Coming out of my senior year of high school and into my first year at Harvard, I thought I would major in Government alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely came to Harvard with the intention of exploring different interests and passions before settling on a major, but I was definitely leaning towards Government. By the end of my first semester, I had taken a couple Government courses, and winter break of my first year gave me plenty of time to reflect. While taking Government classes was fun, I realized that I was interested in more than just Government.
Thinking back to high school, I was heavily involved in S.T.E.M., especially Engineering. Although I knew I didn’t want to go into Engineering long-term, I still wanted to incorporate S.T.E.M in some form into my college education. The tricky part was trying to figure out how this was going to happen. Going into my second semester of college, I took a break from taking Government courses and took some Computer Science and Math courses out of pure interest. In doing so, I found that Computer Science brought with it the kind of critical thinking and problem-solving I was missing.
At Harvard, students are not required to declare majors until November of their sophomore years. As this deadline approached, I felt more comfortable knowing that I had narrowed my potential majors down to two: Computer Science or Government. I really enjoyed both fields and wanted to find a way to study both. I knew I could major in one and minor in the other, but I felt that I would not be able to study one field as deeply. While Harvard does not offer double majors, it does have something called a joint concentration. This combines two separate majors by reducing the course requirements of both majors. The catch is that a student doing a joint concentration must also write a senior thesis that combines both majors in a meaningful way, while also pointing out why it is necessary to combine these two fields of study. Thus, the alternative to majoring in one and minoring in the other was doing a joint concentration.
If I can leave you with any piece of advice, it would be to come into college with an open mind. A lot of students think that they need to have it all figured out before they even step foot on campus, which isn’t true at all! In fact, a large portion of Harvard students come in being undecided about their majors. As a result, a large part of the first-year experience is exploring different fields that you may be interested in and trying to narrow down the list of potential majors. Remember, nothing is set in stone!