Concentration FAQs

The questions listed below are designed to help address common questions and issues, but it is not an exhaustive list. You should always talk to your concentration adviser or resident dean to discuss your interests and personal questions.

How do PSY 1900 and 1901 differ?

Psychology 1900 is a required course for all concentrators, no matter which track you are in, and it focuses on the basics of statistical analysis. This gives you the tools to understand psychology research so that you can evaluate the literature and formulate your own ideas and questions about what you’ve read. Psychology 1901 is required for students who are planning to write a thesis, and builds on Psy 1900. For students who are not sure if they are going to write a thesis, but are considering it, we strongly suggest that you take Psy 1901.

Read more

Can I pick my sophomore tutorial instructor or topic?

Generally, no. You should choose between 971 and 975 based on the track you are most likely to complete. Although everyone will sign up for either Psychology 971 or Psychology 975, the tutorials are taught entirely in sections that are run by different instructors.

Read more

Can I take Stat 100, 102, or Stat 104 instead of PSY 1900 or Stat 101?

Generally,  no. If you are enrolled as a psychology concentrator, you are expected to take Psychology 1900 or Stat 101. As of Spring 2010, PSY 1900 meets the Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning requirement for General Education. If you have already taken Stat 100 or Stat 104 before declaring psychology as your concentration, you may petition to have that count as your basic methods requirement.

Can I waive the Introductory Course requirement?

If you have a 5 on the Advanced Placement psychology exam or a 7 on the International Baccalaureate psychology exam, you can waive the Introductory Course requirement. How this will affect your remaining requirements and meeting prerequisites for other courses is detailed here. If your score does not appear on your student record, you must provide documentation to the Psychology Undergraduate Office.

How do I know which lab is right for me?

Your interests will determine which lab to explore. What areas of psychology fascinate you most? Many students have multiple areas of interest, so narrowing this down is difficult. Read about research opportunities and specific faculty members' work.

Read more

I want to study abroad. Can I take psychology classes abroad?

It depends on where you’re going. Some universities have psychology departments much like Harvard’s, and there are many courses available there that are empirically based and can be approved for credit, but some universities offer few to no courses that meet approval. Before you go, be sure to get the course syllabus from the university where you plan to study so that you, your concentration advisor, and the department can evaluate whether or not the class can count toward the concentration.

Read more

I’m not very good at math. Should I worry about taking PSY 1900?

Generally, no. The class is meant to be challenging, but as with all classes at Harvard, if you work hard and are communicative with the professor and TFs, you should have the skills to pass the course. In addition, many students seek out tutors or form study groups to help them better absorb the material. Be proactive in the learning process and you will see results

Should I write a thesis?

Many students enter into the concentration hoping that they will have the option of writing a thesis. However, many students choose not to do a thesis later on for many academic and personal reasons. Consider if a thesis is right for you with your resident dean, your Concentration Adviser, and with anyone else who knows you and can objectively evaluate your ability to successfully complete a thesis. You will want to think about the following questions: What are your research interests? What kind of research question do you plan to pursue? Is your research project feasible?

Read more

What happened to the courses that were on the Affiliate Electives list?

The courses that were on the Affiliate Electives list in 2010-11 have been moved to the list of Expedited Courses. Concentrators may still count these courses, but will now need to email us at in order for the course to be counted for concentration credit. As of Fall 2011, secondary field students can no longer count non-departmental courses, and can only count one course from the former Affiliate Electives list if taken in 2010-11 or earlier.

Read more

What is Sophomore Tutorial? Which version should I take?

Sophomore tutorial is a small, one-semester seminar course. In it, you will explore a variety of areas of contemporary psychology by reading primary sources such as journal articles. You will hone your analytic skills in weekly discussions and you will be introduced to scientific writing. You will be expected to produce a Sophomore Essay at the end of the course. Concentrators must complete this course by the end of their sophomore year (or, if switching into psychology after sophomore year, in the first full term after they switch). 

Read more

Who are my advisers within the psychology department?

Each house has a Concentration Adviser that advises all the psychology concentrators in that house, and can also answer questions for pre-concentrators and students pursuing a secondary field in psychology. When you declare psychology as your concentration, the Concentration Adviser in your house will become your official adviser and will sign your Plan of Study and your study card.

Read more

Why do I have to take a lab course? Does PSY 910r count?

Only students pursuing a thesis must take a lab course. Many professors require that students take their lab course as a prerequisite for conducting thesis work in that lab. A lab course can also fulfill the Research Methods requirement for students in the Class of 2015 and beyond who are not planning on writing a thesis. See the Class of 2015 requirements.

Read more

Why is there a GPA requirement to write a thesis?

Because the department does not have the resources for every student to do a thesis, students must have a 3.5 overall college GPA in order to be eligible to write a thesis. Students who are just below the cutoff may petition to be eligible if they have strong faculty support. This GPA cutoff is designed to help faculty evaluate which students are likely to complete a thesis successfully.

Read more