Frequently Asked Questions

Student panel at 2013 TED

General Questions

What can I do with an MDiv or MTS degree?

Our graduates go on to a wide variety of professions and vocations, including ordained and lay ministry; chaplaincy; higher education teaching and research; public and private secondary education; community development, advocacy, and human services; management and consulting, especially nonprofit; public policy, law, conflict resolution, and mediation; arts, publishing, communications, and media.

Do you offer any dual degree programs?

MTS and MDiv students may choose to apply to another graduate school at Harvard University within their first year. Once accepted to the second degree program, students may formally apply for dual degree status and then determine the number of courses that can be applied toward both degrees. Interested students should discuss their plans with the registrar.

How long does the ThD program take?

(Note: HDS recently changed its doctoral designation from ThD to PhD in Religion. Those currently in the ThD program will continue to be candidates for the ThD; the first cohort of PhD candidates will enter in fall 2015. This note pertains to current ThD students only.)

The ThD program can take anywhere between five to seven years. Two years of full-time doctoral study in residence are normally required. During those first two years, students are required to complete at least three half courses per semester. A student must achieve the minimum grade point average of B in each academic year and meet all regulations governing enrollment of incompletes.

Do you offer scholarships or financial aid?

Prospective students submit a financial aid application at the same time they complete the application for admission. Please refer to Financial Aid for information regarding tuition and fees, institutional grant aid, and a list of outside grants and scholarships. Specific questions regarding our financial aid policies and procedures should be directed to the Office of Financial Aid at financial_aid@hds.harvard.edu.

What is the difference between Harvard Divinity School and a seminary?

Harvard Divinity School was established in 1816 as the country's first nonsectarian theological school. It is dedicated to educating future leaders in religious life and thought and shares the libraries and resources of the wider Harvard University. Denominational seminaries are typically affiliated with a particular denomination, and may or may not be affiliated with a larger university. We recommend that you contact the denominational seminaries that interest you for additional information about their programs, resources, and student life. We are happy to share detailed information about HDS.

Application Process

Can I switch to a different degree program once I am admitted?

Applicants are strongly urged to apply to the program that best suits their academic needs and vocational goals. The Office of Admissions is available to provide detailed information to prospective applicants so that they can chose the most appropriate program. On the rare occasion that an admitted MDiv or MTS student finds it necessary to request a change of program, they may contact the Office of Admissions (before enrolling in their first semester) or the Office of the Registrar (after enrolling in their first semester) to receive instructions about this process.

What is your deferment policy?

Deferments are rarely granted, and we expect applicants to apply for the academic year in which they intend to enroll. However, occasionally an admitted student encounters a family emergency or change of circumstances, and we grant deferments on a case-by-case basis.

Is there a wait list for all programs?

There is a short wait list for the ThD, MDiv, and MTS degree programs.

(Note: HDS recently changed its doctoral designation from ThD to PhD in Religion. Those currently in the ThD program will continue to be candidates for the ThD; the first cohort of PhD candidates will enter in fall 2015.)

How will I know if you have received my application materials?

Once your application has been submitted, you will be able log back onto the online application to see the status of your application, supporting documents, and recommendations. Due to the high volume of applications we receive each year, please know that it may take several days for us to process your materials and update your online application. We cannot confirm receipt of materials by phone or email.

I'm an international student. Do I have to take the TOEFL and the GRE?

The Test of English as a Foreign Language is required for all applicants whose native language is not English. If you have completed your bachelor's degree at an institution where the language of instruction is English, you are not required to submit TOEFL scores. The GRE is required for all applicants to our degree programs. However, GRE waivers are granted to MDiv, MTS, and ThM applicants who hold advanced degrees. Please contact the Office of Admissions if you have a previous advanced degree and would like to learn more about the process of requesting a GRE waiver.

Is there a language requirement for admission?

There is no formal language requirement for admission at the master's level. However, it is recommended that each applicant have at least an elementary knowledge of a language that is (normally and preferably) relevant to his or her area of focus, because intermediate-level reading proficiency in a language is required prior to graduation. Applicants to the ThD or PhD program are expected to demonstrate reading proficiency in at least two modern languages of scholarship: one upon entry into the program, and the second within one year of entry.

Can I take the GRE multiple times? If you receive multiple scores from me, how will you determine which ones to consider for my application?

When possible, we suggest that you prepare and take the GRE once. If you choose to take the GRE a second or third time after ETS has sent us an official GRE score report, it is possible that the Admissions Committee will complete its review of your application before the additional scores arrive. If we receive multiple sets of scores from you before the application deadline, the Admissions Committee will consider all scores received. Remember, GRE scores are only valid for five years.

I've heard that Harvard has very strict admissions requirements. Can I apply even if I don’t have a 4.0 GPA and perfect GRE scores?

Of course! Our successful applicants demonstrate their ability to do graduate theological study in a variety of ways, including their writing, letters of recommendation, grades, and professional and life experience. We review each application individually, giving you the opportunity to use the various components of the application to make a case for your academic success at HDS.

When should I start preparing for the application process?

As early as possible! Once you have decided that HDS is one of the graduate schools where you would like to apply, you can begin immediately by: updating your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV), studying for the GRE, writing an initial draft of your statement of purpose, discussing your application plans with your recommendation providers, reviewing our application deadlines and policies, and researching outside scholarships and funding sources. Careful planning with respect to deadlines will allow you to put forth a thoughtful, cohesive application. You can find our online application and a complete list of application requirements on the How to Apply page. Once you create an online account, you can review the detailed application instructions, begin the process of applying for admission, and complete the rest of the application requirements.

HDS Voices

David Woessner
I was drawn to HDS by the rigorous academics and the variety of the field education opportunities. I didn’t foresee how the shared spiritual dynamic among students, faculty, and staff would impact my life. This isn’t just a place to study. It’s a place to grow alongside others. 
—David Woessner, MDiv candidate
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