The Application Process

Students considering a Special Concentration are welcome to (and should!) make an appointment with the Director of Studies well in advance of application deadlines to discuss their academic goals, concentration ideas, and the application process. Formulating a statement of purpose, meeting and talking with potential faculty advisers, and constructing a concentration curriculum all take a great deal of effort; starting early helps to avoid the inevitable roadblocks. Students who have been admitted to Special Concentrations have often spent several months preparing their application.  Note that students do not declare Special Concentrations in my.harvard until after their proposal has been approved.  Most students apply during the spring of their sophomore year or fall of their junior year.  

We suggest taking the following steps when preparing an application:

  • Formulate the intellectual rationale for an independent field of study - write up your statement of purpose, then continually refine it as you talk with faculty and advisers.
  • Identify and communicate with faculty and advisers around Harvard who can provide guidance and suggestions. These may be faculty or teaching fellows from courses you've liked, as well as Directors of Undergraduate Studies in departments. Talk about your statement of purpose with them, ask for course ideas, and always ask: who else should I talk to?
  • Be open to the idea that your proposal may be accommodated within an existing concentration or joint concentration, or concentration plus secondary field.
  • Find a committed faculty adviser who is willing to direct and advise your independent program of study until you graduate.
  • With the guidance of your adviser, craft a thoughtful curriculum to support the intellectual goals of the concentration.
  • Be sure that your Special Concentration is a liberal-arts undergraduate program of study (rather than a pre-professional graduate one).
  • Show that your plan cannot be accomplished within existing structures for concentrations, joint concentrations, and secondary fields;
  • Identify tutors for junior tutorials and senior projects/theses.
  • Talk with the Director of Studies in Special Concentrations.

For more detailed information about the academic requirements for a Special Concentration, go to Academics. The application materials and directions may be found here.

Questions? Please email