Advice for Undergraduates

Below you will find class specific information for each year in the Economics program at Harvard University.

 

Here are some things to think about in your first year if you are considering concentrating in Economics.

Specifics:

  • EC 10:  EC 10 (A & B) is the standard starting point for those considering concentrating in economics and a prerequisite for upper-level classes, so we strongly encourage you to enroll in EC 10 as a first-year For those of you who have a strong background in introductory economics and choose to skip EC 10, you can consider enrolling in one of the intermediate theory courses (e.g., EC 1010A/B) or another economics elective to get your economics curiosity flowing during your first year.
  • MATH:  We also recommend that you take math during your first year. All concentrators must take (or place out of) MATH 1A, which is a prerequisite for Econ 1010A/B (which you'll want to take sophomore year). Math Ma + Mb also satisfies the Math 1A requirement. Math Qa + Math Qb satisfies the Math 1A requirement as well. Those of you interested in honors will also need to take (or place out of) MATH 1B and a multivariable calculus course (MATH 18/MATH 21A/APMTH 21A).
  • STATS  Lastly, we recommend that you take statistics first year (see the FAQs linked on the Concentration Requirement page for how these differ). This will allow you to take econometrics (e.g., ECON 1123) fall of sophomore year, before sophomore tutorial in the spring (ECON 970).
     

Bigger Picture:

We're really excited that you are considering concentrating in economics. Economics is an enormously rich field that gives you the tools to study a very broad set of topics. Although Economics is clearly a good fit for those of you interested in finance and consulting, it is also a field that lets you study such varied issues as inequality, crime, obesity, the environment...the list goes on and on. For more detail, the Economics Concentrator Guide provides an introduction to the subfields within economics (see p20), and you'll see from the faculty pages the enormous breadth of topics that economists study.

Here are some items to consider in your sophomore year if you are interested in concentrating in economics.

Specifics:

  • Intermediate Micro and Macro Theory: (ECON 1010A/1011A, ECON 1010B/1011B)
    Since many Economics electives have an intermediate theory prerequisite, you should take ECON 1010A/1011A and ECON 1010B/1011B your sophomore year (see the FAQs linked on the Concentration Requirements page for how the 1010 and 1011 courses differ). For those of you taking ECON 10 as sophomores, note that you can take ECON 1010A in the spring after completing ECON 10A. Also, remember that you must receive at least a B- in each of your two intermediate theory classes, otherwise you will be required to take Econ 975 (Theory Review).
     
  • Econometrics: (ECON 1123/1126)
    Given the highly applied nature of many sections of sophomore tutorial, we recommend (but don't require) that you take econometrics sophomore year. 
     
  • Sophomore Tutorial: (ECON 970)
    Most of you will take sophomore tutorial during your sophomore spring. However, if you have not completed the prerequisites by then (ECON 10, STATS, ECON 1010A/1011A), you can take the course as a junior.  ECON 970 is offered during the Fall semester, during which it's mostly taken by juniors (and some seniors).

Bigger Picture:

Planning your concentration is not simply a matter of making a wish list of classes. Timing is everything. Bear in mind the progression of courses. For example, math before intermediate theory before many electives; statistics before econometrics; statistics and intermediate micro before sophomore tutorial.  Some courses also may conflict, or have limited enrollment, and some are not offered every year. So although having a plan is important, don't get too wedded to a specific set of classes, since course offerings may change.

Here are some questions you should consider as you think through your plan of study:

  • What are my fields of interest?
  • Do I want to study abroad?
  • Do I intend to write a thesis?
  • Am I considering a PhD in economics?

Timing is especially important if you are considering writing a thesis or studying abroad. If you are interested in honors, start taking electives early to begin thinking about possible topics and advisors, and if you are considering studying abroad, be aware that the department will grant at most ONE Economics concentration credit per term abroad.

For some example plans of study, see Section VII of the Economics Concentrator Guide.

 

 

 

Here are some items to consider in your junior year as an economics concentrator.

Specifics:

  • If you've completed the intermediate theory sequence (ECON 1010/1011 AB), you'll want to start taking economics electives this year.  Remember you'll need one econ elective that meets the writing requirement and one that has ECON 1010/1011 (A or B) as a prerequisite.  (If one class has both a writing requirement and Econ 1010/1011 as a prerequisite, you can meet both requirements with that class; but it still counts as only one class towards your economics electives.)   
  • If you haven't completed the intermediate theory sequence (ECON 1010/1011 AB), plan on that this year. 
     
  • If you haven't already, you should complete econometrics and ECON 970 (the Sophomore Tutorial) this year.
  • Check out the Department's junior seminars.  These are small, faculty-led seminars on various topics.  They're open to all economics concentrators who meet the prerequisites (and to others, if space permits). Each seminar conducts it own lottery and enrollment, so please check each course's website for more information. We especially recommend junior seminars to concentrators thinking about writing a senior honors thesis.
  • Thinking about honors?  There are two honors tracks in economics: Thesis Track and Advanced Course Track.  Please check out the details on the additional requirements for these tracks so you can plan ahead. For Thesis Track, you must complete econometrics by junior spring.  Also try to take an economics elective in an area you're interested in... thesis ideas can come out of that!  We'll keep the advice short here, as we have an entire document dedicated to juniors thinking about writing a thesis on our senior thesis page.

Bigger Picture:

  • Take initiative in your classes, especially your economics classes.  It's never too late to start.  Introduce yourself to your professors, visit office hours at least once, invite a professor to your House faculty dinner.  In general: take full advantage of the opportunity to get to know interesting people.  It's fun, and also will help you get the most out of your courses.
  • Junior concentrators often ask how to choose electives.  There's no right or wrong way, but two ways to think about this are: (1) take a variety of economics electives in different areas or (2) focus your economics electives in one area.  Either is great; it just depends on whether you feel drawn to a particular field or whether you want to explore.  For a refresher on fields in economics, check out Section V in the Economics Concentrator Guide.

 

Congratulations! It's your senior year!  While you're an experienced economics concentrator at this point, we still have a few bits of wisdom to offer.

Specifics:

  • Carefully check whether you've fulfilled all economics requirements needed for graduation.  We recommend checking your Academic Advising Report (AAR) using my.harvard.edu (and let your economics advisor know if there are any errors).  We also highly recommend speaking with an ec concentration advisor in the Fall to review your record.
     
  • If you're writing a thesis, be sure to explore all the great resources and info on the senior thesis page
     
  • At some point during the Fall semester, contact your concentration advisor to officially declare your "track" in economics: Basic, Advanced Course, Thesis. 
     
  • ACT and Thesis concentrators: check out our Honors page.  There's a lot of info, including the date of the Honors Exam. 

Bigger Picture:

You're probably thinking a lot about life after graduation.  Some of you already have plans, but many of you are still thinking about your options.  We encourage you to talk with your professors, concentration advisors, and the Office of Career Services about the wide world of possibilities that awaits you.  While it all might seem overwhelming at times, try to remember it's also exciting... and all of us are available to help you through it.