FAQs

Why should I choose Government as my concentration?

Government incorporates the combined knowledge and methodology of several disciplines – history, economics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, among others – and applies them to the study of politics.  The discipline has porous boundaries, and is therefore an extremely flexible concentration.  It allows you to decide the direction of your studies according to your inclinations and interests: globalization, human rights, the U.S.

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As a freshman, am I allowed to take 1000-level Gov courses?

Yes. We recommend that freshmen take Foundational (Gov 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50) and/or 1000-level courses, as well as General Education courses taught by Government faculty. We generally do not recommend that freshmen take seminars, although it is possible for second-semester freshmen to enroll in a Gov 94 (Undergraduate Seminar) with the instructor’s permission.

I want to change my concentration to Government. How can I do that?

Come by the Government Undergraduate Program Office and talk to staff or the DUS about changing concentrations, or talk to one of the House Concentration Advisers. They can help you think about your reasons for changing your concentration, review your student record to see which classes can count for Government credit, and help you figure out which classes you will need to take.

Read moreI want to change my concentration to Government. How can I do that?

What is the benefit of taking a foundational course (Gov 10, 20, 30 or Gov 40) rather than a 1000-level course to fulfill the distribution requirement?

The foundational courses are designed to provide you with a firm grounding in the fundamental concepts and themes of the subfield. If you are unfamiliar with the subfield, or intend to study it in greater depth later, you may find it useful to take the foundational course rather than a 1000-level course in order to ensure that you have a good overview of the subject matter.

Read moreWhat is the benefit of taking a foundational course (Gov 10, 20, 30 or Gov 40) rather than a 1000-level course to fulfill the distribution requirement?

What’s the best way to approach a professor?

Professors hold office hours weekly, and welcome students. You may want to contact the professor beforehand to see if making an appointment is necessary (there is an online list of contact information for the faculty, including office hours). Many students are intimidated by the idea of approaching a professor. Remember that you must be proactive in establishing a relationship with a faculty member; the faculty member most likely does not have time to seek you out, and has many other students.

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Which courses count for the Political Theory subfield?

Gov 10 and courses numbered 1030-1099 and 2030-2099 count for the Political Theory requirement. Courses numbered 1000-1029 and 2000-2029 DO NOT count for Theory credit.  In addition, certain Gen Ed courses taught by Government faculty (such as Ethical Reasoning 39, Money, Markets, and Morals, taught by Prof. Michael Sandel) and some undergraduate seminars count for Theory credit.  Please ask the Undergraduate office if you are in doubt about the status of a course for Gov Theory credit.

How do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?

There is a pre-approved list of Harvard Kennedy School courses for which Government concentrators will automatically receive Gov elective credit. However, the cross-registration form must still be signed by a member of the Undergraduate Program Office. Cross-registration forms are available at the Registrar and your house office. The form must be signed by the instructor of the course, the Government Undergraduate Office, and your Resident Dean.

Read moreHow do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?

Can I get credit for Government Courses taken at Harvard Summer School?

As a Harvard undergraduate, any course taken at Harvard Summer School will automatically appear on your transcript. If it is a Government course, it will count just as it would if taken during the year. For instance, if you take an American Politics course during the summer, that could count toward your American field requirement.  If you took a summer school course before you came to Harvard, you must petition to have it count for Harvard credit.  Please see your Resident Dean for details.