Concentration Requirements

I’m a freshman who is interested in Social Studies. What classes should I take?

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. Most importantly, 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… Read more about I’m a freshman who is interested in Social Studies. What classes should I take?

Which courses automatically count in Social Studies?

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.

What is a Focus Field? What is a Plan of Study?

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. Members of the Board of… Read more about What is a Focus Field? What is a Plan of Study?

Can I do a secondary field?

Yes, as long as the secondary field is substantially different from your focus field in Social Studies. Harvard College allows only one course to overlap between the primary and secondary fields, and Social Studies counts all social science and history courses for concentration credit. But students can petition to “unconc” (not count) courses in one of these departments at the beginning of their senior year, as long as they are submitting a plan of study that does not overlap with these courses, and as long as the discipline or disciplines they are covering in their thesis does not overlap… Read more about Can I do a secondary field?

What should I do if I am interested in doing a joint concentration, combining Social Studies with another concentration?

Social Studies allows joint concentrations with a few programs, including African and African American Studies; Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality; East Asian Studies; Philosophy; and South Asian Studies.  Students who would like to do a joint concentration need to explain in writing why they would like to do this instead of concentrating in Social Studies and taking a number of courses in the other concentration, and they must meet with the Director of Studies to discuss the joint concentration.  We do not allow joint concentrations with science or humanities departments (other… Read more about What should I do if I am interested in doing a joint concentration, combining Social Studies with another concentration?

Can I take any Social Studies requirements Pass-Fail?

All of the courses that you are counting for Social Studies concentration credit must be taken for a letter grade, except for Social Studies 99, which is graded SAT/UNSAT. However, we will count courses that are transferred for Harvard credit (either taken at another college for transfer credit, or taken abroad) for focus field credit, as they were originally taken for a letter grade even though the grade will not show up on a Harvard transcript.

Can I fulfill the statistics requirement by taking a course in summer school or at another college?

Yes, you can fulfill the Social Studies statistics requirement by taking an introductory statistics class at the Harvard Summer School or through a summer school at another accredited 4-year college or university. Please note, however, that if you take the course at a summer school other than Harvard, you will fulfill the Social Studies statistics requirement but, most likely, you will not receive Harvard credit for this course. A summer statistics course must be the equivalent of a semester-long course.