Crafting a course of study for the first year can be challenging, particularly because there are a number of disciplines and offerings available to students, many for the first time. In addition to the academic concentrations, there are also a variety of secondary fields, as well as courses available through the various Faculties of the University. While academic advisers, proctors, PAFs, and resident deans are excellent resources during the course selection period, the following advice and resources will also prove useful.
Note about Balance in Scheduling
Seeking balance in one’s academic (and indeed extracurricular) schedule is a useful rule of thumb. In the first year, students should consider having a mixture of courses: large lecture with small seminar; classes with problem sets with those that require papers and reading; a course that explores a potential concentration with one that fulfills a specific requirement (e.g. General Education or language).
my.Harvard Course Search Tool
Compiled by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and fully searchable, the Course Search Tool is a listing of all classes taught in Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In addition to browsing, students use this resource to search for specific information about a class such as teaching faculty, meeting dates and times, catalogue numbers, and syllabi.
At the conclusion of each term, students in Harvard College are asked to complete an evaluation for each of their courses. Evaluations assess the quality of teaching, workload, and difficulty, among other metrics. All course evaluations are published each semester and are available to students in the Q Guide. Reading these evaluations provides context for determining whether a course may be the right fit in any given term.
Distributed the first day of class or accessed digitally through the Courses of Instruction catalogue and then through individual course websites, students can browse course syllabi. Rich with information, syllabi often provide: contact information for faculty and teaching fellows; date(s) and time(s) of weekly office hours; course objectives; prerequisites; required and optional books/readings; required assignments (papers, mid-terms, finals, projects) and their distribution in calculating the final grade.