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When one first begins their journey at Harvard College, it can often feel as though students, faculty, and staff are speaking in their own unique lingo. With the many acronyms, terms, and general lingo that are specific only to the Harvard experience, new students may feel confused about locations, offices, courses, activities, or resources available to them.
If you are having trouble deciphering all of the Harvard acronyms and abbreviations, you are not alone. In the guide below, find all of the common abbreviations heard around the Yard, as well as links to any locations or resources.
Offices and Locations
Have a class being held in WJH? A professor recommends that you check out the ARC? Your friends say they are going to a virtual event organized by the SOCH?
Many offices and locations around campus are abbreviated for simplification. See below a list of acronyms for the many places around campus, with links to their respective websites and details, so you will never be wondering where you need to be next.
Maybe a friend recommends a course in the MCB department, and you aren't sure what MCB stands for. Maybe you receive an email from a TF, but don't know what TF means.
Many academic departments within the College are abbreviated for course registration purposes. See below a list of acronyms for some of the academic departments offered for students, as well as other academic terms such as a concentration, section, and more.
CA: A course assistant, typically an undergraduate student, provides various kinds of support for a course. Course assistants have usually taken the course in the past and performed well in it. They may assist a course head directly or provide additional support for a TF or TA.
Citation: Refers to language programs that students can complete for recognition on their transcript
Office Hours: Office hours are a time when course instructors make themselves available to students to answer questions about course material. The format for office hours varies across courses and is usually described in the syllabus.
Pset or problem set: A set of problems assigned to students (usually weekly) that requires them to apply concepts they are learning in class. Students will often refer to STEM classes as “pset classes,” since completing psets is one of the most important parts of the course.
Reading Period: A designated time for students to study, synthesize material, review content learned throughout the semester, and prepare for the upcoming exam period. Read more about Reading Period.
STEM: Refers to courses and concentrations at Harvard that focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
TF/TA: A teaching fellow or teaching assistant is a person, typically a graduate student, who teaches at Harvard but is not on the faculty. Usually, TFs and TAs provide support for course heads and run sections and labs to supplement lecture. Your TF or TA in a course is often your main point of contact in that course. Occasionally, TFs and TAs teach their own courses, but these are almost always seminars and are usually for upper-level students within a concentration.
The beginning of each semester is often overwhelmed with opportunities and invitations from student organizations and extracurriculars. If you are wondering what that email from the CEB means, or you aren't sure what WHRB stands for, see below for a list of acronyms related to student organizations and extracurriculars.
The College's highest priority is maintaining the health, wellness, and safety of its students. For that reason, the College offers many different resources and support, both professional and peer support, in order to maintain community health and wellness.
If you are in need of support, there are many resources available to you. See below a list of some of the most commonly-abbreviated health resources, but also know that there are additional resources available to you on each of their respective websites.
Proctor: Staff or graduate students who live in the dormitories and advise students on personal, residential, social, and academic matters. For some first-year students, Proctors also serve as academic advisers. Proctors oversee entryways of roughly 25 to 30 students, and, together with a small group of Peer Advising Fellows, foster community among students in the entryway. Read more about proctors.
Resident Dean: Individuals who live on campus and oversee student academic, social, and extracurricular wellbeing
Tutor: An individual who works with, supports, and advises upper-level students in the Houses
As incoming first-year students approach the beginning of their College experience, there are many pre-orientation programs available to them. These programs allow first-year students to meet other students, learn about the College, and ask any questions they may have before arriving on campus.
See below a list of acronyms for all of the pre-orientation programs offered to incoming first-year students.
At Harvard, there are many resources available to help students in their academic, residential, social, and extracurricular endeavors. Though we encourage students to take advantage of these resources, we understand that it may be difficult to utilize these tools if a student does not recognize an acronym or abbreviation.
See below a list of terms, acronyms, and abbreviations relating to resources. These resources include library tools, financial resources, technological support, student events databases, academic office hour spaces, and more.
Boardplus: A component of the undergraduate meal plan, designed to increase flexibility to that meal plan; students receive $65 of BoardPlus dollars per semester that can be spent at any HUDS-operated café, House grille, or for guest meals in the dining halls. Read more about Boardplus.
Crimson Cash: A declining balance convenience account accessed through your Harvard ID card. Crimson Cash is an easy way to buy the things you need including at select off-campus merchants, on-campus retail and dining locations, vending machines, laundry, copying and printing. Read more about Crimson Cash.
HarvardKey: Harvard University's unified online user credential, uniquely identifying students to Harvard IT applications and services to grant access to resources. Read more about Harvard Key.
Student Organization Center Online (SOCO): A student activities platform that allows users to search for upcoming events, connect with groups, read the latest student group news, and access campus resources. Read more about SOCO.