Frequently Asked Questions

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...

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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 ...

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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. 

How can I arrange an independent study within Social Studies?

There are two sorts of independently arranged courses for credit at Harvard: an independent study course, graded Pass/Fail; and a reading and research course, known as a 91r, which is letter-graded. Independent study, graded Pass/Fail, must be supervised by a voting member of the faculty (i.e., someone with an appointment of assistant professor or higher). If you wish to take an independent study with a teaching fellow or lecturer, the Chair of the Department must co-sign your petition. Pass/Fail independent studies, however, do not count towards Social Studies requirements.


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As a transfer student from another college, will I receive any credit toward degree requirements in Social Studies for previous course work?

You will receive credit toward fulfillment of requirements for courses that are (1) approved for Harvard credit by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and then (2) approved for Social Studies credit by the Director of Studies. (Grades received for courses taken elsewhere are not considered when calculating a student's Social Studies grade average). Transfer courses may be included in a focus field by petition to the Social Studies Board of Instruction.