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Declaring the Right Concentration

By Allison G. Lee
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

All College sophomores had to declare their concentrations Thursday, a milestone in their undergraduate academic journey. For some, the choice was likely clear long before they entered Harvard’s gates — less of a choice than a destiny. For others, the idea of selecting a concentration was probably more comparable to pulling teeth. Needless to say, however it felt, it’s now done — at least provisionally.

Many factors go into choosing a concentration: passions held since the earliest days of childhood, new interests discovered freshman year, big dreams for graduate school, ideal careers, and familial visions of success. Unfortunately and inevitably, employability often worms its way into the equation as well. In the reality of our economic system, some concentrations may lead more easily to employment than others, and some concentrations tend to be associated with higher incomes and greater tangible success — by which we mean some combination of wealth, social status, and security. We recognize that these pressures often override other motivations and criteria toward picking a concentration, and distributing our time more generally, as undergraduates.

That said, we believe that the extent to which people perceive that their employability is a function of their concentration is greater than its actual truth value. Most concentrations and the broad analytical skill sets they teach are applicable to a wide range of careers, especially here at Harvard where our academic paths will be centered around a liberal arts education.

We encourage students to strongly consider pursuing concentrations that will make them feel happy, engaged, and intellectually fulfilled during their time at the College. Choosing a certain concentration, with few exceptions, will not close doors to careers later in life, but will open opportunities for you to study material that fills you with excitement.

For those who fear declaring a concentration because they fear choosing one will mean missing out on another academic passion, we offer this piece of advice: Selecting a concentration is not so much picking the one subject you will study for the rest of your academic career as it is picking the pair of glasses through which you will view all of your other interests and puzzles.

Choosing physics is not at the expense of Social Studies; choosing English will not deprive you of neuroscience; and choosing Women, Gender, and Sexuality does not mean you can’t explore linguistics. When all of us get together with all our various pairs of glasses and all the many topics we use them to look at, we get the marvelously dynamic village of bespectacled scholars that is Harvard.

If all of this still sounds terrifying, we provide a friendly reminder that despite the Nov. 14 declaration deadline, you can still change your concentration for many weeks — even semesters — to come. Just as a concentration is not the end-all-be-all of your future, the declaration date is not the last chance to change your mind. While it may seem like a daunting step, we hope that this declaration day, and declaration days to come, is filled with the sort of nervous excitement that is more excitement than nerves, more pride than self-doubt, and more joy than misery.

Congratulations, Class of 2022! Welcome to your concentrations!

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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