For Prospective Concentrators

The Committee on Degrees in Social Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration in the social sciences at Harvard College. We aim to give our students the knowledge, skills, and experiences they need to do high level work in the social sciences, including conducting primary research in preparation for a senior thesis. Our curriculum is comprised of a set of foundational courses in social theory, economics, statistics, and the philosophy and methods of the social sciences, followed by junior tutorials that immerse students in social science topics and teach research methods. Students develop individualized focus fields in close consultation with their academic advisers. Examples of focus fields are “Education in American Society;” “Development in Latin America;” and “Liberty and Freedom in Modern Social Thought.”  

The faculty and staff of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies aim to provide the best possible teaching and advising to Harvard undergraduates. We expect our students to do excellent work in the classroom and we provide extensive resources to support them. We understand that our students’ interests inside the classroom are often influenced by their experiences outside the classroom, and our advisors work to help students connect their learning with their lives. Many of our students do work that is connected with public service, and we encourage this. We expect our students to respect a range of ideas and opinions in the classroom and to use their time in college to explore their own values and beliefs in relation to empirical evidence as well as the values and beliefs of others.

Benefits of studying this field at Harvard
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. Social Studies students develop excellent analytical, research, and writing skills, and they devote their senior year to writing a thesis, which serves both as a capstone to their undergraduate education and a chance to develop and complete a major independent project.

Things you should know

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.  

We strongly encourage study abroad, and many of our students study abroad in regions they are studying, returning to the region to conduct senior thesis research. 

What our alumni have done

Social Studies alumni pursue a wide range of careers, and they report that their Social Studies education prepared them well for life after Harvard.  Immediately after graduation, some students have worked in consulting or the non-profit sector in the US or abroad, studied abroad on fellowships, or joined public service programs like Teach for America. Many Social Studies students ultimately earn degrees in law, business, public policy, and academia (often in combination with each other), and a number every year go into medicine. 

Suggested gateway courses

First year:
Students considering Social Studies may want to take Economics 10 or any upper level course for which Economics 10 or Social Analysis 10 is a prerequisite.
Students may want to take an ethical reasoning, moral reasoning, or philosophy course to determine whether they enjoy theory.
Students should take social science courses in areas that interest them.  For example, a student who is interested in development in East Asia should take a course on that region to learn more about the history, economics, or politics of at least one of the countries in that area of the world.  A student who is interested in poverty in the United States should take a course on a related topic, such as a sociology course on urban poverty or a course on social problems in the American economy.  

Second year, first term:
Potential concentrators must enroll in Social Studies 10a, which is a prerequisite for applying to the concentration.
Students should take courses in economics and statistics, especially if they are planning to study abroad in their junior year.
Students should continue to take social science courses in areas that interest them.

Overview of Concentration Requirements

Requires Application:
Number of Required Courses:
13 half-courses
Honors Option:  
Yes (thesis required for all concentrators)
Joint Concentration Option:
Only by petition 
Sophomore and Junior and Senior (all full year)
Students create individualized focus fields
Language Required by Dept:

View a complete listing of concentration requirements