Academic Advising in the First Year

First-year students in Harvard College are well-supported by a network of residential and academic advisers, each of whom is tooled to ensure a smooth transition to and thriving in college life. Students learn the identity of their Proctor, Resident Dean of First-Year Students, and Peer Advising Fellow concurrently with the housing assignment notification in late July or early August. Similarly, students learn who their academic adviser is by logging into the Advising Network Portal in mid-August.

Academic Advisers

Every student in the first-year class is assigned an academic adviser by the Advising Programs Office from among the Board of First-Year Advisers (BFA). Members range from faculty members and administrators to proctors, staff, and doctoral-level graduate students. Students meet with their academic adviser at several key points during the year: in the fall during Opening Days, course selection week/Study Card Day, mid-terms, and prior to final exams; in the spring during course selection week/Study Card Day, Advising Fortnight, and before final exams. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss course and concentration exploration, WinterSession and summer opportunities, and more.

Resident v. Non-Resident Advisers: about a third of students in the first-year class are advised by their proctor; all other students receive a non-resident member of the BFA.

Peer Advising Fellows

In addition to adult advisers, every student is also assigned a Peer Advising Fellow (PAF) – an upperclass student who provides academic, social, and extracurricular advice from the peer perspective. Along with proctors, PAFs ensure a smooth transition to the College by meeting with students one-on-one throughout the year to provide academic counsel. Take an inside look at what it means to be a PAF!


Proctors are graduate students and administrators who live in the first-year dorms and seek to promote community among small living units called entryways. In addition to the social and community-building aspect of their work, proctors also serve on the Board of First-Year Advisers (BFA) and therefore advise seven to 10 students per entryway. Proctors also serve as an excellent source of information about academics and the first-year experience for all students in their entryway.

Resident Deans of First-Year Students

Finally, each student is assigned to one of four Yards, each overseen by a Resident Dean of First-Year Students. Resident Deans are themselves academic advisers and are responsible for the overall academic and social well-being of students in their Yard. Therefore, Resident Deans are an excellent resource for counsel on matters ranging from course selection and mid-term grades to summer opportunities and concentration exploration.