Harvard A-Z

Guide to Harvard Acronyms

Harvard A-Z By Elena Ramos
Before you even get to complicated classes, you must face everyday Harvard lingo. Let us decode some of the most common acronyms for you!
By Linda Lee

By Linda Lee

It takes some time to get used to college life. The first few weeks of freshman year are defined by helplessly running around campus, trying to find your next class (where in the world is Vanserg?), figuring out which clubs to join, and learning to find your place within the chaos of nearly 2,000 people doing very similar things. Harvard doesn’t make it any easier for you by flooding you with its own complicated vernacular of acronyms and terminology. Rather than asking an upperclassman and risking weird looks, refer to this helpful guide to decode “Harvard speak.”

CGIS: Center for Government and International Studies


There will be a time when you have to go to CGIS whether it be for a class, meeting, or orientation. It happens to the best of us, and at some point, you’ll need to figure out where it is. CGIS is located on Cambridge Street past Annenberg: It is an orange building with glass doors. CGIS consists of the Knafel building and the South building which are right across the street from each other, and it would do you well to distinguish between the two early on.

HUHS: Harvard University Health Services


Sometimes you’re sick. Sometimes you make bad decisions during a night out. It happens. HUHS is here for you during these times, and you will come to know its offices once you’re a student.

HUDS: Harvard University Dining Services


The meals you grab in the dining hall are the result of the tireless and loving work of HUDS. Say hello to HUDS staff members when you see them because it takes a lot to feed thousands of hungry, sleep-deprived students, and HUDS staff are consistently some of the kindest people on campus.

HUPD: Harvard University Police Department


Found roaming campus during any event remotely associated with alcohol, HUPD officers can be identified by their uniforms and the bright red crest on their shoulders. They are here to keep you safe, rush you over to the hospital if you’ve had too much to drink, or open your door when you’ve lost your keys.

CS50: Computer Science 50: Introduction to Computer Science


This. Is. A class that many choose to take in their first year. As somewhat of a rite of passage, this course is defined by its renowned instructor, David J. Malan ’99, and its exponential learning curve. Whether it’s ripping a phonebook in half, presenting the result of your blood, sweat, and tears at the CS50 Fair, or spotting an “I took CS50” t-shirt in a crowd, you will come to interact with this course at some point in your time here.

The MAC: The Malkin Athletic Center

/thuh mak/

Many freshmen start off with lofty goals regarding the premier student gym, but don’t be surprised if such goals end up going out the window. The MAC is outfitted with cardio equipment, three strength rooms, a pool, and basketball courts. If working out alone isn’t your thing, you can always get your Zumba on with their free group classes — that is, if you manage to make it to the MAC in the first place.

Think that was a lot? Unfortunately, this guide is far from exhaustive for all the acronyms and confusing terms thrown around on campus. Don’t worry — with time comes knowledge, and learning how to speak the Harvard language is just another part of the transformative experience.

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