We are delighted that you will be joining GSAS this fall! Below are helpful tips and resources designed to help you transition to graduate student life.
Before You Arrive
Accept Your Offer of Admission
You must officially accept your offer of admission by logging in to the GSAS application portal as a returning user.
You will receive an email with instructions on how to get your Harvard ID number (HUID) and claim your HarvardKey, the primary credential that you will use to access Harvard resources as a student.
If you do not receive an email within 7 to 10 days of accepting your offer of admission, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 3, 2019, 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 during the first week of classes.
Next, come to the Orientation Resource Fair on August 29, 2019, to receive your ID card and your first stipend check, if applicable (see the Financial Aid FAQ for more information). Representatives from the FAS Registrar's Office will be available to answer any questions. If you do not have access to a computer before arriving at Harvard, terminals will be available at the GSAS Student Center.
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 application 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.
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. 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.
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.
Traveling to Harvard
GSAS has several campuses in the Boston area. The main campus is in Harvard Square, Cambridge. To get to the main campus:
Flights arrive at Boston’s Logan Airport. From the airport, you can take public transit (the “T”), a taxi, or a ride share to Harvard’s Cambridge, Allston, or Longwood campus. More information about planning your trip to and from Logan Airport is available on the MassPort website.
Trains arrive at Back Bay Station, North Station, or South Station. From there, take a taxi, ride sharing service, or the T (visit mbta.com for schedules, maps, and rider tools).
Most long distance buses arrive at the South Station Bus Terminal. From there, take a taxi or ride sharing service or follow the signs for the MBTA station and take the Red Line inbound toward Alewife. Take the train to the Harvard Square stop (visit mbta.com for schedules, maps, and rider tools).
If traveling by car, please note that street parking is very limited in Harvard Square, though parking garages do provide off-street parking for a fee. Current students can apply for a parking permit through the Harvard Transportation and Parking Office.
Professional Communication Program
The Professional Communication Program for New International Scholars is a residential, cultural immersion program offered every summer for incoming international graduate students. Run by GSAS and the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the program will introduce you to life at Harvard and help you activate your English language skills. The program incorporates professional communication, an introduction to the cultural features of the American classroom, and community-building activities, with the ultimate goal of preparation for success in the Harvard academic and social environment.
Through the program you will:
- Build an awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses in English
- Learn strategies you can use as you develop your professional communication skills
- Gain familiarity with all the resources available to you as a GSAS student
- Create lasting friendships and begin to feel at home at Harvard
The program is aligned with the GSAS Oral English Language Requirement and is designed to feed directly into the Bok Center’s Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars.
The program's instructors lead core classes of 12 to 15 students every morning and in the afternoon, students participate in program-wide activities. The morning classes offer a student-centered learning environment in which to activate your English language skills, focusing on speaking, listening, reading, and writing. You’ll practice these skills by engaging with academic materials across disciplines, exploring current events of interest, and reflecting on issues related to cross-cultural communication. Class time is largely spent on discussion, student presentations, and feedback. You are expected to actively participate in your learning community by preparing for class, contributing meaningfully to discussions, and providing constructive feedback to classmates. In the afternoons and on Saturdays, you will participate in program-wide workshops, site visits, lectures, and visits to key Harvard offices in order to learn more about your new environment and to practice the skills you are building in an authentic context.
Take a look at a sample calendar from last year’s program to get an idea of how your day will be structured!
The program's instructors are experts in English as a Second Language, as well as professional and intercultural communication for international graduate students. For the 2018 program, instructors came from Harvard University, Princeton University, and Boston University.
When does the Professional Communication Program take place? When should I arrive?
The program is held immediately before the start of the fall academic term. For the 2019-2020 academic year, the program will take place August 5 through August 22.
How much does the program cost?
The program is tuition-free, and GSAS provides some lunches during the program. You also receive a $200 credit that will allow you to buy meals on campus using your Harvard ID. You should budget accordingly and be prepared to cover any additional living expenses that will arise during the program.
Who will be in the program with me?
The program will be made up of students like you, first-year GSAS students who have not had much experience studying in the US. GSAS students come from more than 50 different countries, and our program participants represent a wide variety of geographic backgrounds. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet current GSAS students, undergraduates, and faculty members.
Where will I live? Will I have roommates?
GSAS provides housing (a single room) at no cost to you in the GSAS residence halls. You will not have roommates, but you will get to know other students during the program.
Where will I live after the end of the program and before the beginning of the academic term?
Students who have signed up to live in GSAS residence halls during the academic year may remain in the residence halls between the end of the program and the beginning of term. Students living elsewhere or off-campus should arrange for housing during this period.
Will I have health insurance?
Yes, you will have health coverage under the Harvard University Student Health Program provided by Harvard University Health Services and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts Student Health Insurance Plan.
As a participant in the Professional Communication Program, will my visa documents be different from other incoming international students?
Yes. Your visa documents will accommodate an earlier arrival in the US to allow you to attend the program. You will receive information about financial certification and about applying for your visa from the GSAS Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Your visa documents will be sent to you as soon as possible to allow you to schedule an appointment at a United States embassy or consulate.
My question isn’t on this list!
If you have additional questions about the program, you can email the Office of Student Affairs or call 617-495-1814.
First Weeks at Harvard University
GSAS runs an orientation program for new students and provides resources for students needing academic or personal assistance.
Orientation offers events designed to acclimate you to GSAS, Harvard University, and the Boston area.
- GSAS Host Student Dinner, Monday, August 26, 2019
Every year, the GSAS Student Center invites incoming international students to participate in the Host Student Program. Continuing GSAS students can apply to serve as host students, who provide friendship to incoming international GSAS students as they make the transition to life in the United States and to graduate studies at Harvard. Email Susan Zawalich, the GSAS Student Center administrator, with any questions.
- International Student Orientation, Tuesday, August 27, 2019
An event for international students to learn about working and living in the United States.
- Orientation and Resource Fair, Thursday, August 29, 2019
GSAS welcomes all incoming students with a morning orientation in Sanders Theater. Then, join members of your department for lunch on the Science Center Plaza. After lunch, attend a Resource Fair at the GSAS Student Center in Lehman Hall. The afternoon ends with a social hour outside Lehman Hall hosted by the Graduate School Alumni Association.
- Welcome Brunch for GSAS Families, Friday, August 30, 2019
GSAS students with spouses, partners, and children are invited to a brunch that includes a resource fair for students and partners, crafts and music for children, and a chance to connect with fellow student-parents.
- GSAS Student Center Open House, Friday, August 30, 2019
Get to know the GSAS Student Center in Lehman Hall (formerly Dudley House), while grabbing some treats and visiting the Lehman Hall offices decorated to welcome students. End the evening with a student-run dance party.
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. Email the Office of Student Services, call 617-495-5005, or drop by room B-2, located on the basement level of the Graduate Student Center in Lehman Hall.
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 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.
- First Stipend Check
Stipend checks are distributed through your department or during the Orientation Resource Fair at Lehman Hall (Harvard ID required for pick-up). Check with your department for distribution information.
- Direct Deposit
After picking up your first check, you can set up direct deposit by visiting University Student Financial Services.
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, English Language Courses (ESL) may be helpful. Contact Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Patrick O’Brien for more information.
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. The GSAS Fellowships Office provides resources and workshops on fellowship opportunities.
The GSAS Student Center
The GSAS Student Center in Lehman Hall (formerly Dudley House) is the center of GSAS student life. It 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.
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
“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
“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 currently, 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 community surrounding you, it's going to be that much harder." — Alyssa Hernandez, GSAS Diversity Fellow and PhD student in organismic and evolutionary biology
“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 student feel intimidated when coming to Harvard and think that by asking for help (of any kind), it somehow makes them unintelligent. I can guarantee that the only unintelligent think 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, 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