The 5 Coolest Freshman Seminars at Harvard

Category Student Voices


Claire Chen Class of '18
Authored on December 03, 2015


Do you like food? Why yes, I do. Do you want to take a class where you can eat and study food? SIGN ME UP.

Most of the classes you take in freshman year are the foundational courses you need to get introduced to a discipline: think Ec10 (Introduction to Economics), CS50 (Introduction to Computer Science), LS1 (Life Sciences)... the list goes on. As much as you may love these topics, they can get a bit predictable. Fortunately, Harvard has got you covered with the freshman seminar program.

students at chalk board working on math

Freshman seminars are an amazing opportunity to discuss cool and interesting topics in a small group with an actual faculty member. Even better, they count for as much as any other course, although you can only take one each semester. Most students take a seminar––it's one of the best decisions you can make. They're low stress (they're graded pass/fail) and extremely rewarding. The idea is that you don't need much experience beforehand to understand and appreciate subjects that you never even realized could even be focuses of study. Last year, I took a freshman seminar on Global Health, in which we compared healthcare delivery systems and technologies around the world. I'd never taken any classes in Global Health before, and I haven't had the opportunity to take any since, but I will always carry what I learned in that class with me.

So, to give you a taste of some of the wacky but endlessly interesting topics that are the focus of freshman seminars, I've put together a list of the five most unique. If I could take any of these next semester, I would in a heartbeat, but alas, these are only for freshman. All the more for you guys to look forward to!

5. Romancing the Kitchen: Food Culture Across the Romance Languages

Are you salivating yet? Are you? Because trust me, there is precious little I love in this world more than food––particularly food from the Romance countries of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The course description declares that there will be the "consumption of food and the consumption of texts." Hook, line, sinker. And to top it off, if cultural studies are interesting to you, you will love it even more. No other words are necessary.

4. You and Your Camera

Not everything is about Instagram, my friends. Sometimes it's nice to go back to an actual camera- that's how all the super high quality photos are taken. By studying the significant differences between the photos most people take and the masterpieces of leading photographers, you'll hopefully pick up some tips for your own work. Even beyond that, you'll even get to learn the fundamental physics on which modern digital photography is based. This is low-key the seminar I wish I had taken in the spring semester, had I had one more slot in my schedule.

3. Plant Sex: Insights into the birds and the bees... and the buttercups and bleeding hearts

Everything you didn't know you needed to learn. All jokes aside, if you enjoy biology and are curious about evolution, this class is on point. There are field trips (yay field trips!) to the Arnold Arboretum, the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Wellesley College Greenhouses, and a local beekeeper. If I were even a bit more biologically inclined, I'd be severely tempted.

2. Time for Sleep: Impact of sleep deficiency and circadian disruption in our 24/7 culture

I can hear my mother now. If she had her way, she would make me take this course. In all honesty, it should probably be compulsory for all college students, before we take years off of our lives by going to bed at eerie hours of the morning. And the course even discusses "personal and public policy approaches to issues such as drowsy students, drowsy drivers and drowsy doctors." If only I knew what these policies were so I could apply them to myself.

1. What is College and What is it for?

Presumably, you aren't in college yet. But don't worry, this course is a preemptive measure to make sure you don't have an existential crisis in the middle of the experience. But seriously, if you're wondering about the benefits of a liberal arts education versus a more vocational degree, or want to debate whether extracurriculars or academics should be more emphasized by the average Harvard student, this is the place for you!

Student studying in Harvard Yard

Explore the full list of freshman seminar offerings in the upcoming spring semester here!

Claire Chen Class of '18

Hey guys! My name is Claire and I graduated in 2018.

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