First-Year Students

What to Expect This Year

Welcome to Harvard! We're so excited you're here. College is a great opportunity to try out new activities and interests and to delve more deeply into the things you know and love. The first few months can feel overwhelming with abundance — things to learn, people to meet, activities to sample, there's just so much! We encourage you to be adventurous but also pace yourself. Especially in your first semester, focus on "finding your feet" and getting adapted to college life before taking on lots of extra responsibility, including research.

Settling In

As you start to get your bearings socially and geographically, start to pay attention to the academic landscape as well. What classes/discussions have you enjoyed most? What do you know about those fields of study? Your academic advisor, teaching fellows (TFs), and professors can be great resources for learning more about a particular area of study. Each department will also have concentration advisors and a Director of Undergraduate Study (DUS) that would be happy to talk to you about their department/subject. Don't be afraid to reach out!

Exploring Your Options

Throughout your first year, you will learn more about which areas of study excite you most (and least). If you discover that you don't like something that you thought you would love, don't worry! Striking things off your list is just as important as adding them on. Talking with people in a field you enjoy is a great way to learn more about what life in that discipline looks like. Would you enjoy spending time in a laboratory setting? Doing "field" research off campus? Reading manuscripts from long ago? Maybe you would enjoy something more creative? Check out our guide to approaching members of the faculty to learn more about talking to professors in your field(s) of interest.

Setting Yourself Up for Success

In addition to learning from faculty/instructors, advisors, and classmates, keep an eye out for informational meetings from places like the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (URAF). We host lots of information sessions throughout the year to help students learn about research and get their start! Not only can we teach you about what research is, we can also introduce you to research opportunities (and funding!), both on and off-campus. Keep an eye out for meetings specifically for first-years in the fall, as well as meetings about planning for summer research opportunities. Many research opportunities require submitting an application, so we'll host sessions to talk about that, too, especially since application deadlines are often earlier than you might think.

How Can URAF Help?

At URAF, we're here to help. Feel free to come chat with us about your specific interests after an information session, or we would be happy to talk during our drop-in hours (no appointment necessary!) which we hold every weekday from 2-4pm. Just come by 77 Dunster Street (or log in to virtual drop-ins during the fall of 2020) and we'd be thrilled to meet you. We can help connect you with faculty or advisors in your field if you're not sure who to talk to, or we can just help you think through your options. We love to meet students and there is no question too small or insignificant. Come say hi!