Emerging Scholars Program

The Emerging Scholars Program (ESP) is an academic enrichment program that seeks to support first-year students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) who are also enrolled in introductory calculus (Math M). 

ESP was founded in the fall of 2016 as a social justice program to help correct systemic inequalities in math and science K-12 education that have affected our college students for many years. Although many incoming Harvard students have the passion and talent to be successful in STEM concentrations and careers, many of them have struggled significantly in math and science courses due to unequal access to resources and opportunities in their STEM education. Thus, the mission of the program is to identify these first-year students, and promote their success in their desired field through math/science enrichment and community support. The ultimate goal of ESP is to ensure that the thriving of STEM-interested students at Harvard and ensure that the population of students in STEM fields at Harvard College reflects the diversity of its entering classes.

Click here for a recording of an informational session for potential ESP applicants.

Below are the main features of the program.

For additional information, please see see our Emerging Scholars Program FAQ page.

Program Features

A strong background in calculus and quantitative reasoning is necessary for success in almost every STEM field. Thus, all ESP students are required to enroll in both Math Ma and Math Mb in the fall and spring semester of their first year, respectively. Math M is a two-semester course sequence which covers the material from a standard single-variable calculus class, along with foundational topics in algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. It is taught in small sections of 15-20 students, giving you more individualized attention and contact with the faculty. It is also taught in a highly collaborative environment with a focus on mathematical applications to the natural and social sciences.

In their first semester, all ESP students enroll in the two-credit course ESPa, taught by math department faculty and focused on building a powerful and portable problem-solving and mathematical modeling toolkit, while bridging the divide between mathematics and science courses. Complex multi-step problems and in-class projects are chosen to highlight problem-solving techniques such as generalization, induction, analogy, variation, reverse engineering, and specialization. Students collaborate to build mathematical models, critique arguments, analyze data, and present policy recommendations.

This seminar is generally taken in addition to a full semester course load (16 credits or four 4-credit courses). However, the seminar requires little to no work outside of class, and most of the final grade is based on attendance and active participation during class.

In addition to Math M and ESPa, all ESP students are required to attend a weekly lunch event each Friday afternoon with ESP faculty, as well as faculty, staff, and students from different departments and offices throughout the university. During the lunches, students engage directly with faculty to have enlightening discussions on a wide range of pertinent topics, including research opportunities, concentrations, and career pathways. The lunches are also a wonderful opportunity to socialize, connect, and network with fellow ESP students, upperclassmen, and professors.

See the ESP Events page for examples of past meetings and faculty who have participated.

ESP students have access to an experienced and knowledgeable team of academic advisors, including the ESP faculty, who schedule regular one-on-one check-in meetings with the Emerging Scholars in their first year. We also provide expert advice and workshops on common issues faced in the first year of college, such as study skills, time management, test anxiety, imposter syndrome, navigating Harvard, and more. Lastly, we connect ESP students with specific faculty, staff, students, and other resources across the College who are committed to their success, such as the Academic Resource Center.

ESP students have the opportunity to take up to two free Harvard Summer School courses—one of which ought to be an intensive STEM course—on campus in the summer after their first year (including room and board), subject to course approval by the ESP faculty members. The most popular course choice is Math 1b, a continuation of single-variable calculus from Math M that is often required for many STEM concentrations. Thus, many ESP students opt to take this course over the summer, as it gives students a head start in their concentration courses and more flexibility in satisfying academic requirements later on. Furthermore, ESP students have their own smaller section of Math 1b over the summer, taught by an experienced faculty member from the math department. This allows for more personalized help and individual contact with the instructor, and better understanding of the material.

Please note that ESP students are NOT required to take any summer courses. Every student in the program should meet with their advisers to determine if taking summer courses is best for them.

The ESP faculty organize a number of social events throughout the year for the students in the program, including dinners, ice cream socials, movie nights, game nights, field trips, Escape the Room, and other excursions off-campus.

Although the Emerging Scholars Program is meant for first-year students, we continue to support our ESP students long after their first year is over! ESP faculty and advisors continue to check in with alumni of the program into their sophomore year and beyond. In addition, we offer workshops for students continuing into Math 21a, write letters of recommendation for internships and graduate school, and continue connecting students with opportunities.