As freshmen, you’re guaranteed to feel overwhelmed by information, instructions, and advice throughout your first weeks. Regardless, here’s one more piece of advice you should be sure to heed: take a Freshmen Seminar.
Like Annenberg, the Yard, and the Freshman Musical, Freshmen Seminars are a privilege reserved for freshmen alone. In these intimate, narrowly-focused tutorials, you are given the opportunity to delve into an area of interest in a relatively lax environment (by Harvard standards, of course).
But don’t be fooled: most Freshman Seminars, even though they are graded Sat/Unsat, are not jokes. Though most seminars have lighter workloads than typical Harvard classes, there are still papers and readings to be done. And taking a course with a lighter workload, especially while making the transition into college, can be advantageous.
I took the Freshmen Seminar “You Are What You Eat” my freshman fall. During the semester, I had to do weekly readings on health and nutrition, give a 30-minute power-point presentation, and write a 10-12 page term paper on a topic of my choice. But even though I had a fair share of work to do, my weekly seminar gatherings somehow never seemed to feel much like class.
By the third week, I had already gotten to know the eleven other students in my seminar; being in such an intimate class-setting allowed us to become friends fast, and even supply weekly snacks for each other.
More importantly, the seminar provided us with the unusual opportunity to get to know our professor, Dr. Karin B. Michels of the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Michels was obliging enough to join the students for dinner in Annenberg after each seminar, where she could talk to us individually, granting us attention rarely given freshmen by professors. Feeling comfortable and confident amongst both my peers and professor, I was able to speak up in class without temerity.
Furthermore, my seminar avoided feeling “class-like” because it was not just lecture after dull lecture, as is the case in many Harvard classes. Instead, there were guest speakers, including Mollie Katzen, the author of several world-renowned cookbooks and Roger Berkowitz, the owner of Legal Seafoods.
My seminar got to watch the acclaimed film SuperSize Me and take a tour of Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) to see where our meals are made. Like my seminar, a large number of Freshmen Seminars are interactive and intimate learning experiences.
So when rummaging through your heaps of flyers, pamphlets, and booklets, just remember there’s one thing you don’t have to spend time considering: taking a Freshmen Seminar is a Freshmen Must.
—Staff writer Christina G. Vangelakos can be reached at email@example.com.