Here are the key online and print resources that can assist you in researching and weighing your options.
Search for courses in my.Harvard (Harvard’s online course catalogue) by name, keyword, department and many other criteria. Use the “Advanced Search” function to search on multiple criteria at once. Keep a list of courses that interest you by clicking on “Save to Favorites”.
Check out Course Search Tips to learn how to get the most out of online course searching.
Course pages in my.Harvard contain links to course websites (for courses that have them), which contain useful information, such as course descriptions and syllabi, and assignments from previous years.
At the end of each semester students are asked to evaluate their courses and course instructors. These evaluations are compiled in an online database known as the Q Guide. Course pages in my.Harvard link to Q Guide data (for courses that have been taught in past years).
Q Guide data are a useful resource for you to consult in weighing your course decisions. But be sure not to place too much stock in this resource. If a course’s description, and what you see on its course website, appeals to you, then form your own impressions by attending the first lecture or two, speaking with the instructor, talking with your adviser, and considering whether your experience in the course – should you decide to enroll in it – might differ from the reported experience of other students. Every student approaches courses from the vantage of his or her own unique interests and learning style. The Q Guide should be only one of many data points you consider on the path to building your study list.
The Concentration Overviews section of this website contains overviews of each concentration, and a list of recommended gateway courses that students interested in exploring them may wish to consider. (These lists typically include both foundational courses that are required for the concentration and elective courses that may or may not fulfill concentration requirements.) To find the gateway courses list for a particular concentration, click on “Ways to Explore” on that concentration’s page.
The 49 Guidebook
Another useful resource for freshmen to consult is The 49 Guidebook app, which includes much of the information that appears in the Concentration Overviews on this website in addition to a broad overview of Harvard academics and advising.
Fields of Concentration
Fields of Concentration in the Handbook for Students is Harvard’s advising resource of record for the concentrations. When in doubt, consult Fields of Concentration for the most up-to-date and accurate information on the requirements for each concentration. Click here for advice on how to use this essential planning resource.
For freshmen: in consideration of standardized test scores you may have reported to the College when you were admitted, as well as the results of any Harvard tests (math, languages, etc.) you took over the summer before freshman year, Harvard provides you with a number of placement recommendations. These appear in a report titled “Placement and Test Scores” which is in the “Reports and Documents” center on your student page in my.Harvard.
In addition to noting your personalized course level recommendations (and their basis) for such fields as mathematics, languages, or the life or physical sciences, this report also notes
- the semester of your Expository Writing assignment
- whether or not you have met your foreign language requirement
- whether or not you are eligible for Advanced Standing
It is important to discuss any course placement decisions with your freshman adviser and with appropriate specialist advisers, in particular if you’re considering taking a course at a higher level than you were recommended for. This is especially true for math and science courses. You may have very good reason to pursue such a plan, and be fine doing so, but Harvard’s placement recommendations are generally quite accurate. It’s much better to speak with a specialist adviser early in the term about appropriate course placement than to find yourself needing to switch courses (up or down) after the term begins.