Advice for Sophomores

Your second year at Harvard continues to be a period for exploration and discovery—but at the same time you will begin to focus for your studies by choosing a concentration. To make this key decision in your college career, you should take courses that interest you and reach out to people who can help you think through the possibilities.

How do I find advisers? Now that you are ensconced in a House, those of you considering Government as a concentration should make an appointment with the Government Concentration Adviser (CA) for your House to discuss concentration requirements, course selection, or any questions you may have.  

You are also welcome to approach one of our Government Peer Concentration Counselors (PCCs)--upperclass Government concentrators who have volunteered to act as peer advisers for other students.  

Finally, don’t hesitate to contact the Undergraduate Program Office. We are here to help.

What courses should I take?  If you are basically undecided about concentration choice at the beginning of sophomore year, but are considering Government, there is still plenty of time. Even if you weren’t able to take a Government course freshman year, don’t worry: because our concentration requirements are quite flexible, you can start taking Government courses in fall semester sophomore year and not be “behind” your peers. One of the foundation courses offered in the fall might be appealing, or you can choose another 1000-level course on a topic that interests you.

If you are fairly certain that you want to concentrate in Government, consider taking the two courses specifically designed for sophomores:

Gov 50: Data

Taking Gov 50 before the end of the sophomore year is ideal because the course is designed to help you achieve basic “literacy” in statistics. With this foundation, you will better understand what many political scientists are saying and how they verify their claims, helping you make sense of assigned readings in a number of other Government courses. Topics covered include descriptive statistics, sampling, estimation, hypothesis tests, and applied linear and logistic regression. Stats 100 or 104 can substitute for Gov 50, but in that case, we require concentrators to take one additional Government elective (see here for more details on concentration requirements). 


Gov 97: The Sophomore Tutorial in Government

All sophomores who declare a concentration in Government formally enter the department by taking the required sophomore tutorial (Gov 97) offered in the spring term. The sophomore tutorial is a one-semester course taught in small groups that allows students to study a topic of interest within political science. Regardless of topic, all Gov 97 sections help students develop common skills that are important to studying the social sciences, such as critical reading and persuasive writing. 

Finally, sophomores may want to consider taking a
Gov 94 seminar, which are small seminars taught by faculty. Although designed for juniors and seniors, these classes often welcome sophomores as well. (The workload is usually heavier than a typical 1000-level course though, so take that into account when planning your semester.) These courses are lotteried; the lottery process is described here.

I’ve decided to concentrate in Government: How do I declare?  Declaring a concentration in Government is an easy 3-step process:

  1. On-line: Submit a declaration of concentration request on my.harvard. Directions on how to do that can be found here
  2. On paper: Government does not use the Registrar’s Plan of Study form. We use our own Government Plan of Study Form. Please download this form and fill it out. To make sure you're including all of the courses you need, reference our Concentration Requirements.
  3. Meeting over Zoom: Meet with a Gov Concentration Adviser or Undergraduate Program staff member to review your completed Government Plan of Study form and have it approved and signed. 

Sophomore Concentration Declarations are due in mid-November.

Thinking of a joint concentration? Students are allowed to declare only one concentration in November. After selecting your primary concentration, you can add a joint concentration in subsequent semesters with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in both departments. Please contact our DUS, Dr. Nara Dillon, before petitioning for a joint concentration with Government in order to discuss your plans.

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. These internships prioritize rising juniors, so watch for their announcement!
  • 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.