How hard are Harvard classes?

<p>Is it true that getting and "A" in a class is very difficult? About how much time do you have to dedicate per course every week? I'm still in high school...What can I do to prepare for the course load? (Speed reading classes? College prep courses? et cetera...)
Thanks!</p>

<p>Current Freshman here. The workload of Harvard classes is generally manageable and the grading is historically lax. Math/Science classes inherently have more work than humanities/social sciences though that is not always true. From my experience a B+/A- is relatively easy to attain if you do the work (Gentleman's B policy). I've heard that 2/3 of all grades are in the A range. The majority of GPAs usually fall in the ~3.4 to ~3.8 spectrum. Though it is a bit of a sweeping statement, those that correctly select a schedule generally don't have many time complaints. </p>

<p>Contrast this with places like Penn and Duke that deflate grades. In many classes at Wharton As are capped at 10% of the class. When you're in a class with many other intelligent people and the curve is set on a C+, it becomes difficult to earn very good grades.</p>

<p>I find Harvard's generally non-competitive atmosphere much more amiable to real, effective learning. As an alumnus once said, "Harvard is like an enjoyable Sunday afternoon".</p>

<p>I thought that Harvard had made efforts to address grade inflation, and that only a small percentage of students in each class get A's. But not sure.</p>

<p>I have heard that there is a large amount of reading in humanities courses (600 pages/week) and that the trick is learning how to keep up without reading all of it. This is perhaps easier for those who went to rigorous high schools. Those who went to less than stellar high schools, who are used to doing all the reading assigned, make an adjustment quickly.</p>

<p>Some classes are "weeder" classes. I know of one freshman class, a full-year class, in which half the students dropped out mid-year to keep their low grades off their transcripts. Weeder classes are common in many schools, I think.</p>

<p>Comparison to a "Sunday afternoon," as if Harvard were a leisurely stroll, doesn't sound right to me at all. I have heard it is very rigorous, but also very enjoyable, so maybe more like a long Sunday afternoon jog.</p>

<p>I would relax about preparing for the workload while still in high school. If you enjoy learning and work hard at it, in a reasonable manner, you should be fine. Don't burn yourself out getting ready for something that you will probably be able to handle fine.</p>

<p>Our daughter loves Harvard. She does not look at her grades: perhaps that is a good strategy for keeping the focus where it should be.</p>

<p>really hard! come on, it's harvard! it's supposed to be the hardest in the world...</p>

<p>Harvard can be the hardest in the world, if you want it to be (I don't think it's possible to have a harder freshman fall than taking Math 55, Physics 16, Chem 20, and CS 50).</p>

<p>But Harvard can also be really easy - pack in a lot of pass/fail classes, "gut" electives (i.e. Psychology of Happiness), and the like.</p>

<p>You'll learn pretty quickly how to determine in shopping period whether a class is hard or easy, and adjust your schedule so you're challenging yourself in one or two classes, but also not overdoing things.</p>

<p>@Compmom - There's no campuswide effort to curb grade inflation at Harvard. And I really don't think there are "weedout" classes, in the sense that professors are going out of their way to make things difficult for students. Your daughter was probably referring to Life Sci 1a or 1b (or maybe CS 50) - not easy classes by any stretch of the imagination, but both classes that offer lots of support for struggling students, with things like remediation sessions, free tutors, lots of office hours, etc.</p>

<p>After reading this I am wodnering if the summer courses at Harvard are just as difficult as the regular courses like Calc I</p>

<p>Harvard seems like cake after reading this haha. But seriously, it probably depends on the work you put in and how efficient you are in your work. If you pick some hard class, then you are going to have to work super hard to get your A or A-. </p>

<p>But then again, this is the case at any university...</p>

<p>As a current Freshman, I think it entirely depends upon your schedule, as others have said. Two people can graduate from Harvard with two entirely different experiences. There are certainly classes that are pathetically easy and there are certainly classes that are very rigorous. I don't see why anyone would want to waste four years here taking all BS classes but, unlike high school, you don't really benefit from taking the most rigorous classes available to you. Most people find a happy middle-ground.</p>

<p>I think I'm willing to take rigorous courses here possible and get the most out of them. Still, would you current Harvard students say its manageable? I mean, most of you probably took many AP/IB courses in high school. Was the transition hard to get used to or to a certain extent, even easier?</p>

<p>No, it wasn't a science class that I was referring to as weeding out students in the first year.</p>

<p>I did not mean to imply, at all, any intention on the part of professors.</p>

<p>Some concentrations have first year classes that seem to set the bar, that is all. In the case of the full-year class I was referring to, it is true that half the students left mid-year. Many of those who stayed did not do that well. So, in a sense, it sort of tested the student's desire to be in that concentration.</p>

<p>But I do not think this was an effort to weed students out, so much as to present a rigorous course that demonstrated to students what would be expected of them in this department.</p>

<p>Has anyone ever received an A in Math 55?
If so, has anyone ever received a 4.0 when taking Math 55?</p>

<p>I am a freshman right now, for what it's worth. Getting an A is very difficult. For instance, I had one Professor in a social sciences class who, on an essay that counted as a midterm, only gave one solid "A" to a class of 40 or so students because he simply felt that only one paper warranted that grade. Other teachers grade more leniently. But, generally, getting a B+/A- is much easier than getting an A. An "A" is the highest distinction they can award and they do not devalue it. If I recall correctly, I read somewhere that social sciences give the lowest percentage of solid A's, followed by the natural sciences; the humanities give the most. In the social sciences it is easy to skate by with B's but very difficult to get an A in most cases. Natural sciences are harder to skate by at all in, and getting an A is similarly nasty, I think.</p>

<p>Basically you get an A if you kill yourself. Otherwise you'll probably get an A- or a B+. It is possible to get B/B- in Expos or Orgo though. I'm sure other "more challenging than usual" classes exist. </p>

<p>But bear in mind that most of the students at Harvard read hundreds of pages every week and work on their problem sets. = A-/B+ If you are committed to doing even more, you'll probably get an A.</p>

<p>I also agree that the most difficult part is getting the A. Some professors, especially in the humanities, are only willing to give A's for flawless work, while A-'s and B+'s are far more abundant (Harvard students, even when pressured, still produce great work). Even with a freshman seminar, I had to work my butt off for my A's this past semester.</p>

<p>@froshies - I think you'll find getting As at Harvard easier as you get into smaller, upper-level classes.</p>

<p>How are the language classes curved? </p>

<p>I'd like to take French (which I'm fairly proficient in) and Chinese (which I can speak but not write or read).</p>

<p>I've heard that Chinese is deathly difficult with tonnes of homework?</p>

<p>Are they tough with grades in the languages?</p>

<p>chinese is alot of work..</p>

<p>if i get accepted at harvard, i will more likely pursue a "language citation" while working on my concentration.... although i dont know whether i would pursue chinese or arabic. </p>

<p>Foreign</a> Language Citations</p>

<p>chinese is tough because of all the work associated with learning the characters... im part chinese, and i am extremely nervous about taking a chinese course XO</p>

<p>Intro Chinese is a beast - both in terms of difficulty of grading and just the volume of work. Mid->Upper level French classes would be much more reasonable.</p>

<p>^ ah...as i suspected. :(</p>

<p>I was reading on the Harvard website - would getting tutoring (in Chinese) while on campus be a good alternative to getting my literacy levels up without the extreme stress?</p>

<p>How readily available and/or helpful are they (if you know). </p>

<p>Thanks for your info! :D</p>

<p>ETA: Oh, and from the sounds of it, taking the 2 language combo of intermediate/upper level French + Chinese (Bx I think?) would be near fatal and highly discouraged?</p>

<p>Does anyone know someone who got an A in Math 55?</p>