Generally, only applicants holding the AB or its equivalent, with distinguished undergraduate records, are admitted to the Graduate School.

Admission procedures, deadlines, and fees, and how to apply for financial aid are described on our website. Students may apply for admission for the fall term only; there are no spring term or summer admissions.

Accuracy is expected in all documents provided by applicants. If a candidate for admission makes inaccurate statements or submits false material, appropriate action will be taken. In most cases, these misrepresentations are discovered during the admission process and the application is rejected. If a misrepresentation is discovered after a candidate is admitted, the offer of admission normally will be withdrawn. If a misrepresentation is discovered after a student has registered, the case will be reviewed by the dean of student affairs and, if appropriate, he will request that the GSAS Administrative Board review the case. The Administrative Board will determine the action to be taken. If the discovery occurs after a degree has been awarded, the degree normally will be rescinded.

Individuals holding a PhD or its equivalent, or who have completed most of the work required to earn the PhD elsewhere, may apply to a PhD program in the Graduate School only if it is an unrelated field of study. In view of the large number of excellent applicants for the limited number of admission vacancies in the Graduate School, preference for admission and financial aid will be given to those who have not already had an opportunity to receive a PhD degree here or elsewhere. As an alternative, such people may apply for visiting fellow status (see Chapter IV or the GSAS website.

No student registered in GSAS shall, at the same time, be registered in any school or college either of Harvard University or of any other institution. GSAS students may not be simultaneously enrolled in two PhD programs. Students ordinarily may receive the PhD degree from only one program in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Any student enrolled in a GSAS PhD program and another program such as the Law School, must receive permission from the department and the Dean’s Office. The student will have to be on leave from GSAS while taking courses in a non-GSAS program. If the student at the time of admission has plans to enroll in another program, those plans should be discussed with the department or committee before the student accepts the offer of admission.

The dean of the Graduate School alone has the authority to make offers of admission. The Graduate School will not accept more than three applications from any non-enrolled individual during the course of his or her academic career.


An applicant who was previously admitted to a degree program in GSAS and who did not enroll at that time (or was not registered long enough to be required to pay tuition) should reapply to the Graduate School through the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Reapplication instructions are available from that office. Students who were previously admitted to a degree program and who were registered in GSAS long enough to have paid some tuition but were not registered for a full term or longer should apply for readmission to the Graduate School through the Dean’s Office in Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center (see Chapter V).

Students who have received a degree from GSAS and who would like to apply to another degree program should apply for a transfer through the Dean’s Office (see Chapter V: Variations in Program, Transfer to a Different Degree or Department).

If a student withdrew and needs to be readmitted in order to receive his/her degree, that student should complete a readmission for degree application and submit it with a letter from his/her advisor indicating that the student is ready to defend the dissertation. The Graduate School will not accept more than three applications for readmission from any individual during the course of his or her academic career.

Readmission applications are available in the Dean’s Office or on the GSAS readmission website.



Continuous registration (see Registration section, Chapter V) and a satisfactory grade record (see Chapters V and VI) are required of all degree candidates in the Graduate School. In addition (see below) there are residence requirements, both academic and financial, in all programs. Many programs have language requirements; for specific requirements, students should consult Chapter VI and/or the Programs of Study publication.


Not all departments offer an AM degree. Many departments that offer the degree do not admit applicants for the AM only; it is available only as a continuing master’s on the way to the PhD. In other subjects the AM is awarded as a terminal degree. SEAS is the only program offering a part-time master’s program. The minimum residence requirements are: (academic) eight completed half-courses at the level prescribed by the department and (financial) one year at full tuition. Part-time SM students are expected to complete the degree in two years. Note that TIME courses may not be used to fulfill the residence requirement for the AM degree. Some programs’ requirements exceed these minima. More detailed requirements are listed in the Programs of Study publication and in the departments’ program descriptions in Chapter VI.

Students in master’s degree programs who are no longer taking courses but have unfulfilled academic requirements for the degree (e.g., language exams, papers, or coursework to complete), must register either in residence, traveling scholar, or leave of absence until all requirements are completed. Master’s candidates who have completed all their degree requirements do not have to be registered for the term in which they submit their degree applications.

For academic credit for work done elsewhere, only courses taken in a Harvard AB-AM or AB-SM program, in Harvard Summer School, as a Special Student in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, or FAS courses taken as an employee under the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) may be counted toward the minimum academic residence requirements for a master’s degree.

For financial credit see Chapter V, Credit for Graduate Work Done Elsewhere and Chapter VII, Tuition Requirements for GSAS Degree Candidates.

The courses offered in satisfaction of the minimum requirements for a master’s degree may not have been used to meet the requirements for another Harvard master’s or professional degree. Courses completed for a master’s degree in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences may count toward academic requirements for the PhD at the discretion of the department.

The procedure for applying for the AM degree is described below. Students ordinarily are eligible for master’s degrees only in the program to which they were formally admitted. However, the Administrative Board of the Graduate School will entertain petitions from PhD candidates to receive a master’s degree in another program provided that the department whose degree is requested (a) has approved a policy of awarding master’s degrees to students in another program and has determined what requirements such students must have fulfilled; (b) certifies that the student has met the requirements; and (c) has voted to support the student’s petition.

Normally, a student may receive only one master’s degree from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. However, in exceptional cases, a second AM may be awarded to PhD candidates provided that the above conditions have been met and that the tuition requirement of one year of full tuition for each degree received has been satisfied. Students who previously received a master’s degree as a master’s student or through the advanced standing program may receive a second master’s as a PhD student without additional tuition being paid.

A master’s degree cannot be granted in an ad hoc subject.


The Master of Science (SM) is offered only by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. SM candidates are not expected to continue to the PhD at SEAS. The residence requirements are: (academic) eight half-courses and (financial) one year at full tuition. The Master of Engineering (ME) also is offered only by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. It is a two-year program of advanced courses with research leading to a master’s thesis. The requirements for the M.E. degree are eight half courses, plus eight additional research-oriented courses at the 300-level that result in the completion of the required ME thesis. ME candidates are not expected to continue to the PhD at SEAS. The residence requirements are: (academic) sixteen half-courses and (financial) two years at full tuition. The Master in Forest Science (MFS) is offered by the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. The residence requirements are: (academic) no courses but full-time for one year and (financial) one year of full tuition. Students work as paid research assistants in the summer preceding initial registration. A thesis is required and must be defended. The procedure for applying for these degrees is as described below. Note that TIME courses may not be used in fulfillment of the residence requirement for these master level degrees.


The PhD degree signifies mastery of a broad discipline of learning together with demonstrated competence in a special field within that discipline. The discipline is specified on the diploma. Requirements for the PhD vary considerably from discipline to discipline, and even within a given discipline. Those listed below are required by the faculty of all PhD programs. Individual departments have additional specific requirements which are published in the Programs of Study publication and outlined in Chapter VI.

The requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy are:

Academic Residence: A minimum of two years of full-time study in residence in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The academic residence requirement can be reduced by as much as one year (eight half-courses) if the candidate’s department grants academic credit for work done elsewhere (see Chapter V). A department may also adopt other criteria for measuring progress and may certify the amount of progress to the administrative dean of the Graduate School under the so-called “equivalency rule.”

PhD candidates must register continuously until receipt of the degree.

English Proficiency: All incoming GSAS PhD students who are non-native speakers of English and have not received their undergraduate degree from an English-speaking institution will have their English proficiency screened based on the iBT TOEFL speaking score. Students who have not met the English language requirement will be required to take GSAS-approved ESL courses to develop their English language skills as part of their preparation for teaching and their professional development. Students will not be allowed to teach until they have met the English language requirement.

Financial Requirements: The minimum financial requirement for the PhD is two years of full tuition. PhD candidates are thereafter charged two years of reduced tuition and the facilities fee unless they complete the degree in less than four years (see Chapter VIII).

General Examination: In most subjects the student must pass a general examination or other preliminary or qualifying examinations before undertaking independent research on a dissertation. Normally—when the nature of the field and previous preparation permit—students should pass these examinations by the end of the second year of full-time academic residence.

PhD Dissertation: The student’s dissertation prospectus must be approved by the department. A student who wishes to present a dissertation as a published article, series of articles, book or other document, or a manuscript that has been accepted for publication, must have the approval of the department concerned. In no case, however, may a dissertation be presented that has already been submitted toward another degree, either at Harvard or elsewhere.

The Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must be signed by at least three readers approved by the student’s department, two of whom must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. FAS emeriti (including research professors) and faculty members from other schools at Harvard who hold appointments on GSAS degree committees are authorized to sign the Dissertation Acceptance Certificates as FAS members. GSAS strongly recommends that the chair of the dissertation committee be a member of FAS.

Detailed information concerning the PhD dissertation is provided in an online supplement, The Form of the PhD Dissertation. The Degree Calendar (see Chapter I) indicates the dates by which approved dissertations must be submitted online to the Registrar. All students should refer to the Registrar’s website about the process for degree submission.


A student who intends to receive a degree should fill out a degree application online. Degree applications must be completed by the student, signed by the department administrator, and filed with the Registrar’s Office by the appropriate due date (see Chapter I, Academic Calendar). In unusual circumstances, late applications may be accepted for the next week only; there is a $50 fee for late applications. Those degree candidates who will not be receiving their degrees at the Commencement ceremony can indicate on the degree application whether they wish the diploma to be mailed or held for them at the Registrar’s Office.

Students must reactivate their degree application online if they miss their original degree-conferral date. The application requires the signature of the department administrator and must be filed by the deadline for degree applications. Students may reactivate a degree application once without charge; for any subsequent reactivation there is a $50 charge.

No degree can be awarded until all tuition requirements and all University bills have been paid (see Chapter VIII).


Harvard University’s 363rd Commencement will be held on Thursday, May 29, 2014. GSAS students receiving terminal degrees during the academic year 2013–2014 in the November, March, and May degree periods may receive their diplomas at the Graduate School’s Diploma Awarding Ceremony on Commencement Day. Alternatively, diplomas may be forwarded by registered mail. Mailing fees are payable with the degree application or thereafter with a written request that the diploma be mailed. Otherwise, diplomas are held in the Registrar’s Office until requested by the students. Students may indicate their preference on the degree application.

Information concerning the Commencement Day schedule, tickets, luncheon, and regalia is available on the GSAS Commencement website.

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