GSAS welcomes applications for admission from individuals who have or will have by the time of matriculation a BA, BS, or equivalent undergraduate degree (for prospective international students, a three- or four-year undergraduate degree from an institution of recognized standing) and actively seeks applicants from groups historically underrepresented in graduate schools. All degree candidates are admitted for full-time study beginning in the fall term.
Immigration status does not factor into decisions about admissions and financial aid. For more information, see Undocumented at Harvard.
GSAS enables PhD students to coordinate their studies for an additional advanced degree. If you are planning a career in biomedical research and academic medicine and would like to earn an MD and a PhD, visit the Harvard-MIT MD/PhD program for more information. The JD/PhD Program enables students to study for a JD at Harvard Law School and a PhD in any program of study.
If you already hold a PhD or its equivalent, or are an advanced doctoral candidate at another institution, you may apply to a PhD program only if it is in an unrelated field of study; however, preference for admissions and financial aid will be given to those who have not already had an opportunity to study for a doctoral degree at Harvard or elsewhere. You may also want to consider pursuing non-degree study through our Special Student or Visiting Fellow programs.
Eligible Harvard College students with advanced standing may apply in the fall of their junior year to earn an AM or SM degree during their final year of undergraduate study. Interested students must contact the Office of Undergraduate Education for eligibility details before applying.
Required Application Materials
A complete application consists of:
Online application form
Application fee payment* ($105)
Transcripts uploaded to the application
Letters of recommendation
Statement of purpose
GRE, where required (see individual program of study page for requirements)
Demonstration of English proficiency, where required
Writing sample, where required
GSAS may request additional academic documents, as needed.
* For those prospective applicants for whom the application fee would be a financial hardship, we offer need-based fee waivers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a fee waiver request form. Applicants must submit their completed fee waiver request forms by November 25 for applicants to programs with a December 1 application deadline, December 12 for applicants to programs with a December 15 application deadline, or December 19 for applicants to programs with a January 2 application deadline. Please note that no application for admission can be considered before the application fee has been paid or a fee waiver request has been approved.
Accommodations for applicants affected by natural disasters
We realize that those applicants who live in areas impacted by recent natural disasters or who need to obtain required application materials from individuals or institutions in these areas may have difficulty gathering the materials necessary to complete their applications on time. If this pertains to you, we encourage you to complete the application to the best of your ability and to include a supplemental statement that explains your circumstances. GSAS will provide this information to the appropriate admissions committee and your admissions decision will be based on the materials available at the time of review.
Please note that even though the online application system will indicate that your application is incomplete, it will still be reviewed by the appropriate admissions committee.
Under normal circumstances, an individual may only submit up to three applications during the course of his or her academic career. If your application is incomplete and you are denied admission, GSAS will not count your application toward the total number of submissions allowed.
If you are able to gather missing materials after the admissions deadline, contact Director of Admissions Christine Sumner directly, as you will not be able to attach new material to your application once it is submitted. If the materials are submitted after the deadline, and before the admissions committee has finished deliberating, the office of admissions will forward those materials to the committee for their consideration. If you have additional questions, contact Christine Sumner.
Completing Your Online Application
When you are ready to apply, access our online application by clicking the apply button on the right side of this page (please note that there is no paper application). All supporting materials must be submitted electronically through the online application system.
If you are applying to a program that is part of the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) federation, visit the HILS website for additional instructions.
If your program's admissions committee determines that another department is well-matched to your academic interests, it may forward your application to that department for consideration.
The application for admission, including all supporting materials, becomes the property of GSAS. No materials will be returned to the applicant or forwarded to other schools or agencies.
1. Upload Your Transcripts
Applicants are required to upload transcript copies from each college/university they attended into our online application system: official hard copy/paper transcripts are not required at the time of application.
Please note that transcripts from international institutions—records of all courses, seminars, and examinations, including grades, scores, grading scales, and confirmation of degree conferral—must be in English. If records are not available in English, original records must be accompanied by certified English translations. All translations must be literal and complete versions of the original records.
For those applicants currently enrolled in a college or university, GSAS does not require submission of fall grades. Should you wish to update your submitted application with fall grades, you may do so using the Fall Grade Report section of the online application. While GSAS will make every effort to ensure consideration of information submitted after the deadline, we cannot ensure that it will be used in the evaluation of your application.
2. Confirm Letters of Recommendation
Before applying, confirm that three faculty members or others qualified to evaluate your potential for graduate study have agreed to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. At least one letter should be from a faculty member at the school where you earned your most recent degree, unless you have been out of school for more than five years.
You must provide the e-mail addresses of three recommenders when you apply. GSAS requires your recommenders to submit their letters via an online recommendation system. By law, enrolled students have the right to view their letters of recommendation, unless they indicate otherwise at the time of application. Please note on your application whether you are waiving your right to see these letters. Learn more about your right to inspect letters of recommendation.
We regret that we are unable to accept letters submitted through a recommendation dossier service.
All letters of recommendation are due at the same time as the application. While GSAS will make every effort to ensure consideration of information submitted after the deadline, we cannot ensure that it will be used in the evaluation of your application.
3. Write Your Statement of Purpose
The statement of purpose is very important to programs when deciding whether to admit a candidate. Your statement should be focused, informative, and convey your research interests and qualifications. You should provide a vivid picture of your intellectual profile: how you formulate research topics, how you pursue them, and how you articulate any interesting findings. As you convey this information, it is important to emphasize how these experiences have influenced both your decision to undertake graduate study and your goals within a graduate program.
4. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Many GSAS programs require that prospective students present scores of the General Test of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Scores from either the computer-delivered or the paper-delivered test are acceptable. Many programs also require one of the GRE Subject Tests. Visit the relevant department in the Programs of Study for more information.
It is essential that you arrange to take the GRE in sufficient time for score reports to reach us by the application deadline. GRE scores are valid for five years (i.e. scores must be from no earlier than September 1, 2014, for fall 2020 admission). If you have personal score reports available from tests taken within the last five years, you can upload them to your online application for consideration by the admissions committee. However, you will still need to ensure that Educational Testing Service (ETS) sends an official score report. Be sure to register for the tests well before administration dates and request that your scores be sent to Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences using code 3451.
5. Demonstrate English Proficiency, Where Required
Adequate command of spoken and written English is essential to success in graduate study at Harvard. Applicants who are non-native English speakers and who received their undergraduate degree from an academic institution where English is not the primary language of instruction must prove their English proficiency by earning either a minimum score of 80 on the Internet based test (iBT) of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a minimum score of 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic test. Some programs may require a higher score. Applicants who took tests more than two years ago (i.e. before September 1, 2018, for fall 2020 admission) must retake them. No test other than the iBT TOEFL or the IELTS Academic will be accepted as proof of English proficiency; a master’s degree is not accepted as proof of English proficiency.
For those students planning to submit TOEFL scores, please arrange to have an official score report sent to the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences using code 3451. If you have a copy of your Score Confirmation Report, you can upload it to your online application for consideration by the admissions committee. However, you will still need to ensure that Educational Testing Service sends an official score report.
For those students planning to submit IELTS scores, please note that we will only accept official IELTS Academic scores submitted electronically by the IELTS test center via the E-Delivery service. Scores from the IELTS General Training module are not accepted. At the time of test-taking, please specify Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as a score recipient. We do not accept IELTS paper Test Report Forms nor do we verify Test Report Forms (TRFs).
Consent regarding Sensitive Personal Data
Certain kinds of personal data are regarded by some laws as sensitive and deserving of special protection (“Sensitive Personal Data”). For example, in Europe, Sensitive Personal Data can include personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership; genetic or biometric data; data concerning health; data concerning a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation; and personal data relating to criminal convictions and offenses.
During the application process, you and others, such as recommenders, may provide the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) at Harvard University with certain kinds of personal data about you that is regarded as Sensitive Personal Data. By submitting an application, you consent to Harvard’s processing Sensitive Personal Data about you in order to evaluate your application for admission and your eligibility for financial aid, if applicable. Sensitive Personal Data about you also may be processed for other purposes permitted by applicable law.
Additional EEA Privacy Disclosures provides further information about how GSAS uses personal data of individuals in Europe in the admissions process.