written by
Lucas Woodley

A Guide to Harvard’s Extracurriculars

Advisor Tips 5 min read

Getting Involved on Campus

Photo courtesy of Harvard University

Given the abundance of extracurriculars at Harvard, one can easily feel lost trying to wade through the hundreds of options. Luckily, Harvard’s clubs are broken down into a handful of different categories:

  • Academic & Pre-Professional
  • College Life
  • Creative and Performing Arts
  • Cultural and Racial Initiatives
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Government and Politics
  • Health and Wellness
  • Hobbies and Special Interests
  • Media and Publications
  • Peer Counseling and Peer Education
  • Public Service
  • Religious and Spiritual
  • Women’s Initiatives

Let’s go ahead and take a look at each of these thirteen categories so that you can get a broad understanding of extracurriculars at Harvard and what to expect from them.

This informational essay was written by Lucas Woodley, Harvard ‘23. If you want to get help writing your Harvard application essays from Lucas or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.
Photo courtesy of Harvard University

Academic & Pre-Professional

There are over 100 student organizations that are designated as “Academic & Pre-Professional” clubs at Harvard. The “Academic” groups are primarily centered around shared academic interests, such as statistics, chemistry, or computer science. These extracurriculars serve as useful opportunities for students to get to know their peers in the same field of study.

The “Pre-Professional” organizations’ main goal is to provide students with practical, real-world skills that will translate effectively to their future careers. Many of these organizations focus on consulting and corporate finance, and some groups may cover multiple categories.

The Personal Finance and Consulting Group, for example, does financial work in both the pre-professional sector and public service. Other organizations, like the Harvard Undergraduate Economics Association, bridge the gap between academic groups and pre-professional ones by hosting a mix of consulting and economics-based events.

College Life

Harvard’s “College Life” organizations are a much smaller collection of student groups that aim to provide social spaces and unique experiences to Harvard students. The specifics of each group varies widely. Some organizations, such as the College Events Board, focus on providing leadership and fellowship opportunities for students. Others, like the First-Year Social Committee, host campus-wide events each year. These events are designed to allow first-year students to meet one another and build strong support systems in their campus community.

Isaac Kohane | CC BY-NC 2.0

Creative and Performing Arts

The “Creative and Performing Arts” extracurriculars at Harvard range from musical groups (a cappella, orchestras, big band jazz ensembles, etc.) to theater and film groups. Harvard even has a few improv comedy clubs on campus.

These groups each put on multiple performances throughout the academic year. They can be a great way for students to continue pursuing any artistic passions they may have without fully committing as a major or minor.

Cultural and Racial Initiatives

These extracurriculars provide support and community to students of a similar cultural or racial background. Groups often host events to help establish social connections, encourage discussion, and provide mentorship. These organizations also frequently connect members with other industry leaders from similar backgrounds in order to help increase the visibility of people of color on and off Harvard’s campus.

Gender and Sexuality

These groups provide support and community to students of a similar sexuality. Groups often host events to help establish social connections with other group members, encourage discussion about issues related to sexuality, and provide mentorship.

Government and Politics

Many of these extracurriculars, such as the Harvard College Democrats and the Harvard Republican Club, are designed to increase Harvard students’ awareness of modern political issues. The model congress and model UN clubs also provide Harvard students with several options to become more engaged politically.

Depending on the current US general election cycle, there are also student groups that organize around specific political candidates for the purposes of aiding in their election campaign, such as Harvard College Students for Biden.

Health and Wellness

Harvard’s available “Health and Wellness” extracurriculars are centered around health research, advocacy, and policy development. These organizations include groups such as the Harvard Undergraduate Global Alliance for Medical Innovation and the Harvard College Health Policy review, which frequently host forums for Harvard students to discuss current issues in healthcare and health policy.

Photo courtesy of Wellesley College

Hobbies and Special Interests

This subcategory is by far the broadest, encompassing everything from the Harvard Chess Club to the Harvard College Electronic Music Collective. Despite the varied interests, the underlying premise of these extracurriculars is the same: they are groups of students who all share a common interest, activity, and/or hobby, and the organization provides a means for students to get together and jointly engage in their chosen activity. These clubs are always some of the more informal and relaxed ones available at Harvard and can be great options for students interested in less intense involvement with an activity.

Media and Publications

The “Media and Publications” groups include well-known student newspapers like the Harvard Crimson and the Harvard Lampoon. They frequently provide students with exposure to real-world journalism and help familiarize students with common industry practices. The actual content of each newspaper is quite different depending on the organization, ranging from current events to literature reviews to producing satirical writing.

Peer Counseling and Peer Education

Harvard’s “Peer Education” groups focus on increasing health literacy on various wellness topics, namely mental health, physical health, and sexual health. These groups provide students with information about how to access Harvard’s resources and wellness centers, as well as best practices to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The “Peer Counseling” groups, rather than providing educational resources, train students on how to help others work through issues of mental, physical, and sexual health.

Photo courtesy of Yale University

Public Service

The available “Public Service” extracurriculars at Harvard are all centered around providing outreach and assistance to the surrounding Boston and Cambridge communities. While the mission statements of these organizations vary, they all share the common goal of using Harvard’s resources and expertise to help the general public.

Religious and Spiritual

These groups provide support and community to students of a similar religious or spiritual background. Groups often host events to help establish social connections with other group members, encourage discussion about issues related to religious or spiritual worship, and provide mentorship.

Women’s Initiatives

These groups provide support and community to women at Harvard. Groups often host events to help establish social connections, encourage discussion, and provide mentorship. These organizations also frequently connect members with other female industry leaders in order to help increase visibility of women in the world of business.

Amigos em campus universitário
Naassom Azevedo | Unsplash

This informational essay was written by Lucas Woodley, Harvard ‘23. If you want to get help writing your Harvard application essays from Lucas or other Bullseye Admissions advisors, register with Bullseye today.

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