Course Credit Without Letter Grades

Students enrolling in courses without letter grades are reminded of the following requirements:

Transfer and Advanced Standing students should see Course Requirements for the Degree and other previous sections referring to them.

Freshman Seminars (Graded SAT/UNS)

Freshmen admitted to Freshman Seminars may be granted non-letter-grade credit up to a maximum of one full course. Freshmen may not ordinarily enroll in both a Freshman Seminar and another non-letter-graded course in any one term.

Courses Taken by Cross-Registration

(See Cross-Registration.)

Courses Graded Pass/Fail

Any undergraduate may, with the permission of the instructor, enroll in a course on a Pass/ Fail basis. There is no limit on the number of courses a student may take Pass/Fail as long as the student satisfies his or her requirements for letter-graded courses as outlined above. To enroll in a course on this basis, a student must designate Pass/Fail on the study card and obtain the signature of the course instructor. After the study card is filed, a student may change the grading status of a letter-graded or Pass/Fail course by filing a special change-of-course petition by the fifth Monday of the term. No course may be added Pass/Fail nor may the grading status of a course be changed after the fifth Monday of the term. A late study card filed after this date may not add a Pass/Fail course to the student’s schedule (see Change of Course).

Courses Graded SAT/UNS

Certain tutorial courses (see list) and Freshman Seminars are graded SAT/ UNS. In addition, House Seminars may be graded SAT/UNS at the option of the course instructor and with the approval of the Committee on Freshman Seminars. When so graded, House Seminars will not count toward the 10.5 satisfactory letter-graded course requirement.

Independent Study (Graded Pass/Fail)

Independent Study is designed to provide credit for field research, academic study not available in regular course work, or practice or performance in the arts. It is not suitable for group instruction, paid work, or activities outside the competence or concern of one of Harvard’s departments.

For example, studying the financial accounting system of a business firm might be an appropriate project, but working in an accounting office to gain business experience would not by itself merit academic credit. Investigating child development through observation in a day care center could qualify, but simply tutoring a child would not. Analyzing the organization of a political group might be a suitable subject, whereas organizing a political campaign would not alone suffice. In each case what distinguishes the suitable project is the application of analytical skills to the object of the Independent Study, not the intrinsic worthiness or instructiveness of the experience itself.

Any sophomore, junior, or senior whose previous record is satisfactory may petition to undertake Independent Study for non-letter-graded credit. A student may petition to take up to a total of four half-courses of Independent Study. Independent Study courses are subject to the same rules for dropping and withdrawing as any other course.

A petition to undertake Independent Study, available on the Advising Programs Office Website requires two signatures:

The petition also requires an outline of the student’s proposed project. It must be submitted to the Allston Burr Resident Dean for approval, ordinarily in the first week of the term. In addition, the Allston Burr Resident Dean must sign the appropriate space on the study card. Any change-of-course petition that is filed to add, drop, or withdraw from Independent Study also requires the signature of the Allston Burr Resident Dean. A separate petition, properly completed, must be filed for each half-course of Independent Study.

The adviser will assist the student in the development of a plan for Independent Study and provide guidance but not regular instruction. Independent Study does not imply regular formal instruction and should not be confused with tutorials or House Seminars or Supervised Reading and Research courses offered by several academic departments and committees. A student enrolled in Independent Study must undertake to work independently. Classroom work, regular instruction, and group projects are inadmissible. Students whose projects include interviews or research involving human subjects should contact the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects before submitting their Independent Study petition.

The adviser will submit a midterm grade based on a preliminary written report by the student of his or her activities. At the beginning of the Reading Period, the student must submit to the adviser an analytical paper concerning the term’s work. A simple description or report of the term’s activities is not by itself adequate. In the case of artistic practice or performance, evidence of substantial accomplishment should be supplied in lieu of written work.

The granting of credit will be determined by the adviser. In those cases where the adviser is not a voting member of a Harvard Faculty, the Chair or Head Tutor/Director of Undergraduate Studies of the department, or equivalent officer with voting membership in a Harvard Faculty, must review and approve the petition and the grade assigned by the adviser. Independent Study is graded “Pass” or “Fail.” The adviser will submit a copy of the student’s paper and a brief statement about his or her work for inclusion in the student’s folder in the Allston Burr Resident Dean’s office, ordinarily by the first day of the Examination Period.

Independent Study is not counted toward Core Curriculum or General Education requirements and is not normally counted toward concentration or secondary field requirements.

First-year students may not enroll in Independent Study. They may, however, seek special permission from the Freshman Dean’s Office to enroll in one Supervised Reading and Research course within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (91r- and 910r-level course category) if an appropriate member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has indicated a willingness to supervise.