Harvard structures students' academic experiences to afford the greatest possible freedom to design individual programs. Students normally enroll in four courses each term. Their plan of study includes work in their concentration, the Program in General Education, Expository Writing, and Foreign Language.
One course from each of the following 8 areas is required: Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, Societies of the World, The United States in the World
In consultation with academic advisers, faculty, and others, students select a field of concentration by the end of the third semester (middle of sophomore year). About half of each student's courses are devoted to pursuing an academic interest in depth.
The single course required of all students is a writing course taken in the first year. Students choose from a variety of topics taught by experts in the craft of writing.
Students must demonstrate knowledge of one foreign language before the first term of the junior year. Some fulfill the requirement before entering Harvard by scoring 700 on a College Board language assessment test, a 5 on an Advanced Placement (AP) language test, or a 7 on an appropriate International Baccalaureate Higher Level exam. Because of Harvard's excellent and diverse language programs, many students elect to complete the requirement or advance their skills by taking language courses here. The language requirement is waived for students whose native language is not English and who are proficient both in that language and in English. The rules regulating the language requirement are reviewed periodically; students are subject to the rules in place at the time of their matriculation.