Our applicants have completed degrees in a wide variety of disciplines. However, the great majority of our applicants currently stem from humanities and/or social sciences backgrounds.
Except as noted below, 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.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all classes for the summer 2020, fall 2020, spring 2021, and summer 2021 terms were conducted online. We returned to in-person learning in fall 2021.
HDS 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 in both the Master of Divinity (MDiv) and Master of Theological Studies (MTS) programs is meant to prepare graduates for important work across many different fields. More detail: MDiv FAQs.
MTS and MDiv students may pursue concurrent degree programs with the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Law School, and Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, among others.
For those who do not wish to pursue a concurrent degree, HDS students may take up to half of their courses across Harvard University and the Boston Theological Interreligious Consortium.
More information can be found in the HDS Handbook for Students.
Harvard Divinity School does not accept transfer credits. 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.
HDS and Harvard University continue to closely monitor the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the progress of the vaccination effort. Faculty, staff, and students will return to campus for the fall term, to the extent allowed by the evolving public health situation and with as much in-person learning as possible.
We also encourage you to visit Harvard University’s COVID-19 School and Program site for further details.
HDS offers 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.
Yes! Students come to HDS from a variety of spiritual and religious backgrounds, including non-religious backgrounds. While some of our students come with a faith tradition, 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.
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.
No. All HDS admissions decisions are final. Denied applicants are not considered for the waitlist.
Applicants may reapply for admission to HDS. Applicants that have applied to HDS within the past three years may elect to reuse some materials from their previous application. Please find more information on this process, including a reapplication request form, in the application instructions within the HDS online application for admission. If you submit a reapplication request form, please do not submit your application for admission until you have received a response from HDS Admissions.
If you have any questions, or would like guidance on the procedure, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvard Divinity School has a single annual application cycle for fall enrollment. Each year, our application is available in mid-September, and the application deadline is in early January. All decisions will be released via our online system in mid-March. Admitted students will receive their financial aid information within 24 hours of their admissions decision, if they applied for need-based aid.
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.
An interview is required for admission to our four graduate degree programs (MDiv, MTS, MRPL, and ThM). Select candidates will be invited to a 15-minute, virtual interview with a member of the HDS Admissions staff. Invitations and more information about the interview process will be provided to applicants starting in late January/early February. Please note that an interview invitation does not guarantee admission to our degree programs. All official decisions will be released in mid-March.
At times, there can be a short waitlist for the MDiv and MTS degree programs. While applicants will receive notice if they are on the waitlist when decisions are released in mid-March, please note that HDS cannot provide information on waitlist length or an applicant’s position.
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.
All HDS degree programs are intended to be completed by students on a full-time schedule.
Should an incoming student find themselves in extraordinary extenuating circumstances, they may petition to complete their program on a part-time basis.
For more detailed information, please consult page 47 of the HDS Handbook for Students.
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), 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.
Once the application itself is available, you can find it along with a complete list of application requirements on the Apply page.
Your writing sample should demonstrate your strengths in writing, research, and critical analysis—skills that will be directly applicable to academic work at HDS. You can choose to submit:
An excerpt of an academic paper in any subject area within the humanities or social sciences.
An adapted piece of professional writing.
An original work that is based upon a topic that you are interested in studying here at HDS.
You may reuse a previous work, especially if you feel that it best represents your academic writing abilities. Please provide an excerpt from a larger piece or edit a selection down instead of providing the entire piece and stay within the word limit. You may add a brief note providing the larger context for the piece you choose. Please note that footnotes, bibliographies, or works cited pages do not count toward the overall word limit.
Letters of recommendation are some of the best sources of information our office receives about you, as they allow us to hear how your mentors, supervisors, and professors view you and your abilities.
Letters should address your intellectual abilities, personal qualities, and promise for graduate study in religion. At least two of these letters should be solicited from college, university, or seminary professors who have taught you and are well-acquainted with your academic qualifications. MDiv applicants must have one letter that speaks of your ministerial potential, broadly defined.
Your letters of recommendation should directly address your candidacy for admission to HDS. We recommend that you provide your recommendation providers with a copy of your résumé, statement of purpose, and a link to the program site so that they can write a tailored letter on your behalf. We also encourage you to have at least one or more conversations with each recommendation provider in order to ensure they have the information they need to write a strong letter on your behalf.
You can access the project proposal form and instructions within the HDS online application for admission.
Within the program, master of religion and public life (MRPL) students will complete a final project that engages the topic of religion within their profession. The final project will be shaped in consultation with the faculty instructor of the Religion and Public Life Seminar, MRPL candidate peers in the seminar, and the student's faculty advisor. The final project may take one of the following three forms:
A portfolio addressing a particular theme in the intersection of religion and the student's profession. This option could, for example, take the form of a series of case studies, a series of articles, or a portfolio of artistic creations relevant to an articulated theme.; or
Two smaller papers (each normally 20-30 pages in length); or
One large paper (normally 40-60 pages in length)
All options require approval from the faculty advisor and RPL director by mid-December of the year in which a student is enrolled. Final projects may incorporate work done in courses counting toward fulfillment of the MRPL degree requirements but must also include substantially new materials. Applicants will use the form within the application for admission to provide some preliminary thoughts on their intended MRPL project.
Applicants are required to upload unofficial transcripts from each postsecondary institution that they have attended in the academic history section of the application. All transcripts should show courses completed, grades received, duration of study, and degree or diploma received, if applicable.
Please keep in mind that you will need to provide official transcripts (and translations, if applicable) for verification, should you be admitted. HDS reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission if there is a discrepancy between an applicant’s uploaded transcript and official transcript or translation.
For fall 2021 application cycle: We are unable to accept any hard copy materials via postal mail.
Please upload your most recent transcript via the online application.
Should you be admitted and choose to enroll at HDS, you will be required to provide final, official transcripts from all degree-granting institutions you attended.
We do not have a minimum GPA (grade point average). The admissions committee reviews each application holistically and each component of the application is carefully reviewed with the knowledge that successful HDS students possess strengths in different areas. The 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.
The Statement of Purpose 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 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.
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.
Once your application has been submitted, you will be able log back into the online application status page and 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.
Please note: we are unable to accept any hard copy materials sent by postal mail.
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.
We strongly discourage you from submitting extraneous materials beyond our requirements, as they will not be included in your application nor reviewed by the Admissions Committee.
Applicants must submit a transcript for each institution from which they have received postsecondary academic credit. This includes community colleges and study abroad programs.
HDS provides application fee waivers to applicants who are:
HDS Diversity and Explorations alumnx
Posse Foundation alumnx
Experiencing financial constraints
All application fee waiver requests are subject to approval and should be submitted by January 3, 2022. You can access this form from the HDS online application for admission and will be inside the application instructions. If you request a fee waiver, please do not submit your application until you have submitted the waiver request and received a response from the Admissions Office. If you have any questions, or would like guidance on the procedure, please contact us at email@example.com.
TOEFL/IELTS and GRE Requirements
Applicants must submit official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores or IELTS (International English Language Testing System) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes. Completion of graduate-level degrees at an institution where the instruction is conducted in English does not exempt an applicant from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement.
As a condition of admission, all international applicants whose native language is not English, or who did not receive their baccalaureate degree from an institution where English is the sole language of instruction, must take the TOEFL or IELTS. If you have any questions about if your undergraduate degree and institution satisfy this requirement, please reach out to the Office of Admissions at email@example.com.
MDiv, MTS, MRPL, and Special Student applicants must receive a score of:
- 100 or higher on the Internet-based TOEFL test
- 7.5 or higher on the IELTS test
Applicants for the ThM program must receive one of the following minimum scores:
- TOEFL (computer-based exam): 105 or higher
- IELTS: 8
The GRE is completely optional for all applicants to our degree programs. Applicants may submit GRE scores if they feel it would be a beneficial component to their application. There is no minimum score requirement.
An applicant’s TOEFL or IELTS must have been taken no earlier than February 1, 2020 for enrollment in the 2022-23 academic year.
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.