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Special Students

Pursue graduate-level study as a special student

Individuals with academic or professional reasons for pursuing graduate-level study without entering a degree program may apply for special student status and, with approval of the instructor, engage in coursework or a combination of coursework and research for academic credit during the fall or spring term or for one year. Summer coursework is not offered; those interested in summer study may consider Harvard Summer School as an option. Special students may only affiliate with one department or program, based on their proposed plan of study. 

While they are not candidates for any degree, special students are admitted to the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Harvard Griffin GSAS) and are eligible to enroll in graduate or undergraduate courses, depending on their academic record. They have access to most student privileges and may request an official Harvard transcript of courses and grades received. They may also, with instructor consent, enroll in courses at other Harvard Schools via the cross-registration process.

Special students may submit a new application to extend their program. Extension is not automatic.  Reapplications are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Harvard Extension School ALB and ALM Candidates

Harvard Extension School students working toward an ALB or ALM degree who wish to take courses not offered at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School may apply as a Harvard Griffin GSAS special student and may enroll in up to two courses per term for one academic year.

To qualify, candidates must earn a minimum number of Harvard Extension School credits with a specific GPA and obtain recommendations from their program director and two Harvard Extension School instructors. For more information, review the special student status information on the Extension School’s Earn Credits from Other Harvard Schools page.

Admissions Requirements

To qualify for the program, you must hold a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent and must present evidence of fitness for admission at the graduate level. Current undergraduates who would like to study at Harvard should contact the Visiting Undergraduate Student Program.

Full tuition is charged and cannot be waived or reduced. Special students are not eligible for institutional financial aid. Visiting students are typically either self-funded, by home country or home university scholarships, by third-party scholarships, or a mix.

For information about tuition and fees, see the Cost of Attendance section.

Before applying, you must select one department to affiliate with based on their academic interests.


  • Admission cannot be deferred.
  • Special students are restricted from participating in a select group of departmental offerings.
  • Individuals denied admission to a degree program at Harvard Griffin GSAS cannot apply as a special student for the same academic year.
  • Special students may not transfer to a degree-seeking program but may apply to Harvard Griffin GSAS in the future. If admitted, they may petition to apply their academic and financial credit toward their degree requirements.
  • Special students may not cross-register for more than 50 percent of their classes outside the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and may not work on an independent research project if it exceeds half of the courses they are enrolled in.
  • The visiting students program does not offer premedical coursework or advising.
  • Special students cannot benefit from Harvard-administered financial aid programs and do not qualify for Federal Student Aid.


Degrees Offered


Questions about the Program?