Build Your Academic Support System

It is important to build your own network of resources and people to support you while you do your graduate work at Harvard. In addition to the many resources provided by the GSAS, there are a number of offices within the Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE), including the ARC, that support both undergraduate and graduate students. Those OUE offices are amongst the resources highlighted below, but there are many more resources available to you! Please visit the GSAS website for a full list of graduate student resources.  

Key Resources for Graduate Students

Academic Resource Center (ARC)

The ARC is here to provide academic resources for all GSAS students at any point in their graduate studies at Harvard. We offer academic coaching, accountability groups, discussion panels, workshops, and ESL peer consultations.

When should I go to the ARC?  

Graduate students come to the ARC at many different points during their time at Harvard and for many different reasons, so you use the ARC's services at any time! Consider checking in with the ARC when you feel like you aren’t as engaged or productive in your scholarly pursuits as you could be. You may be referred to the ARC (e.g., an adviser suggested you plan your work out for the semester; AEO suggested you get some tips on self-regulation), or you may decide to come on your own (e.g., to get tips on curbing procrastination or on reading more efficiently). We encourage every GSAS student to try the ARC. And, if we’re not the right office to help you, we’ll point you in the right direction so you can find the people who are.

Accessible Education Office (AEO)

The AEO helps students get course accommodations for visible and invisible disabilities, including temporary conditions like concussions.

When should I go to the AEO?

When you have a diagnosis for a condition, disease, or disability that could affect your ability to access course materials or assessments. Accommodations can’t be retroactively implemented, so make sure you reach out to AEO early, just in case you run into problems. Please note that the AEO does not assess students itself, but provides guidelines for how students can register a diagnosis from a medical professional.  

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Advisers

GSAS students may have several advisers assigned to them during their time at Harvard. Advisers are here to guide you through some parts of the journey to your degree. This guidance may include things like preparing for general exams or writing your dissertation; it may also include career goals, fellowship applications, conference papers, and other academic, professional, and life challenges.

When should I go to an adviser?

More often than you probably think you should! Relationships with advisers can vary in scope and frequency of meetings, but it is important to get to know your adviser and be proactive in asking questions. Don’t wait until you have spent too much time working on a project that may be going in the wrong direction or until a problem has become bigger than it needs to be.

Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

Through workshops, teaching conferences, classroom observations, and one-on-one consultations, the Bok Center helps graduate students learn how to become more effective teachers.

When should I go to the Bok Center?

You should go to the Bok Center whenever you have questions about teaching and learning, classroom best practices, effective communication, etc. You can ask questions about the role of Teaching Fellows in the classroom, faculty and student expectations, developing a lesson plan, facilitating classroom discussion, creating an inclusive classroom, and more.

For international PhD students, the Bok Center's Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars provides training and resources to improve communication, public speaking, or teaching skills for the Harvard classroom. As you think about your language and communication needs and goals, the Bok Center is a great starting point and can provide direct support as well as referrals to other campus resources.

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Counseling and Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

CAMHS is there to help you navigate any distress or mental health issues you might encounter while at Harvard. Their services include one-on-one counseling and group workshops.

When should I go to CAMHS?

As soon as you need it, or even preventatively. Mental health issues can show up in subtle ways at first, so try to keep your lines of communication open and check in with yourself frequently.

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Fellowships and Writing Center (FWC)

At the Fellowships and Writing Center, graduate students can learn about internal and external awards, get assistance with applying for those awards, and get help on their writing and presentation skills.

When should I go to the Fellowships and Writing Center?

You can go to the FWC at any point in your academic journey as a graduate student at Harvard, from the first stages of looking for information on fellowships to the final stages of getting feedback on your dissertation. The FWC offers support through individual consultations, workshops, small writing groups, and other programming.

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Office of Career Services (OCS)

The Office of Career Services can help you identify your passions and how they intersect with career options after you leave Harvard. They also assist with internships.

When should I go to OCS?

When you have a career or internship-related question. The ARC and OCS can help you develop your educational and professional goals in different ways, so you might consider using them both if you’re unsure of how to set priorities for your time and energies while at Harvard. 

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Office of Student Services

The Office of Student Services is usually the starting place for graduate students seeking help.

When should I go to the Office of Student Services?

You should go the Office of Student Services whenever you need advice or support. Whether you are trying to navigate academic challenges or manage personal difficulties, the Office of Student Services is available to assist in whatever way they can. They will also help you connect with other student support services within the GSAS and Harvard and beyond.

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Professors, Lecturers, Preceptors, and Teaching Fellows/Assistants

The teaching staff for your courses is there to help you learn and engage in your academic journey.

When should I go to a course’s teaching staff?

When you have specific questions about the material or want to make personal connections with the people who are teaching you. Pay attention to the stated support structures for your courses: if they don’t seem to be enough to help you succeed, then come to the ARC where we can strategize with you about study skills and resources.


A Note on Contacting Teaching Staff and Advisers via Email 

Graduate students often worry about how to initiate contact with someone through email, resulting in procrastination, anxiety, and lost opportunities. The following tips may help: 

Err on the side of formality.

  • Keep your tone respectful. Write in full sentences, leave out emojis, and do not use slang. Later emails can mirror your recipient’s level of formality.
  • Address individuals as “Professor,” “Dean,” “Dr.,” or another appropriate title. Begin with “hello” or “dear” rather than “hi.” 

Keep it simple.

  • Use a clear subject line like “Roxanne Peters - Advising Appointment” or “Kwame Pierce - Meeting about _____ class.”  
  • In the body, if the recipient may not know who you are, introduce yourself in the first sentence, e.g., “I am a student in your ____ class,” “I am intrigued by your article on _____,” etc.   
  • If needed, use a short sentence like “When you get a moment, I would like to get your thoughts on __________” or “I would like to discuss _________  with you.” Make sure the “________” here is short!
  • Be polite and respectful of your instructor’s or adviser’s time. “Might you have time to meet for [say about how long, and on what medium] in the next week or two?” 
  • Conclude with “sincerely,” “warmly,” “thank you,” or something similar. 

If you would like some input on writing email, such as the tone and formality level that apply to your situation, then sign up for an appointment with an Academic Coach or attend a workshop on working with faculty. The ARC can guide you through crafting your email, interpreting responses from faculty, or connecting you with resources to help you advocate for yourself.

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