Welcome to GSAS! Below are helpful tips and resources designed to help incoming students transition to graduate student life.

COVID-19 Updates

GSAS and Harvard University are still evaluating the impact—if any—that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on matriculation for the fall. Updates for new students will be added to this page as they become available.

Emails from Dean Dench were sent on March 22 and May 25, 2021, with important messages on fall 2021 planning. Please contact the Office of Admissions if you did not receive these emails.

Harvard University requires all enrolled students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving on campus for fall classes, using a vaccine authorized or approved by the FDA or the World Health Organization. For international students unable to access FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccines, the University plans to offer vaccination on arrival. Learn more about the requirement on the Harvard University Health Services vaccine webpage.

Before You Arrive

Accept Your Offer of Admission

You must officially accept your offer of admission by logging in to the GSAS applicant portal. The reply deadline is April 15, 2021, at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time.

Beginning in March, an email with instructions on how to get your Harvard ID number (HUID) and claim your HarvardKey will be sent within 7 to 10 days of accepting your offer of admission. Your HarvardKey is the primary credential that you will use to access Harvard resources as a student. If you do not receive this email, contact admiss@fas.harvard.edu.

Enroll at GSAS

Registration for incoming students is a two-step process. First, visit my.harvard.edu and log in with your HarvardKey before September 1, 2021, to check in. Instructions can be found by visiting the FAS Registrar’s Office and selecting the GSAS registration tab. Then, follow instructions at my.harvard to enroll in your courses from September 1 to September 9, 2021. The first day of classes is September 1, 2021. 

In order to receive your first stipend check, you will receive an email from the Harvard University Student Financial Services office over the summer with instructions on how to either sign up for direct deposit (students with US bank accounts) or set up a wire transfer via Western Union Global Pay (students without US bank accounts). 

To expedite receiving your ID card, submit your ID photo ahead of time so that your card will be ready for pickup.


See GSAS Policies for more information on holds.

  • Financial Hold indicates that you have unpaid fees on your term bill which must be paid in full before you can register. Contact your Financial Aid Officer with questions.
  • Admissions Hold indicates that you need to complete a requirement in your checklist on the GSAS applicant portal.
  • Medical Hold indicates that you have not submitted the paperwork supplied in your immunization packet.

Health Coverage and Immunizations

Through the Harvard University Student Health Program, Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) offers comprehensive medical, mental health, and prescription benefits to students.

HUHS requires that students provide their immunization history prior to registration. Email HUHS Medical Records or call 617-495-2055 with any questions about the immunization requirements.

Log In to Engage

Once you have your HarvardKey, you can also log in to Engage to find your GSAS community. Join student groups, RSVP to events, and explore social and learning opportunities!

Register with the Accessible Education Office

The Accessible Education Office (AEO) serves students with disabilities to ensure equity, inclusion, and access. AEO works in partnership with students, faculty, and staff to develop and implement accessibility plans based on individualized assessments of student needs. AEO provides accommodations for coursework, housing, dining, transportation, and other aspects of student life, as appropriate. Though access to the Harvard campus is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AEO remains open virtually and staff are happy to connect via phone or video call. The office is committed to supporting students with disabilities in accessing online learning environments. Learn more on the AEO website.

Purchase Your Discounted Transit Pass

Students can purchase discounted MBTA bus, link, and commuter rail passes at a 50 percent discount. Order your pass online.

International Students

Before you move to the United States, visit the Harvard International Office (HIO) for information about services and support for international students, including visa and tax information. The HIO has also prepared a helpful new student guide to ease your transition to Harvard. 

Language and Communication Resources for International Students


This summer we will offer online, asynchronous resources for new international PhD students who are interested in activating their English language skills and getting a head start on becoming aware of their own strengths and weaknesses as communicators before they officially start their programs. Full details and the Canvas site will be available here on July 1. 

The online modules will focus on helping students activate and develop English language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and cross-cultural communication skills. Students will engage with academic materials across disciplines, explore current events, and complete a variety of tasks to strengthen their communication skills in English, with opportunities to connect virtually with other new PhD students. 

This fall we will offer workshops and discussion groups for students to practice skills introduced in the online modules and to connect with others in the Harvard community, 

Whether or not they have met the GSAS Oral English Language Requirement, international PhD students are encouraged to schedule a consultation to discuss their English communication skills and get connected to available resources.

If you have any questions please contact the Office of Student Affairs at studaff@fas.harvard.edu.

First Weeks at Harvard University

GSAS Welcomes

All incoming students are invited to GSAS Welcomes 2021, a virtual orientation program for new students that will take place in August! GSAS Welcomes includes a Canvas course and events designed to introduce you to important resources, provide opportunities to connect with other students, learn about student groups and the many ways to get involved, and aid in the transition to life at Harvard for international students, students with families, spouses, or children, and Special Students and Visiting Fellows.

Please save the following dates and times for our virtual events. Keep an eye on your inbox for additional details!

  • Visiting Fellows Town Hall on Thursday, August 12, 2021 at 9:30 am
  • Special Students Town Hall on Thursday, August 12, 2021 at 11:00 am
  • International Community Conversations on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, from 9:00 am to 10:30 am
  • Resource Fair on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
  • Student Involvement Fair on Thursday, August 26, 2021, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
  • GSAS Student Center Open House Party on Friday, August 27, 2021, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Questions about GSAS Welcomes can be directed to the Office of Student Services at stuserv@fas.harvard.edu.

Academic or Personal Support

No matter what kind of support you need during your time at Harvard, the GSAS Office of Student Services is here to help. To schedule a virtual or in-person appointment with Danielle Farrell, director of student services, or Maura McDinger, case manager, students can drop by room B-2, located in the basement of the GSAS Student Center, between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., reach out by phone (617-495-5005) or email (stuserv@fas.harvard.edu), or book an appointment online. Danielle and the office's staff are here to assist and support students however we can!

Financial Aid and Support

Get to know your Financial Aid Officer who can help you help you plan financially for the term of your degree program. 

Tuition Grant

Tuition grants for eligible students cover GSAS tuition, the Student Health Fee, and the Student Health Insurance Plan. Grants do not cover dependent health or dental care.

Stipend Payment

Students who receive stipends as part of their financial award will receive payment on the first of the month either by direct deposit or check. If the first of the month falls on a weekend, the check date will be the Friday before the first. In early summer, you will receive communication from the GSAS Office of Financial Aid regarding the stipend disbursement schedule. If you have questions about this, please contact your financial aid officer. Additionally, students will receive an email from the Harvard University Student Financial Services office over the summer with instructions on how to sign up for direct deposit.


While international student stipends are ordinarily taxed based on their country’s tax treaty with the US, this year the pandemic has resulted in situations where this rule may not apply. More information is available from Harvard University Student Financial Services.

GLACIER Tax Compliance System 

You may receive an email from Harvard about the GLACIER tax compliance system. International students who will not be in the US in the fall do not need to enter information into GLACIER at this time; international students coming into the US at this time will need to enter their information into GLACIER prior to arrival.


Your Financial Aid Officer can help with questions about loans.


GSAS students can purchase an MBTA pass at a 50 percent discount.

For International Students

When you arrive at Harvard, you should report to the Harvard International Office (HIO) with your passport and visa documentation. HIO staff will walk you through a brief registration process and provide information to help orient you to the area.

English Language Help

If you would like to strengthen your English, check out the resources at the Academic Resource Center and The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Fellowships for First-Year Graduate Students

There are a number of fellowships specific to first-year and second-year graduate students with deadlines in October or November. GSAS provides resources and workshops on fellowship opportunities.

The GSAS Student Center

The GSAS Student Center in Lehman Hall is the center of GSAS student life. The Center has a cafeteria, a library, game room, study spaces, computer lab, coffee house, and several administrative offices serving graduate students. 

Student Groups and Events

Discover your GSAS community! Engage allows you to connect with student groups, find events, and explore social and learning opportunities.

Harvard Language

Here at Harvard, we shorten names and use a lot of acronyms. Learn some at Harvard Speak.

Advice from the GSAS Community

You Belong at Harvard

"Graduate students are by nature critical. Unleash your curiosity and turn down your inner critic." — Emma Dench, McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

First, be confident that you do belong here. The imposter syndrome is surprisingly common, even among the elite group of students we bring into our programs, but our degree programs do a good job of evaluating applications, and you are here because you have earned it.” —James M. Hogle, PhD, Edward S. Harkness Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, former Faculty Dean of Dudley House

 “Relax. Everyone else also thinks that they don’t deserve to be here.” —Donal Cahill, PhD ’15

Research Process

Talk to others about your own work. They’ll be interested. It will stimulate them, motivate them, and give them new ideas. And I find that talking to someone in a completely unrelated field about my own work often helps me make progress.” —Anshul Kumar, PhD '18

"Don't just focus on classes: make sure you go to research seminars as much as possible." —Yueran Ma, PhD student in business economics

Experiencing Failure

Be prepared to experience failure. In many ways, graduate school at Harvard is an exercise in extremes: the most advanced course, taught by the most distinguished faculty, to a group of the most talented students, in preparation for solving the most challenging unmet research problems. Somewhere along the way, your aims are going to exceed your grasp and you will fail. This is a good thing. This is how you learn more about the problem you are studying and the current, hopefully temporary, limits of your own abilities. In most cases, failure is a necessary prerequisite to success.” —Allen Aloise, PhD ’04, GSAS Dean for Administration and Finance

Take risks. It may mean that you fail sometimes, but that’s okay. You learn the most when you fail, and learning how to deal with failure is probably more important than learning how to deal with success.” —Sheila Thomas, PhD, GSAS Dean for Academic Programs and Diversity

Make Time for Yourself

"All work and no play actually make you less productive! Work-life balance is important and isn't something that magically happens; you have to work on it."—Sa-Kiera Hudson, PhD student in social psychology

"Look at the student groups and see which ones might fit your interests, and surround yourself with a community. Graduate school is hard enough as it is . . . if you don't have a community surrounding you, it's going to be that much harder." — Alyssa Hernandez, GSAS Diversity Fellow and PhD student in organismic and evolutionary biology

Seeking Help

Do not be afraid to ask for help! This is completely cliché, but it’s still the most important piece of advice I have for incoming graduate students. Many students feel intimidated when coming to Harvard and think that asking for help (of any kind) somehow makes them unintelligent. I can guarantee that the only unintelligent thing you are doing is NOT asking for help.” —Cammi Valdez, PhD ’14 

“Grad school is intense and demanding. It can get hard, but keep in mind that if you don't face some hardship and struggle, then you are not really learning. These difficulties will help you grow both academically and as a person. If you are facing a problem or you have some concerns, whether it is personal or academic, don't hesitate to reach out for help. There are plenty of resources for GSAS students and there are people who genuinely care about your welfare as a grad student.” —Ismail Ben Atitallah, PhD student in engineering and applied sciences 

“I advise new students to seek help when they need it. People at Harvard are more than happy to help or answer academic or personal questions.”—Sophie Gilmore, PhD student in visual and environmental studies 

Connecting with your Advisor

“A mentor relationship can be defined as going beyond just narrow academic advising; typically the mentor takes the whole person into account, conveying a sense of support and encouragement.”—Cynthia Verba, former GSAS Director of Fellowships

“One thing my advisor kept reminding me was that there's literally nothing that can prepare you for a PhD program at Harvard, and that was a comforting reminder. That advice allowed me to be a little more compassionate toward myself and just ride the waves of transition with grace.”—Avriel Epps, PhD student in education


Harvard University requires all enrolled students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving on campus for fall classes, using a vaccine authorized or approved by the FDA or the World Health Organization. For international students unable to access FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccines, the University plans to offer vaccination on arrival. Learn more about the requirement on the Harvard University Health Services vaccine webpage.