Social Studies is a great concentration for students who are interested in studying a social science topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students craft their own plans of study, drawing courses from across the college and, frequently, from the graduate schools. We offer small tutorials, one-on-one advising, and a vibrant and supportive intellectual community.
You don’t need to know what you want to study to declare Social Studies, but you do need to be committed to actively shaping your undergraduate education and to working closely with your adviser to identify and pursue your academic interests. Our curriculum is sufficiently flexible that students can change their focus fields, if necessary, up to the beginning of their senior year. Our curriculum is also flexible enough to allow students to complete pre-medical requirements or to complete secondary fields in areas that are different from their focus fields.
First-year students considering Social Studies may want to take Economics 10 or any upper level course for which Economics 10 is a prerequisite. They may also want to take an ethical reasoning or philosophy course to determine whether they enjoy social theory.
Potential concentrators must enroll in Social Studies 10a, which is a prerequisite for applying to the concentration. Sophomores should take courses in economics and statistics, especially if they are planning to study abroad their junior year, and should continue to take social science courses in areas that interest them.
Yes. Students can submit a Declaration of Intent in the Spring of their sophomore year, and in the Fall of their junior year. The form will be available on the website in mid-late January for second semester sophomores, and in late August-early September for first term juniors. Please contact Bonnie Talbert for more information.
High school students who are interested in applying to Harvard College should contact Harvard College Admissions with any questions. Members of the Social Studies Committee will be happy to advise you after you have been accepted to Harvard and have enrolled in classes as a first-year student.
First-semester sophomores will be advised in their houses, but are also encouraged to consult their sophomore tutor or members of our freshmen-sophomore advising team: Dr. Bonnie Talbert, the Assistant Director of Studies for Freshmen and Sophomores, and Kate Anable, our Undergraduate Program Administrator.
Social Studies will count all courses in Anthropology, Economics, Government, History, and Sociology, as well as courses the General Education areas Ethical Reasoning, Societies of the World, and United States and the World, whether or not they are part of a student’s focus field in Social Studies.
Please note that for purposes of calculating honors we will include the grades in all courses you have taken that are acceptable for concentration credit, not just the courses you designate towards your plan of study or towards a specific concentration requirement.
A focus field is an interdisciplinary area of study chosen in the junior year and refined in the senior year; it should be associated with the student’s senior thesis topic. Students will be asked to submit an advisor-approved description of their focus field and their plan of study to the Social Studies Board of Instruction around October 1st of their junior year. The plan of study should include a minimum of four half-courses, normally drawn from at least two social science departments, and including at least one half-course on an historical topic.
You should petition the Board of Instruction to count this course when you submit your plan of study. Typically, courses that have substantial social science, historical, or social theoretical content (e.g., more than half of the topics covered) can be counted, as can courses taught by faculty members with Ph.D.s in the social sciences, history, or continental philosophy.