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Preparing for Graduate School with Summer Study at Harvard

Four ways to ensure your studies will strengthen your application to graduate school.

7/31/2014 | Academics | 3 minute read

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Preparing for graduate school? By carefully selecting your Harvard Summer School courses and taking advantage of University resources, you can enhance your academic credentials and, ultimately, strengthen your graduate school application.

We offer the following tips.


1. Select courses strategically

Choose courses that complement previous course work, but get specific. If your area is biology, you might enroll in a topic course like Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology or The Biology of Cancer.

You could also take a course in a different discipline that’s related to your major. This will give you a broader perspective on the field.

A psychology major could choose Adolescent Literature to illuminate this developmental stage from a different perspective. An economics major could take a sociology course, like Globalization and Global Justice.

If you are currently an undergraduate, take advantage of courses that are not offered at your college or university.

2. Get to know your professor

Search for courses taught by Harvard professors. And once in class make the most of the experience.

If you plan to ask for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member at the end of the summer, distinguish yourself in class. Ask pertinent and informed questions. Attend office hours and learn about the professor’s published works so you can engage in meaningful discussions.

Also, start your papers early so you can discuss topics and research with your instructor. You can also get feedback from Writing Center tutors.

3. Engage in research

Take advantage of one of the world’s largest academic library systems. Don’t limit yourself to the electronic resources. Explore Widener Library and the many discipline-specific libraries, such as the Cabot Science Library or the Harvard Law School Library. Learn about the libraries.

You can also consider research methods and theory courses, such as Graduate Research Methods and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences: Government and History to begin preparing you for graduate study.

4. Learn a third language

Finally, many graduate schools require applicants to have more than one foreign language. When you are preparing for graduate school, consider learning how to read French or German. Or something less traditional like Sanskrit.

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