If Course Descriptions Told the Truth

Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science David J. Malan uses lights to teach binary code and hypnotize students into joining the CS 50 cult.
Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Computer Science David J. Malan uses lights to teach binary code and hypnotize students into joining the CS 50 cult. By Connie Yan

The truth about your classes is now coming out: Study cards have been signed and the glitz and glam used to hook students in is gone, revealing what the semester will actually be like. Here's what the course descriptions should say.

Expos 20

If you thought you would never have to take an English class at college, tough luck. Now you have the opportunity to choose from 30 with misleading names such as “Darwinian Dating.” While you are told to rank your Expos choices, it’s more or less arbitrary, and you’ll probably wind up with your fifth choice. But that’s okay, it’s not like you wanted to take any of these classes anyway. In Expos, you will learn how to write like a college student, which on paper means delving deeper into texts and getting a better grasp on the material, but for you will mean staying in the library until 3am, trying to BS your way through a first draft with an argument you don’t actually agree with.


Welcome naïve pre-meds and potential science concentrators! This class is designed to weed out those of you who will never make the cut as a science concentrator. If you don’t totally hate everything about chemistry and biology by the time you finish this course, congratulations! You can make it as a scientist. If not, you should have just put your pride aside and taken LPSA. Psets are hard, but at least you get to collaborate with friends, and have a week to complete them. The punch line is that the tests are just as hard, if not harder, and you only get 2 hours to do it, all by yourself.

Ec 10

We know that you’re going to take this class anyway, so we’re not going to waste our time putting an effort into getting you to like it. I mean, just look at the course description. You think you’re living the true Harvard experience by attending a class taught by one of the country’s best economists, but he only lectures six times the entire semester.

SLS 20

We know that most of you guys are humanities kids trying to fulfill that SLS gen ed, so we’ll try to put as little science as possible into this course. You’ll love it too, because you get to watch crazy videos of blind people making their way through an obstacle course and babies being their adorable dumb selves. You’ll learn about how the mind works, but never actually apply any of it to your life. For example, memory is better consolidated if you start studying weeks ahead of time, but you’ll still start only the day before the exam. Speaking of exams, this class is basically a huge psychological experiment seeing how far we can push you guys until your heads literally explode while taking a test. So will you a) take this class b) not take this class c) maybe take this class d) both a and c e) all of the above except d?

Gov 20

This class ensures that you can understand what the pundits on CNN and MSNBC are discussing. Hopefully after this class, the world won’t seem as confusing as before. However, you’re gonna have to do a ton of readings to get to that point. Sure, you’ll dread it, but you’ll still love Levitsky and you know it—have you seen that 4.20 Q score? Killin’ it.

CS 50

Computer science is taking over the job market these days, so for those of you who want a job after college, you should probably take this course. You and 800 other kids—good luck on finding a seat. Most people who take this class don’t even have any experience in CS, which means that this is going to be hard for them, oh well. The struggles serve to unite students, and then pull them into a cult known as CS 50. Join us. Don’t question us.

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