The awarding of prizes at Harvard can be traced back to Edward Hopkins, a London merchant who came to America in 1637. His bequest continues to provide prizes for “Hopeful youth in the way of Learning…for the publick Service of the Country in future times.”

Today, over 200 different prizes are awarded each year in recognition of academic excellence, achievement in a particular field, or outstanding individual qualities. The Bowdoin Prizes, established by the bequest of Governor James Bowdoin, AB 1745, are among many noteworthy prizes for which students submit essays, theses, or other scholarly works.

For more information, including prize descriptions, eligibility requirements, and lists of past winners, please see the website for the Prize Office of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Further information is available from the Prize Office, University Hall, Ground Floor (617-495-4780 or Information on athletic prizes may be obtained from the Department of Athletics

Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa is an academic honors society committed to the promotion of scholarship in the liberal arts and sciences among the students of American colleges. Alpha Iota of Massachusetts at Harvard, founded in 1781, is the oldest chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in continual existence. Undergraduate members, selected from a pool of candidates with the highest cumulative numerical grade point averages in their academic divisions, are elected on the basis of their scholarly achievement and breadth of intellectual interest. Twenty-four juniors are elected each spring, forty-eight seniors are elected each fall, and in the final election, before Commencement, a sufficient number of degree candidates are elected to bring the total membership to no more than ten percent of each graduating class. Students elected to Phi Beta Kappa have typically chosen the most challenging courses available, pursued independent research as part of an honors concentration, achieved excellence in coursework across all academic divisions, and attained outstanding grades in all courses.

The undergraduate members of Alpha Iota, led by four Phi Beta Kappa Marshals, decide on the Phi Beta Kappa awards for teaching excellence given to three members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the Literary Exercises during Commencement Week. The chapter also awards grants for independent research to a number of juniors each spring. For more information see the Harvard College Phi Beta Kappa website.