We like to say that CS teaches you how to think more methodically and how to solve problems more effectively. As such, its lessons are applicable well beyond the boundaries of CS itself.
But CS is also, more generally, the study of information. How do you represent it? With what methods (aka algorithms) can you process it?
Perhaps the most liberal answer, though, is that CS “has no exclusive domain of its own, and that its importance comes from the problems to which it is applied.” And therein lies the excitement. CS empowers you with tools and ideas that can be applied to practically any domain of interest to you, both in college and beyond.
Contrary to popular belief, CS is not really about programming, even though you do learn how to program. Programming languages are tools that Computer Scientists use or create in order to solve problems of interest to them.
The Computer Science concentration has the following learning outcomes for our graduates:
Academic computer science extends far beyond programming (though it does include programming). It provides students with a foundational understanding of the strengths and limitations of information and computation. This perspective is practically important—it helps students quickly adapt to new computational systems and approaches. It has also been increasingly revealed as a beautiful way to understand the world.
“Think of your freedom of choice - of what courses to take, of how to spend your Sunday afternoons, whatever - as a commodity that is precious in and of itself. It’s your life, even at Harvard: enjoy it”
At Harvard, computer science is part of a dynamic hub that links to fields such as electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, and biology, and to professions such as medicine and business.
You could see the field as the “planning and building” that fosters the sciences and engineering throughout the campus and informs our digital society. The computer industry - in fact, every part of our society and every type of business - needs a generation of skilled individuals who possess a new way of thinking, a new way of approaching research, and a new way of doing business.
That means …
What our computer science faculty do, you can do. We emphasize a hands-on, immersive approach.
Computer Science 50: Introduction to Computer Science provides an excellent starting point. Many non-concentrators take CS 50 as a way to learn to think logically and use computers effectively. If you have completed CS 50 or a similar course prior to arriving at Harvard, CS 61: Systems Programming and Machine Organization is a good choice for the fall. If you have a strong background in both math and computer science, you may also start with CS 121: Introduction to Theoretical Computer Science.