Let’s cut to the chase: Harvard wants you to go off into the world as a well-rounded intellectual. And the Harvard gods think that the best way to do this is to make you take classes in these really obscure categories. Don’t worry—this is a good thing. It means you don’t absolutely 110% have to take calculus, but you might have to do a bunch of bullshit (read: bake cupcakes and write papers on the evolution of Pokémon).
Of course, in classic Harvard fashion, the system has changed, but not yet (technically) which means we’ve really got to break it down. This is admittedly more for our understanding than for yours.
The current system requires that you take at least one course in eight different categories: Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, Societies of the World, and United States in the World.
Another interesting feature: until the new system (see below) goes into place, any course you take that falls under current Gen Ed requirements will count going into the new system. You can, for example, take an SLS course and a SEAS distribution course (which you can verify in my.harvard) that is accepted under the new requirements, and receive credit for each one. Bottom line: if it fits the current categories or the future ones, you can count it as a Gen Ed and move on with your life. It’s confusing, we know, and we’re just as confused as you.
All students at the College must take four General Education courses—one from each of the following categories:
Each student must take one course from each of the three main FAS divisions:
Each student must take a course that demonstrates quantitative facility (say what?):
Honestly, you’re on your own with this one.