Other Requirements

Writing Requirement

Language Requirement

Residence Requirement

Writing Requirement

Degree candidates admitted as freshmen must enroll during their first year of residence in a prescribed course in expository writing offered by the Harvard College Writing Program. A final grade of D– or better in Expository Writing 20 ordinarily fulfills the writing requirement; however, the Director of the Harvard College Writing Program may require particular students to do additional work during the following term in order to satisfy the requirement. Neither courses taken on a Pass/Fail basis nor Harvard Summer School courses in expository or creative writing may be used to fulfill the Harvard College writing requirement.

All transfer students are expected to satisfy the same writing requirement as students admitted as freshmen unless they have demonstrated superior writing ability in the English language before they arrive at Harvard. Transfer students who seek exemption from the writing requirement must provide the Director of the Harvard College Writing Program with a substantial sample of their own written work in the summer before matriculation at Harvard. Such a sample should include at least twenty double-spaced, typewritten pages. Papers submitted to and evaluated by a faculty member at the college the student attended before coming to Harvard constitute an appropriate sample. The Director will evaluate the papers and decide if an exemption should be granted. Transfer students seeking exemption should contact the Harvard College Writing Program at 617-495-2566 or expos@fas.harvard.edu for more information.

Any student who fails to complete the writing requirement during the first year of residence must enroll in an appropriate Expository Writing course during each subsequent term of residence until the requirement is met.

Language Requirement

Degree candidates must meet a foreign language requirement in a language with a written component that is taught at Harvard or for which an appropriate examination with a written component can be given. The requirement can be satisfied in one of the following ways:

      • Earning a minimum score of 700 on a College Entrance Examination Board SAT II Test that includes a reading component;
      • Earning a passing score as determined by the department on a placement examination administered by certain language departments;
      • Passing with a letter grade one appropriate year-long course (8 credits) or two semester-long courses (4 credits each) in one language at Harvard, or the equivalent as determined by the appropriate language department. These courses may not include foreign literature courses conducted in English;
      • Passing with a letter grade a language course or courses at the appropriate level taken in Harvard programs abroad, as approved by the appropriate language department. Study completed at other institutions may also fulfill the requirement if approved by the appropriate language department whether through examination or on the basis of achieving a minimum grade;
      • A student whose high school education was conducted in a language other than English may satisfy the language requirement with evidence of the official high school transcript.

In addition, students who have earned scores on language examinations that would normally count toward Advanced Standing (for example, a minimum score of 5 on a College Board Advanced Placement Examination or a minimum score of 7 on an International Baccalaureate Higher Level Examination) will be deemed to have satisfied the language requirement, regardless of whether they have a sufficient number of such scores to qualify for Advanced Standing and whether they choose to accept Advanced Standing.

A student whose native language is not English may satisfy the language requirement through satisfactory completion of an examination in the relevant language.

Details on language placement exams, including the process for registering for these exams and FAQs, can be found on the Placement Exams Information website.

Any student who has not met the language requirement upon entrance ordinarily is required to enroll in and complete with a passing letter grade an appropriate year-long language course (8 credits) or two semester-long language courses (4 credits each) in a single language before the start of the junior year. (An appropriate course is one for which a student qualifies by previous instruction or placement test.) Most introductory courses in all languages taught at Harvard may count towards fulfillment of the language requirement; exceptions are noted in the course listings in my.harvard.

Exceptions to the ordinary means of satisfying the requirement, or to the timing of the requirement, can be granted only by the Administrative Board upon recommendation of the Dean of Freshmen or upon the recommendation of the student’s Allston Burr Assistant Dean. Students who fail to meet the requirement by the beginning of the junior year, or in the timeframe specified by the Administrative Board, are subject to disciplinary action.

Placement exams in a few languages will be available online to entering students over the summer before they arrive at Harvard; students looking to place into courses in these languages, or who plan to satisfy the language requirement in these languages, are strongly encouraged to take the exam over the summer before the start of their freshman year. A student whose score on the online exam indicates sufficient mastery of the language to satisfy the requirement will need to take a brief, proctored follow-up exam after arriving on campus and before the course registration deadline. Placement exams in these languages, as well as many others, will also be administered to freshmen at a designated time during Opening Days. Upperclassmen interested in taking a language placement exam should be in touch with the relevant department prior to the start of the term.

Students wishing to fulfill the language requirement in a language for which the College does not provide a standard placement exam will need to consult with the Freshman Dean’s Office as soon as possible upon admission to the College. Students may request to take a special examination in any language in which an appropriate examination, including a written component, can be given by a member of the Faculty familiar with the standards of the language requirement. Special language examinations will ordinarily be scheduled by the course registration deadline, but students should plan to take either a placement examination in another language if possible or a first-year course in another language to maximize their options pending the result of the special examination. Students who plan to fulfill the language requirement by special examination should consult with their Resident Dean of Freshmen or their Allston Burr Assistant Dean prior to registering for courses.

Students who plan to continue language study beyond the requirement level may wish to qualify for a citation in that language (see Citations in Foreign Language.)

Residence Requirement

Students will not ordinarily be recommended for the AB or SB degree without having paid for eight terms of residence. (Any student currently registered in the College is considered here to be “in residence,” regardless of actual domicile.) Exceptions to the residence requirements are made for students who graduate in fewer than eight terms by exercising Advanced Standing or who matriculated with transfer credit. Some students may complete Harvard degree requirements in fewer than eight terms as a result of course work done elsewhere that is approved in advance and counted by Harvard toward degree requirements (see Requirements for the Degree), or as a result of course work done at the Harvard Summer School (see Harvard Summer School), or as a result of having worked at a rate of more than sixteen credits per term. Students who have worked at a rate of more than sixteen credits per term are considered to have “accelerated” and are subject to additional tuition fees (see Gift Aid for Acceleration Fees).

No student will be recommended for the AB or the SB degree who has not completed a minimum of four regular terms in the College as a candidate for that degree and passed at least sixty- four credits during regular terms in Harvard College.

Students who have not completed the degree requirements within the allotted number of terms (“lost degree" candidates) may complete degree requirements only by enrolling in the Harvard Summer School, by successfully petitioning the Administrative Board for an additional term (see Additional Term), or, if eligible, by enrolling in a program of study approved by the Committee on Education Abroad (see Study Abroad).