Question For Current Students About Freshman Classes

<p>I have to get my schedule settled soon, so I have a some questions about a few classes.</p>

<p>First, how much chemistry is involved in LS 1a and 1b? What specific chemistry topics are covered? I never took AP chemistry in high school (only basic honors chemistry), but I feel very prepared for any biology component of the course.</p>

<p>Second, how much do math 21a and 21b build off topics learned in BC calculus? I never took that class (only AB). I've heard some students in my position have done well in 21a and 21b. I was thinking about just studying the BC topics independently, but I was wondering if it would be better just to take Harvard's BC equivalent and then go on to multivariable calc.</p>

<p>Third, is it worth it to take a freshman seminar? I'm really not terribly interested in many of the offerings. I'd almost rather just get some requirements out of the way. What are the benefits and disadvantages of seminars?</p>

<p>To sum up, my main goal is really not to fall behind others given that my high school preparation is definitely not up to par with what a lot of other kids have. I just want to know the content and difficulty levels of these classes so that I don't make the mistake of taking on more than I can handle this fall.</p>


<p>I graduated back in the 1990’s. I was in the same situation… I had AB Calculus, but not BC. I scored a 5 on the AB Calc exam, and decided to self-study all the BC topics over the summer. When you arrive at Harvard, they will give you a math placement test that covers through BC calculus. If you do well enough on the placement test, you can jump into Math 21a. Otherwise, they will make you take Math 1b. You absolutely do need the material in Math 1b for the 21ab sequence… don’t think you can just skip that material… it covers important topics like applications of integration, integration techniques, and taylor series.</p>

<p>I would trust the placement test to put you in the right class.</p>



<p>I took LS1b which is a genetics/genomics/evolution course. I don’t think it had any chemistry. If it did, it was at a very very rudimentary level.</p>

<p>I didn’t take LS1a but I vaguely remember helping people with their psets from my AP Chem knowledge. I’d hold out for a response on here from someone who took the class though. </p>



<p>I took 21a but not 21b, so again I can only be 50% helpful. But 21a definitely needs topics covered in BC. Are they self-studyable? Sure. But you should consider your priorities before you decide to jump into 21a rather than Math 1b. There may be no advantage to doing so. </p>

<p>A lot of my friends who took Calc BC in high school thought it was insufficient preparation for 21a, so they took 1b in the Fall and 21a in the Spring. You might consider that. With respect to the placement tests, they really only give you a broad range of classes you can possibly take. For example, my placement test said I could take 21, 23, 25, or 50. Except I would have failed the latter three hard. Even if you self-study really hard and the placement test says you can take 21a, it might not be worth the GPA hit.</p>



<p>Depends on the seminar. Some are really great opportunities to get to know professors in fields you’re interested in. On the other side of the spectrum, freshman seminars can be a great opportunity to explore a field you have 0 background in, with minimal risk since it’s pass/fail. I would shop one and drop it if you don’t like it. No reason to limit your options. </p>



<p>“Fall behind” doesn’t really mean much at Harvard. It isn’t like high school where there are AP kids vs honors kids. You can really only fall behind relative to your own goals, or in rare cases concrete goals like pre-med requirements. But even in the case of pre-med, it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day if you started with 1b or 21a. The only reason I would take 21a over 1b is if 1b would be highly repetitive and boring to you, as it would have been to me since my high school had a strong BC class. What “others” take is irrelevant, especially since you’ve already fallen behind some of your Harvard peers as of 5th grade. Seriously.</p>

<p>Thanks harvard<em>and</em>berkeley and Dwight! Your answers really helped.
I’m definitely going to avoid jumping into math 21. And Dwight, thank you for putting the whole “falling behind” concept into perspective.</p>

<p>So Calc AB and Calc BC aren’t actually the respective equivalents of Math 1a and Math 1b. Calc AB teaches all of the Math 1a curriculum and also all of the material in Math 1b except for series. Series really isn’t used in Math 21a or 21b, and don’t really need to be studied for further math classes because those concepts will be reviewed later on. Thus taking Calc AB should be adequate preparation for Math 21a if you would like to take it.</p>

<p>I think it’s difficult to shop both Math 1b and 21a because of the sectioning process, so another option would be to section for Math 1b and to shop Applied Math 21a, which is a lecture course that has no sectioning system in the sense that the Math department’s calculus classes do.</p>

<p>Ls1a had almost zero chemistry knowledge involved. You definitely don’t need AP chem.</p>