Why Harvard? Why HDS? Why not Harvard? As a woman who spent the bulk of her adult life in the rather transparent world of Hollywood, I can tell you that just because it bears a label does not mean you should wear it. I use this analogy because the reality is: Harvard is one of the most prestigious labels with which one can adorn oneself. But, when plotting your future, the institution you choose to be your home for either two, three or five years should fit you like a glorious tailor-made suit.
Research all that HDS has to offer, such as, faculty that can support your research, courses that speaks to your interests along with identifying with the overall mission statement of the school. I will share an absolute truth with you, Harvard is not for everyone. That statement has nothing to do with academic abilities, because I will confidently wager if you’re applying to HDS you are a rockstar. So, let’s get rid of that myth. So, why would HDS be for you? That my friends is a question you must wrestle with. It is a personal moment of true and honest discernment. Then factor in other things, relocating (if that is your situation), living in cold weather, finances and the list can continue.
So, again, why HDS? I can only share a few gems from my own journey. I elected HDS over and above other schools in warmer climates because of HDS’ open embrace to all faiths. I love learning in an interfaith environment. I also appreciated timely responses from faculty when I reached out to them as an undergraduate still discerning Divinity Schools versus Social Science Ph.D programs. Also, when I attended an HDS info session in Los Angeles, I was genuinely moved at how warm and receptive HDS’ Director of Admissions Loida Feliz was. Plus, I had a network, albeit small, still a support system at Harvard. These are all factors to consider when shopping for your tailor-made suit. Because once I tried on HDS, I was not disappointed. For example, my faculty advisor, Dr. Francis Schussler -Fiorenza was supportive from day one. The HDS community was so inviting it was nearly overwhelming. Shop, shop, discern then discern some more. A designer label does not guarantee a perfect fit. And trust me! transitioning to grad school is a difficult task for a myriad of reasons. Lastly, most importantly, HDS was the right fit for me because of the program. A mentor of mine at UCLA would say all the time, “it’s about the program.” I did not understand that until I researched HDS programs and fell in-love with the level of academic rigor and level of scholars I could learn and grow from. In closing (seriously this time), consider everything, not just the label. Grad school is a financial and emotional investment. Choose wisely.