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.
Once you have your HarvardKey, log in to Engage to find your GSAS community. Join student groups, RSVP to events, and explore social and learning opportunities
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 2, 2020, 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 by the September 9, 2020 deadline.
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 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. 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.
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.
FAQ about Fall 2020
I have accepted Harvard's offer of admission. Will I be allowed to matriculate in the fall?
The University has not announced any modifications to its fall 2020 operations; you will be contacted by the GSAS Office of Admissions if that changes. International students will be subject to any visa or travel restrictions put in place by the US government or their local government; the Harvard International Office is available to assist with questions and concerns.
I am worried this will get worse before it gets better; can I simply defer admission to 2021? Or to the spring 2021?
If you are interested in deferring your admission, you must first accept the offer of admission, then submit a written request for deferral to the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. GSAS will forward the request to your program of interest, which will give it every consideration. Ordinarily, matriculating in spring term is not permitted. Should circumstances warrant a change to our current policies at a future point, all incoming students will receive notification from the GSAS Office of Admissions.
The Department of State has suspended routine visa services. Will I be able to obtain a visa to come to GSAS in the fall?
We are unsure when consulates will reopen for visa processing. We encourage you to complete your paperwork as quickly as possible so that you are prepared when appointments resume.
My program begins on July 1. Should I make plans to arrive on campus by that date?
Harvard is unsure about how long the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic will last and what impact, if any, it will have on the 2020–2021 academic year. As of now, GSAS has not announced alterations to the academic calendar, however, given the fluidity of the current situation, that is subject to change. If changes to the academic calendar occur, incoming students and graduate programs will receive a communication about the change as soon as possible.
I am a student in the US who planned to take advantage of the early registration option offered by my academic program. Will I still be able to arrive on campus July 1?
It is too soon to tell how the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic will affect early registration. Once it is determined when normal campus operations will resume, GSAS and your graduate program administrator will be in touch.
Can I be reimbursed for travel expenses I already paid?
Please check with your travel provider is see if it possible for you to obtain a refund or credit for future travel. If you have incurred nonrefundable costs and your academic program offered to reimburse your expenses, please contact the program for further instructions.
I attended an event on campus and now feel sick. What should I do?
Harvard University Health Services has posted information about COVID-19, with links to the latest guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.
Because of delays brought on by COVID-19, official documentation for my application is delayed. Does this mean I cannot enroll at GSAS?
We realize that the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic will have multiple effects on accepted students’ academic and personal lives, including access to required documentation. Due to these extraordinary circumstances, GSAS will be flexible with documentation deadlines and other requirements, and extensions will be granted, where appropriate. If you experience a delay with required information, please reach out to GSASNewAdmits@fas.harvard.edu for instructions.
My current academic institution will be issuing pass/fail grades. Will a passing grade be sufficient for guaranteeing admission to GSAS?
We realize that the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic will have multiple effects on accepted students’ academic and personal lives, including timely completion of studies at other institutions. Due to these extraordinary circumstances, GSAS will be flexible regarding COVID-related situations at other institutions that are beyond their control. You should contact GSASNewAdmits@fas.harvard.edu with questions.
I am an international student and I was hoping to participate in the Professional Communication Program for New International Scholars. Will the program be held this summer?
Given the Coronavirus Disease pandemic, GSAS has decided to cancel this program for summer 2020. When you arrive on campus, you should check out term-time programming at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.
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
DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, THE PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATION PROGRAM FOR NEW INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS WILL NOT BE OFFERED IN AUGUST 2020. THE PROGRAM WILL RESUME IN 2021.
The Professional Communication Program for New International Scholars, a collaboration between the GSAS Office of Student Affairs and the Professional Communication Program for International Teachers and Scholars at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, introduces incoming international graduate students to life at Harvard and to the United States and helps them activate their English language skills in preparation for beginning their graduate programs. This intensive program provides opportunities for non-native English speakers to develop professional communication skills, to explore campus and classroom culture at Harvard, and to foster connections and build community across disciplines. During the program, international graduate students live free-of-charge in the GSAS residence halls, where they build close relationships with fellow program participants, create lasting friendships, and start to feel at home at Harvard.
There is no tuition charge. Students are responsible for living expenses only.
Students should discuss participating in the program with their graduate program or email email@example.com for more information.
The PCP 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 PCP is generously supported by the Fan family: John Fan, PhD ’72, Stephanie Fan, and Melina Fan, PhD ’04. See photos from a celebration of the program at Loeb House.
First Weeks at Harvard University
Incoming students are invited to GSAS Welcomes, an orientation program for new students that focuses on life at Harvard, resources for students, and more. Events include:
GSAS Welcomes 2020, Friday, August 28, 2020: While we are looking forward to welcoming you in the fall, please know that ensuring the safety of students and staff is of paramount importance. GSAS staff are currently reimagining our GSAS Welcomes events to help you feel connected to the GSAS community from wherever you may be in the world. Save the date and watch your inbox for additional details!
- Tentative GSAS Student Center Open House Party: The GSAS Student Center welcomes students for their kick-off bash to celebrate the first week of classes. Harvard ID required for entry, proper ID required for alcohol.
- Tentative GSAS Cookout: All GSAS students are invited to a cookout to celebrate the beginning of the new academic year.
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, 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or book an appointment online. Danielle and the Office 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 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.
University Student Financial Services has developed contingency plans to ensure that we are able to provide stipends to students who find that they need to attend classes remotely, with the exception of those students who are residing in nations subject to US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) economic sanctions. Students 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).
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. Check out the resources at the Academic Resource Center and The Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Contact the GSAS Office of Student Affairs at email@example.com 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. 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.
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, 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