Guest Blog: The Economics Advising Team

Greetings from the Economics Department Advising Office.  As the largest concentration at Harvard, we in Econ have a dedicated team of advisors (a.k.a., The A-Team) to assist undergraduate economics concentrators.

What is the “advising office,” you wonder? With around 800 concentrators, doling out advice and helping said concentrators can be a bit daunting.  Enter: the Ec Advising Office, where some interesting people can help you find your way around our lovely Department. We also have a steady supply of coffee, tea, chocolate, and an occasional puppy.  Yes, that’s right—we have puppies.

Who is in the advising office, you wonder?  We have five dedicated advisors, our Undergrad Program Assistant Emily Neill (who doubles as a fashion consultant), and the Director of Undergrad Studies Professor Jeffery Miron.  Jeff doesn’t live in the advising office like the rest of us, but he visits a lot (…mainly for the coffee and puppies). 

What happens in the advising office, you wonder?  Our Advising Office is the hub of excitement in the Economics Department.  Throughout the year, we host a variety of events for concentrators.  On a typical day, we answer all sorts of questions, sign forms, engage in deep conversations about economics and the world, and help people select a flavor of tea.  Here is a non-random sample of our conversations with students this week.  For anonymity, names have been changed.

  • Jinyuan, a senior, wanted to know when he’ll get his honors exams result.  Patience, dear.  It’ll take a few weeks and you have papers to write. We’ll be in touch. 
  • Maria, a junior, wants to take some graduate level Ec courses during her senior year and wondered what math background she needs.
  • Guy-in-a-red-shirt couldn’t find the bathroom.  Out the door, to the left, then a quick right at the elevators.  No worries.
  • Josh, a grad student (gasp!), came by to steal some coffee.  It’s not even that good, dude!
  • Brian, a junior, wants to write an honors thesis and was wondering what he can do over summer break to prepare.  We had a lovely talk, and he is pumped to get started on research.

 Throughout the academic year, we get a huge variety of questions.  Some A-Team favorites: 

  “OMG am I, like, totally going to be lost in the sea of Ec concentrators?”  Well, you could, like, totally get lost in the shuffle… but you don’t have to get lost in the shuffle.  You can absolutely have meaningful interactions with faculty, get to know them, and have them get to know you. 

In fact, many Econ professors’ office hours are often empty.  Most professors enjoy interacting with students. You should totally take advantage of office hours.  You can invite your favorite prof to a faculty dinner and have a nice chat over a delicious meal.  You can attend one of our many weekly seminars and chat with a prof afterward. 

  • Does being an Econ concentrator mean I have to work on Wall Street after I graduate?”  No.  While many of our students pursue careers in finance, so do many students from other concentrations.  You can focus on any of a number of Ec subfields: game theory, labor, development, environmental econ, political economy, health, psych and econ, and more.  Or, you can study Ec while you’re a student just because it’s super fun, and then do something completely different when you graduate!
  • “What GPA in Econ will guarantee me an awesome job when I graduate?”  First: relax.  Consider taking up yoga.  Second: no GPA can guarantee anything.  When you look for a job someday, you are a package; your GPA is only one part of that.  You also have a personality, interests, extra-curricular accomplishments, character, hopes, dreams, and more.  Don’t get so focused on a number.

So, there you have it: a glimpse into the Econ Advising Office.  Why do we all spend our time here, you wonder?  Economics provides a fascinating way of examining the world.  It’s a way of thinking about how people, companies, and countries work, and why we observe certain phenomena.  There are many opportunities here at Harvard to learn economics from some of the world’s best economists.  There are also many opportunities to put what you learn into action via student groups, studying abroad, interacting with amazing visiting speakers, researching questions important to you, and much more.

Our office helps students interested in Economics make the most of their time here and get ready for life beyond Harvard.  That’s a pretty neat thing to be a part of, and is why we’re all here (…though we like the coffee and puppies too).

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