
  • Curricle - This tool allows you to search for courses in a variety of different ways. It allows for some of the serendipity in course searching that formerly existed with the print catalog.

What Are The Harvard College Curriculum Courses I Will Complete?

What are the courses that the faculty will ask you to take to round out your Harvard education? While you will have some flexibility in courses and timing, there are some courses that you take in your first year to develop foundational skills such as college writing. You may be asked to study language in your first or second year. You may also wish to take courses in the General Education program.

The Harvard College Curriculum (Visit this link to review the components of the Harvard College Curriculum!)


How Will I Know What To Take?

  1. Take the Placement Exams
  2. Report any scores from the College Board (AP, SAT II)
  3. Review your Placement and Test Scores Report which can be found in the “Documents” section of my.harvard. Course recommendations, including your Expository Writing and your language requirement status, are included in this report.
  4. Review the Placement Exam Advising Resources for information about how to connect with relevant advising around your course recommendations. 
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