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Two Degrees Through Harvard Advanced Standing

imjustastudentimjustastudent Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
I’m going to be in the Class of 2023, the last year that Advanced Standing is valid for Harvard students, and I’m really interested in getting a masters in Comparative Literature, but also love the Classics. I know this is more of a question for an academic advisor, but I want to hear from Harvard students who have done/are doing the Masters program through Advanced Standing: can you get an AM and an AB at the same time by doing Advanced Standing and joint concentrating? And if it’s possible, do you think that it would be too much?

Replies to: Two Degrees Through Harvard Advanced Standing

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,751 Senior Member
    edited April 21
    As so few student's at Harvard opt for Advanced Standing, your chances of finding someone on College Confidential to answer your questions seems a bit futile. I would contact the Advanced Standing Office with your questions: https://oue.fas.harvard.edu/advisors

    FWIW: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/2/1/advanced-standing-vs-stanford/
    While Harvard does not publish the number of students pursuing Advanced Standing, Noël Bisson, associate dean of undergraduate education, previously said only a “tiny” amount of students choose to do so. According to Harvard’s online alumni directory, at least 40 students—a small fraction of the approximately 1600 total seniors—graduated from the College in 2017 with both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
  • skieuropeskieurope Super Moderator Posts: 42,917 Super Moderator
    The 4th year master's degree is one of those things (MIT cross-registration is another) that looks great in theory to newly admitted students, but the reality is somewhat different. Setting aside the need for a master's in comparative literature, or the impact to your non-academic life, yes, it can be done. But at what cost?

    First, you basically need to start from day one with a laser-focus on the goal, and plan out a 4-year course schedule. Then, the scheduling stars have to align so that any course you want to take is offered, and is not offered at a time with another course you need for the concentration. Then you need to hope that any course for the concentration does not conflict with a gen ed course you want (or you need to be willing to take a less-than-desirable gen ed).

    As @gibby noted, very few students end up pursuing
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 18,277 Senior Member
    Here's the thing:

    For the past 4+ years, an important focus of your life (and especially your academic life) has been to stand out among the 40,000 or so people in your age cohort who would be applying for admission to Harvard. You, and lots of other people, probably did all kinds of academic acrobatics so that your application would practically jump to the top of the pile. You had to be first in everything, do more than anyone, accumulate certifications of your specialness, etc.

    You are never going to be in that kind of situation again.

    Sure, you may aspire to really rarefied honors -- a Rhodes Scholarship, a Supreme Court clerkship, a Fields Medal, a Nobel Prize -- but all of those things involve a longer-term winnowing down of the candidate pool, so by the time you are actually in competition for something there are far fewer qualified candidates per slot than with Harvard admissions, and the decisionmakers can pay more attention to (and care more about) the actual details of what you have done and what kind of person you are than the flashy things on your resume. Once you are certain you are actually in the pool of qualified candidates -- and for that, it's really important to ace the core qualifications, not to perform all sorts of collateral stunts -- it's the depth of your skills, your relationships with your mentors, and your actual character that will make the difference, not whether you have an extra degree here or there.

    And apart from those really rarefied situations -- or from trying to get a tenure-track university appointment in the humanities -- you will be amazed at how many opportunities the world offers for smart, capable people. The difficulty is much less in finding a job than in deciding what it is you want to do. An extraneous masters degree won't help you with that at all.

    People do accumulate masters degrees, but usually it's for some reason, good or bad. My daughter has two. One she got because working towards it was a requirement of her first job, and getting it increased her pay. The other she got because her second employer was willing to pay for it, and she was able to pick up some technical skills she didn't have that made her a better candidate for future jobs. My son went into a terminal masters program after two disappointing rounds of PhD applications. The original point was to work on the weaknesses in his PhD application. A few months in, with a lot more contact with actual PhD students than he had had in the past, he decided he didn't want to do what they were doing. Instead he used the program to add technical skills to his resume. Those skills got him a job he wanted. He could have gotten them while he was an undergraduate in the same field, but back then he hadn't known enough about what he actually wanted to do to focus on them. A couple friends of his did simultaneous bachelors/masters degrees, because the masters degree would qualify them for a specific type of job they wanted. That's pretty rare, though.
  • imjustastudentimjustastudent Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Thank you all for the insight. My biggest incentive for taking this route would be a leg up in the job market with an AM rather than an AB. As for why I want to get two degrees in two equally obscure fields like Comp Lit and Classics, those just happen to be the two things that interest me the most. While this probably sounds like every passionate freshman before they’ve explored the breadth of their university’s offerings, I really can’t imagine studying anything else.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 18,277 Senior Member
    In what job market do you think having a masters degree in Classics or Comp Lit gives you "a leg up"?

    Comp Lit, especially -- I think it's very much a roll-your-own department at Harvard. No one can possibly know what it means without some further inquiry.
  • imjustastudentimjustastudent Registered User Posts: 7 New Member
    Publishing, marketing, journalism, HR, PR etc
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 18,277 Senior Member
    Publishing: I think the literary end of publishing is a field where you are not getting hired off your resume and transcript. It's a matter of contacts, networking. Harvard will give you plenty of opportunities for that. You also have to be able to afford taking a job that doesn't pay anywhere near a living wage in NYC at the entry level. In the business end of publishing, the base is an MBA.

    Journalism: It's all about what you have done, not your degree. Plus hustle.

    HR: A masters in HR would help. Not Comp Lit.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,519 Senior Member
    If you enjoy these fields, maybe spending the full 4 years as an undergrad would be a great experience for you. My hope is that you can slow down a bit and enjoy.
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