Bureau of Study Counsel

Mon.–Fri., 8:30 am–5:30 pm
Linden Street, 617-495-2581
Fax: 617-495-7680; email: bsc@harvard.edu

NOTE: Our hours and services are likely to change in 2009-2010. Please visit our Website for the most current information.

The Bureau of Study Counsel is Harvard’s center for academic and personal development. Bureau services are designed to help students engage in their academic work, make meaning of their lives, think critically, make thoughtful choices, develop a sense of voice and authority in their scholarship, cultivate healthy relationships, and thrive in the university environment.

The Harvard College experience is one of extraordinary opportunity, which typically comes with heightened external demands and internal pressures. Bureau services support students in their efforts to develop their intellectual, emotional, and social potential. All students can benefit from such support in this challenging environment and during such a transformative period in their lives. There is no charge to undergraduates for Bureau services, except for minimal fees for peer tutoring, ESL peer consultation, and the Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies, which are subsidized by the College and may be further offset by financial aid.

Services include:

Academic and Personal Counseling

Counseling is available on a confidential basis to help students adjust to their transition to Harvard, explore their own learning goals and styles, cope with the challenges of an exciting and demanding environment, define their motivation and aspirations, and resolve situational conflicts and difficulties.  Counseling can help students improve their learning skills and strategies (such as reading, note-making, exam-taking, time management, procrastination, memory, public speaking, writing, etc.), and address broader academic and personal concerns (such as relationships, motivation, stress, perfectionism, creativity, important life events, future direction, etc.).

Counseling can also help students enhance their engagement in their learning and in their lives, and deepen their connection to what really matters to them. Many students appreciate that the Bureau offers a reflective space, apart from everyday pressures and demands, where they can have the sorts of conversations that enable them to find a sense of perspective, purpose, and passion. For students who need or request services beyond those provided by the Bureau (such as medical care or ongoing mental health treatment), a Bureau counselor can help the student get connected to appropriate resources in other HUHS departments or private services in the local area.

Peer Tutoring and ESL Peer Consultation

As a supplement to formal course instructions, peer tutoring is available through the Bureau in any subject or course (particularly in mathematics, natural sciences, and languages). Peer tutors help students master the subject matter of a course and explore new ways of learning. Peer tutors are undergraduates who have done honors work in the courses for which they tutor, and are trained and supervised by the Bureau. Peer consultation for students who speak English as a Second Language (ESL) is also available. ESL peer consultation provides assistance with conversational and cultural skills. The ESL peer consultants, trained and supervised by the Bureau, are undergraduates who have a strong interest in working with students from other cultures and speak at least one language other than English.  

Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies

The Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies is a non-credit mini-course that helps students adapt their accustomed ways of reading and learning to university-level work, including the rigors of a heavy workload, unfamiliar material, and self-direction. The lessons and exercises in the course are designed to meet several goals: to foster knowledge, understanding, and self-awareness about reading, concentrating, and studying; to provide practice in giving up old ways of approaching one’s work and learning new ones; to teach strategies of studying more effectively and efficiently; and to make possible a greater sense of purpose, engagement, and meaning in one’s experience of learning. Students find that they increase their reading speed without sacrificing comprehension. There is no homework other than for students to try out the strategies they are learning on the homework they already have for their current courses. The Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies is offered twice each term and once during the summer.

Workshops and Discussion Groups

The Bureau offers workshops and discussion groups on topics related to college life and work, such as assertiveness, time management, procrastination, cultural adjustment, relationships, making the best use of reading period, and preparing for exams. Workshops and discussion groups can provide a safe context for self-exploration, interpersonal support, skill-building, and problem-solving.

Study Skills Resources

The Bureau of Study Counsel offers both online and paper resources designed to assist students with the perplexities and challenges of academic life. See the Self Help section of our Website for an extensive array of materials, including online learning self-assessments; links to tips, guides, and other resources related to academic success; and books, articles, and workbooks on study skills and college life. Or stop by the Bureau and visit the Cranium Corner, our library of handouts and other materials related to college learning styles and strategies.

Previous Course Examinations

Reviewing course examinations from previous years is a useful method for discerning the sort of scholarship that is valued in a given course. Previous examinations can help orient students to the nature of a course’s inquiry and can provide material for review. Final examinations from previous years are available on the web at www.fas.harvard.edu/~exams. Students are encouraged to bring a copy of a previous exam to a Bureau counseling session to use as a reference point for talking about how to approach studying for and taking exams.


The Bureau provides consultation and training to members of the Harvard community regarding issues of student development and college life, or regarding specific students or situations (within the bounds of confidentiality). The Bureau provides orientation, training, and supervision of peer counselors (in partnership with the HUHS Mental Health Services), academic peer tutors, and study center peer facilitators. Bureau staff members maintain affiliations with the residential Houses and the Yard dormitories, take part in House/Yard activities, and provide workshops or presentations by request on topics of current interest to students. Bureau staff also serve as non-resident academic advisers to new students. Bureau counselors are available for confidential consultation to members of the extended Harvard community on any issue that affects students’ lives and activities.


Students regularly speak with Bureau counselors about highly private and personal matters. As a department of HUHS, the Bureau shares with HUHS a commitment to affording students the maximum protection available by law to maintain their confidentiality, serve their best educational/developmental interests, and protect their safety and the safety of the community. Bureau counselors use their discretion and professional judgment to apply the strictest confidentiality protections applicable to each circumstance. One distinction of note is that the Bureau operates primarily in an educational context, while the HUHS Mental Health Service operates primarily in a health care context, so confidentiality policies and procedures may differ between the two services.

The confidentiality of records related to academic services (such as tutoring, the Reading Course, groups and workshops, etc.) is protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law which protects all student education records. Information related to a student’s use of counseling is also held to confidentiality standards that are applied to sensitive health or mental health information under Massachusetts law. This means that a Bureau counselor will not convey information related to a student’s counseling to any party outside HUHS (including the student’s deans, professors, or parents) without first consulting with and obtaining permission from the student. Counseling information may be shared without a student’s permission only in very rare circumstances, such as when disclosure is allowed or required by law to comply with a court order or to ensure the safety of the student or the community.

For more information regarding the confidentiality of health and mental health records, see the HUHS Notice of Privacy Practices. For more information regarding the confidentiality of educational records, see the Education Records. Students with confidentiality concerns or questions are invited to consult with a Bureau counselor, 617-495-2581, or the HUHS Patient Advocate, 617-495-7583.

accessThe first floor of the Bureau is accessible by wheelchair.