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Advice for First-Year Students


Welcome to Harvard! We’re glad you’re interested in Computer Science. If you would like to explore a concentration in Computer Science, a great way to begin is by taking CS and Math courses in your first year. If, however, you don’t discover Computer Science until your sophomore year, it’s not too late to start.


Computer Science concentrators will need a strong foundation in mathematics in order to succeed.

Our primary advice for first-year students is to follow your Math placement.

We strongly encourage students interested in computer science to take the Applied Math 22a: Solving and Optimizing and Applied Math 22b: Integrating and Approximating sequence, as these courses are designed to help prepare students for the kind of mathematics required of computer scientists. Instead of Applied Math 22b, students may also consider Stat 110: Introduction to Probability.

If you do not have a strong background in discrete mathematics, you may also want to plan to take CS 20: Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science to prepare for theory courses.

CS Courses

There are several courses to consider in your first year.

Fall term

CS 50: Introduction to Computer Science is our introduction to the concentration and computer science. It is a popular course among concentrators and non-concentrators alike. 68% of CS50 students have never taken CS before.

CS 61: Systems Programming and Machine Organization Some students may already have the background to skip CS 50, and CS 61 is a great course on systems programming.

Spring term

CS 51: Abstraction and Design in Computer Science is the next step from CS 50.

CS 10: Elements of Data Science

CS 20: Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science

Additional Resources

We suggest exploring this website for more information about the concentration and requirements. Many students find our page on courses that count towards the concentration especially helpful.

To engage with the Computer Science Community, we suggest reaching out the Peer Concentration Advisors, joining the CS Undergraduate Piazza for thoughts from your peers, and getting involved with CS-related clubs and activities.

If you have any questions about CS at Harvard, please don’t hestitate to contact us!