How to concentrate in East Asian Studies

Declaring EAS

Are you interested in declaring EAS or switching to EAS from another concentration?  You've come to the right place.  

1. Review EAS requirements:

2. Meet with an EAS concentration advisor, Kyle Shernuk, Email to schedule your 15 minute appointment.

3. Submit a declaration or change of concentration request on my.harvard. Directions on how to do that can be found at

4. Sample Plan of Study here.

General Information

Course work in the East Asian Studies concentration falls into 3 categories: language study, tutorials, and East Asia "area courses," as follows:


Concentrators must take two years of an East Asian language or demonstrate this level of proficiency through a placement test. 


Tutorials are small group instruction classes taught by East Asia faculty and teaching fellows. All primary concentrators must take the sophomore and junior tutorials (tutorial requirements vary for secondary and joint concentrators). In the junior year students elect a particular country focus, usually determined by their language choice. They choose between social science and humanities tutorials focused on that country. Honors concentrators also take a senior tutorial in which they prepare an honors thesis.

Area courses

Area courses (described below) include East Asia courses in General Education, which provide varying degrees of general background, as well as more focused departmental offerings.

The exact number of courses required in each of these three categories varies, depending on your year of graduation and whether you seek to satisfy honors or non-honors requirements, and whether you are a primary, secondary, or joint concentrator. Precise details for each track and category are presented in the concentration handbook.

The logic of your plan of study:

Before filling in the blanks in a plan of study, you should give careful thought to the following. The key to making the EAS concentration a rich academic experience is constructing a coherent program of study. Your choices within each category (language, tutorial, area courses) should suit your interests. Ideally, your courses will also cohere across the three categories, reinforcing and building upon each other.

You should begin your language studies in your freshman year if possible, and by no means later than sophomore year. For native English speakers, East Asian languages require more years of study than European languages to reach fluency, and the concentration requirements will bring you to a minimum floor of proficiency, not a ceiling. Many students will wish to gain further language proficiency while in college, either through summer schools or term-time study abroad. To make best use of study abroad, you should have already completed at least two years of language study before going to Asia, so an early start is crucial. And of course, reaching a high level of language proficiency as soon as possible will help you in your advanced area courses, tutorials, and senior thesis.

In your freshman year if possible, or your sophomore year at the latest, you should also take at least one of the general survey courses in East Asian Studies, either Societies of the World 12 (SW 12) on China, Societies of the World 13 (SW 13) on Japan,  Societies of the World 27 (SW 27), or Korean History 111 on traditional Korea. Any of these will count as one of your "area courses," and they will also make your studies in sophomore and junior tutorial more meaningful.

Tutorials are an important part of the concentration. All sophomores take the sophomore tutorial, EAS 97ab. The tutorial introduces you to the culture, literature, and society of Korea, Japan, and China in pre-modern and modern times. It gives particular attention to some of the larger themes of East Asian history, and the various analytic disciplines used in studying East Asia today. It also seeks to train students to write clearly and persuasively, and to read and think critically. In their junior year, concentrators choose from among several junior tutorials according to their primary country of interest and the particular topics they wish to pursue.  Junior tutorials have the designation EAS 98; offerings in EAS 98 vary from year to year.  Students may substitute another seminar course for EAS 98 with the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies. 

Choice of area courses should be made with an eye toward relatedness among these courses, and between them, your junior tutorial, and your potential thesis topic. Several General Education courses qualify as area courses, and they offer a good general introduction to concentrators. As noted above, you should take one introductory course, such as SW 12 or SW 13 in freshman or sophomore year. But we strongly encourage you to go beyond General Education as well, to take some of the many departmental courses on East Asia to meet your area course requirement. Indeed, Harvard's unique strength in the field of East Asian studies lies above all in the rich array of such courses. They tend to have smaller enrollments than Gen Ed courses and allow you to get to know the faculty better. Taking departmental courses in an area of particular interest in your sophomore or junior year will also help you explore possible topics for a senior honors thesis and get to know a potential advisor.

Space and credit for additional area or language courses can be gained by taking advantage of the flexible line between the language and area course requirements. You can satisfy the language requirement by reaching second or third year proficiency as measured in a placement test, taking advantage of summer study, study abroad, or previous exposure to the language. This does not reduce your overall course requirement in the concentration, but it frees you to either take more advanced language courses or to replace language with additional area courses, or both.

If you intend to write an honors thesis, you should begin preparations in your junior year. Ask professors in your language and area courses, and your tutorial instructors, for suggestions about possible thesis topics. Explore possible topics in your papers written for tutorial or other courses. Harvard offers several grants to allow students to travel to East Asia in the summer between junior and senior year. By all means apply for these, and consult the EAS office for information. As applications are due in March, you need to begin thinking about topics and writing a proposal early in the spring semester, or before.

Senior tutorial, EAS 99, is a full-year course for those seniors writing honors theses. Students work in individual tutorials with a faculty advisor and a tutor. Not all students write theses, and the decision to do so or not is important. By all means consult widely, talking to upperclass students in the concentration, tutors, and faculty members. For those who elect this option, the senior honors thesis is an important and rewarding part of their college experience.