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 with the resources and support of the wider Harvard University. Seminaries are typically affiliated with a particular religious 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.
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. The training HDS students receive is meant to prepare graduates for important work across fields.
No. Our applicants have completed degrees in a wide variety of disciplines, primarily focused in the humanities. If you have not completed any coursework in the humanities, we suggest completing a course or two in your proposed area of study before applying.
Yes! Students come to HDS from a variety of spiritual and religious backgrounds, including non-religious backgrounds. We have a number of students that are not affiliated with a religious tradition. What all HDS students share in common is a willingness to explore the complexities of religious thought and life through academic curiosity and practical engagement.
MTS and MDiv students may take advantage of the opportunity to pursue degree programs concurrently in a number of schools of the University. HDS students have earned dual degrees from the Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. View more details
HDS offers both merit- and need-based grants for students enrolling in the MDiv or MTS programs. Approximately 90% of students receive some form of financial aid, the vast majority of which is need-based grant aid. HDS has a small pool of merit aid that is awarded based on the overall strength of the application. Merit award decisions are made by the admissions committee at the point of admission and are final.
The majority of grant aid is awarded through our need-based grant program, which requires an application process. US Citizens and eligible non-citizens will be required to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the HDS Application for Financial Aid. The FAFSA can be submitted after January 1 of the year you intend to apply for admission. Instructions for how to complete the HDS Application for Financial Aid are generally available in mid-January and are emailed to prospective students once they have submitted their application for admission. The deadline for applying for need-based financial aid is generally in mid-February. We strongly encourage all applicants to apply for need-based institutional grants. If an applicant does not receive merit funding and did not apply for need-based institutional aid by the deadline, there is a very strong possibility that we would not be able to review late applications. Admitted applicants will receive either merit-based institutional grants or need-based institutional grants. They will not be awarded from both pools of funding.
HDS also participates in the Federal Work Study and Federal Loan Programs which are open to US Citizens and eligible non-citizens. For specific information on those programs, as well as other programs and policies, please visit the Financial Aid section of this website.
Online courses are not offered at HDS. Those who are interested in online learning through Harvard might consider Harvard Extension School, which offers courses on religion taught by HDS professors. Please note, however, that coursework completed at the Extension School will not lead to a degree at HDS.
Harvard Divinity School does not accept transfer credit. However, after satisfactory completion of at least one full semester of coursework at HDS, students in the MDiv program may be considered for advanced standing for work completed at another institution prior to enrollment at HDS. Guidelines and information about obtaining advanced standing are provided in the HDS Handbook for Students.
We offer a joint doctoral degree in religion with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) at Harvard University, but the PhD application process is solely managed by the Committee on the Study of Religion through FAS. The Committee on the Study of Religion can answer your questions about the PhD in Religion degree program, requirements, and application process.
No. Harvard Divinity School has a single annual application cycle for fall enrollment. Each year, our application is available in late August or early September, and the application deadline is in January.
All applicants apply and are admitted as full-time students. However, if a change in circumstances prohibits full-time enrollment before entering the program, a student may submit a petition to the Admissions Committee for part-time status.
Applicants may apply for admission to HDS up to three times, regardless of the program or combination of programs. Applicants that have submitted an application to HDS within the past three years may elect to reuse some materials from their previous application. Please review the reapplication process for details.
There is no formal language requirement for admission. 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 must submit official Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores when their native language is not English or when their baccalaureate is not from an institution where English is the sole language of instruction.
If you have any questions regarding this requirement, please contact the Office of Admissions at email@example.com.
The GRE is required for all applicants to our degree programs. However, GRE waivers are granted to MDiv, MTS, and ThM applicants who already hold advanced degrees. Please contact the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an advanced degree and would like to learn more about the process of waiving the GRE requirement.
As a condition of admission, all international applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL or IELTS. This requirement can be waived for those who attended an undergraduate institution where English was the sole language of instruction. Those who are unsure whether they qualify to waive the requirement are advised to contact the HDS Office of Admissions to verify.
Applicants for the following programs: MDiv, MTS, Ho Scholars program, and Special Students program must receive one of the following minimum scores:
- TOEFL (computer-based exam): 100 or higher
- TOEFL (paper-based exam): 600 or higher
- IELTS: 7.5
Applicants for the ThM program must receive one of the following minimum scores:
- TOEFL (computer-based exam): 105 or higher
- TOEFL (paper-based exam): 620 or higher
- IELTS: 8
Of course! Our successful applicants demonstrate their ability to do graduate theological study in a variety of ways, and the Admissions Committee honors that through our holistic admissions process. Alongside applicants’ past academic and test performance, the Committee will consider applicants’ writing skills, letters of recommendation, and professional and life experience. We review each application carefully, giving applicants of all backgrounds the opportunity to use the various components of the application to make a case for their academic success at HDS.
We do not have a minimum GPA (grade point average) or minimum GRE score requirement. We review each application holistically, with the knowledge that successful HDS students possess strengths that can manifest themselves in different arenas. The various components of the application are intended to allow you to demonstrate, in a variety of ways, your academic preparation to engage in graduate-level theological study at Harvard Divinity School.
When possible, we suggest that you prepare and take the GRE only 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. Please note that GRE scores are only valid for five years after your test date.
As early as possible! Once you have decided that HDS is one of the graduate schools to which you would like to apply, you can begin preparing immediately, even before the online application is available each fall. Update your résumé or curriculum vitae (CV), study for the GRE, write an initial draft of your statement of purpose, discuss your application plans with your recommendation providers, review our application deadlines and policies, and consider 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. Please note that the online application is only available during the application season (September through January).
We do not require or offer interviews for applicants. However, we recommend that applicants visit HDS to get to know our academic and community life. For those who are not able to travel to Cambridge, we offer phone information and virtual information sessions. During the fall, we also travel all over the United States to meet with prospective students. Check our travel calendar to see if we will be coming to your area.
Social security numbers are required in order to verify applicants’ identities and to correlate with information provided as part of the financial aid process. Our confidential receipt of applicants’ social security numbers is in compliance with federal reporting requirements. Please review these security-related advisories for additional information.
We strongly discourage you from submitting extraneous materials beyond our requirements as they will not be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.
The statement of purpose (1,000 words) is an integral part of the application and is evaluated with great care by the Admissions Committee. It should include your general background (education, work experience, volunteer work, and/or relevant personal experience) and how this background has prepared you for graduate theological study, specifically at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). It should also include your vocational or career objectives and why you believe your desired program at HDS will aid you in achieving those objectives.
Once your application has been submitted, you will be able log back into the online application to see the status of your application and to track our office’s receipt of your 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.
Per our institutional policy, the Office of Admissions cannot confirm receipt of your application materials via phone or email. Applicants can verify our office’s receipt of materials by logging into their applicant status page, which is updated daily.
Please note that a complete checklist does not equate a complete application as all admissions materials are subject to a verification process.
Applications are not considered fully complete until all materials have been received and verified by our office. Please note that, at any time within the admissions process, our office may request additional materials to be submitted to complete your application.
Your admission decision will be available online in mid-March. At the time of decision release, you will receive an email alerting you that your applicant status page has been updated. All applicants will be notified of their status at the same time.
At times, there can be a short wait list for the ThM, MDiv, and MTS degree programs.
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.
Our HDS Institution Code is 3433. Once you are ready to send your scores, please provide this code to ETS. Otherwise, our office will not receive them. Please note, if we receive multiple sets of scores from you before the application deadline, the Admissions Committee will consider all scores received.
An applicant’s TOEFL or IELTS must have been taken no earlier than February 1, 2014 for enrollment in the 2015–16 academic year.
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Students here will encounter all kinds of information in their studies. They are doing real comparative work, examining contemporary issues alongside their peers who are studying archaeology and ancient traditions. It creates a very intellectual dynamic.
—Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity
More on degree programs at HDS