Advice for Juniors

Your third year at Harvard is usually a time to hone your analytical skills and begin to develop a specific area of expertise within the broad discipline of political science. Most Gov concentrators focus on the subfields they are most excited about, while some focus on a theme or problem that cuts across the subfields of the discipline. To help you develop a focus in your individual plan of study, your Concentration Adviser (CA) can help you navigate the rich Government curriculum and your many course options.

What courses should I take?  One of the best ways to advance your training is by doing research, so the curriculum for upperclass students provides several different kinds of research opportunities.  The heart of the curriculum for third-year students are Gov 94 seminars, which offer you the opportunity to explore a topic in-depth in a small discussion and research-based class with faculty. The Government Department is committed to maintaining a robust undergraduate seminar program. All students are required to take at least one Gov 94 seminar as part of their concentration requirements, and thesis writers must take two. Since enrollment is limited, these courses are lotteried; the lottery process is described here.

Students interested in more advanced training in research methods--including all prospective senior thesis writers--should take a “research practice” course:

  • Gov 61: Research Practice in Quantitative Methods
  • Gov 62: Research Practice in Qualitative Methods
  • Gov 63: Topics and Resources in Political Theory

You may also wish to consider apprenticing yourself to a faculty member by becoming a research assistant and getting credit for the experience by taking a Gov 92r course.

Should I study abroad?  Another way to deepen your study of political science is through study abroad. By enrolling in a university in another country or a study abroad program, you can gain direct exposure to another society and culture, and at the same time develop valuable language skills. Some students also use study abroad programs as an opportunity to conduct research for a senior thesis. Please note that all those planning to study abroad must meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cheryl Welch, to discuss concentration credit for courses taken abroad.

Should I write a senior thesis? In the fall of your junior year, you should begin to consider whether you wish to write an honors thesis and, if so, begin to think about possible topics and advisers. Gov 94 seminars are often a good way to find and explore topics.

Your concentration adviser and the staff in the Undergraduate Program Office are happy to help you decide whether writing a thesis is the proper choice for you. The Department also sponsors programs to help you make the decision of whether or not to write a thesis—watch for the announcements of “Thesis Orientations” held by George Soroka, the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies. (All thesis writers must attend one of these orientations.) Finally, take a look at theGuide for Thesis Writers in Government and review the information on the Honors/Thesis part of this website.

What kind of summer internships should I consider?  Government concentrators pursue a wide variety of careers in public service, law, business, media, and academics, among other fields. Harvard can help you find internships in a variety of fields:

  • Business: the Office of Career Services (OCS) will be able to help you identify firms that recruit interns on campus.
  • Public Service: the Kennedy School's Institute of Politics (IOP) arranges the recruiting process for many government agencies, think tanks, non-profits and other kinds of public service organizations in the U.S. and overseas.
  • Department-funded internships: the Government Department partners with various Harvard Centers to sponsor some political internships open only to Government concentrators. Past placements have been in Paris, The Hague, São Paulo, Belgrade, and Moscow.
  • Internships in China: the Harvard China Fund sponsors an internship program for both companies and non-profits in China.  (Chinese language skills are useful, but not required).  
  • Fellowships: Students who need to earn money over the summer can apply for Harvard's Presidential Public Service Fellowship (PPSF) to finance a non-paid internship.

Note: If you are interested in pursuing a job after graduation in tech, finance, management consulting, or other businesses that recruit summer interns on campus, we strongly encourage you to apply for these internships in the fall of your junior year through OCS.  Increasingly, these companies use summer internships between the junior and senior year to hire new employees.