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Harvard Sophomores Flock to Concentration Declaration Day for Pizza, Advising, and Photo Ops

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Saad Atif ’26 said he primarily attended Concentration Declaration Day — a two-hour long event organized by the Harvard Undergraduate Association Friday — to snag a slice of free pizza with a classmate.

But over the course of the afternoon, Atif decided to shift his concentration from Applied Math in Economics to a double concentration in Economics and Applied Math with a focus in Data Science.

“When we talked about the requirements that are needed for AM Data Science in comparison to Ec, I found out that I preferred most of them as well, while we were going through the courses that we have to take,” Atif said, recalling a conversation with a friend pursuing Applied Math with Data Science.

Concentration Declaration Day is an initiative led by the HUA’s Academic Team to celebrate sophomores declaring their concentrations. Hundreds of students swamped Harvard Yard for this year’s festivities, which featured a string of banners listing individual concentrations, free food, photo opportunities, and chats with concentration advisers.

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Students must formally declare their concentrations by Oct. 25, a deadline that was shifted up this year as the College moves to previous-term registration beginning with the spring 2024 semester.

“It’s nice to basically just see a lot of people I know be really excited about — even though really it’s only a nominal thing — declaration,” said Elena K. Lu ’26, who is declaring a joint concentration in Classics and History. “It’s nice to see everyone feel really excited about how they’re going to spend the next two-and-a-half years here.”

While last year’s event provided donuts, the HUA instead opted for Joe’s Pizza this year, which comprised the bulk of the $4,000 cost for Concentration Declaration Day.

Joseph A. Johnson ’26 said he enjoyed his time at Declaration Day, adding that he’s “never seen so much pizza in one place.”

Johnson said he was “particularly enthused” by a hand-held sign provided by the HUA that read “McKinsey here I come,” referring to the consulting firm that perennially attracts a large number of College graduates.

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Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, who attended the event, said in an interview that he was excited for sophomores declaring their concentrations. Still, he reiterated that one’s chosen concentration does not define them.

“Our goal is a liberal arts and science education, so think of it as being T-shaped,” Khurana said. “You want to have some depth, but you also want to be able to cut across because at the end of the day, the only thing that’s certain is that learning how to learn is going to be the most important thing you get out of this experience.”

Concentration Declaration Day was piloted last year as an early initiative of the newly formed student government body.

Though approximately 12 concentrations out of the total 50 concentrations offered at Harvard College — including several from the Applied Math department — had peer or faculty advisers present, according to HUA Academic Team Officer Peter E. Chon ’26, Atif said he did not speak to any advisers.

“If they had tables for different concentrations, it would have helped to go talk to advisers, sit down, have a chat. But given that all of the advisers are scattered over here, you can't really discern between a student and an advisor,” Atif said.

East Asian Studies Undergraduate Program Coordinator Naia Poyer said they expected to see designated tables for each of the individual concentrations. They brought a banner and handouts to the event to be more visible to potential concentrators.

“Not having tables associated with the flags makes it a little difficult, I think, for students to find their potential advisers,” Poyer said.

“I sort of get the sense that this event is really more of a communal activity for undergrads to sort of get together and celebrate,” Poyer added. “It seems like they’re having a lot of fun, but it seems very much more of a social and a rite of passage kind of event than anything to do with advising.”

HUA Co-President John S. Cooke ’25 said in an interview that specific stations for each concentration is a goal for next year’s iteration of the event.

“I think that’s something we'll implement next year, just so people can instantly find their advisers and their staff,” Cooke said.

Statistics Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies Joseph K. Blitzstein said he was pleased by the high turnout at the event.

“A bunch have been approaching me if they’re still deciding what to declare, or if they are planning to declare Statistics but still have some questions on courses and so on,” Blitzstein said. “I’ve just been eating pizza and let students approach me.”

Correction: October 24, 2023

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that advisers were not invited to the inaugural Delcaration Day event last year. In fact, they were.

—Staff writer Natalie K Bandura can be reached at natalie.bandura@thecrimson.com.

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