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It’s Okay to be Undecided at Harvard: My Concentration Journey

Growing up, I always had aspirations to work in the health professions, more specifically to become a neurosurgeon. Throughout middle school and high school, I had always enjoyed science classes and was particularly fascinated by how the brain worked. Thus, I purposefully elected to enroll strictly in science classes when I got the chance, narrowing my opportunity to explore different fields.


Notes on chalkboard from advanced neurobiology class lecture

When I got to Harvard, - as a result of its liberal arts focus - I initially felt that I was somewhat forced to engage in fields that I thought I had no interest in. The general education requirements make up about 25% of the curriculum and there are eight categories within these requirements: aesthetic and interpretive understanding, culture and belief, empirical and mathematical reasoning, ethical reasoning, science of living systems, science of the physical universe, societies of the world, and United States in the world. While these requirements seemed rather restricting, I was happily surprised to find a significant amount of choice within each requirement - many of the 3,500 courses fall into at least one of these categories.


first Economics 10a lecture at Sanders Theatre

Given that I had so much “extra” space in my schedule to take courses that I previously never got the opportunity to, I took advantage of the course catalog and the Q-scores (an online platform where students can anonymously rate the course and the professor and speak to their honest experience with the course) to explore different fields of study. In particular, I decided to take Economics 10a, which is an introductory course for economics. I had interests in the workings of the economy but didn’t know the first thing about it. Taking this course was probably one of the most significant events of my college career - I ended up really enjoying the course and decided that I didn’t want to narrow my career options to medicine.


slide preparation at Sanes Lab in Northwest Building

At Harvard, you don’t declare your concentration (Harvard’s version of a major) until the middle of the second year of school. Essentially, Harvard’s liberal arts focus gives students, like me, the opportunity to “shop” for different fields before you declare your concentration. I decided that I still enjoyed my neurobiology classes and network enough to want to continue taking advanced neurobiology courses to fulfill the neurobiology concentration requirements. I also engaged with my neurobiology interests by taking on a position as a research assistant at the Center for Brain Science at Harvard. However, I also decided that I wanted to pursue continued studies in the economics field as a secondary. The Harvard education presented me this unique opportunity to broaden my interests without burdening my workload.

About the author

Hello everyone! My name is Sung Eun Kim and I am currently a senior at Harvard College living in Cabot House. Here, I am concentrating in neuroscience while pursuing a secondary degree in economics... View full profile

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