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Library courtyard. Photo by Chris Alburger

Library courtyard. Photo by Chris Alburger

GRE scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, lectures and presentations…many things go into making a candidate look good on paper. Yet the personal statement and the letters of recommendation really bring an application to life. They show the admissions committee a bit of who you are. Now, having been accepted to Harvard Divinity School, and perhaps several other institutions, you are on the flipside of the admissions experience.

What are you looking for in a graduate program? An excellent library system, all-star faculty, student groups, student diversity, job placement, experiential education components, or percentage of students receiving financial aid? Many factors make an institution look good on paper as well. So how to choose? What brings a graduate program to life? What won’t you see on paper? Last year I was in the fortunate position of choosing from a pool of excellent graduate programs. On paper they all offered many benefits. I had a hard time choosing—until I set foot on the HDS campus.

I chose Harvard Divinity School because of the incredible community that I witnessed while visiting campus. The students were friendly, intellectually engaged and interested in learning about me. I felt personally welcomed by so many of the people that I met and I could sense the excitement that the students and staff had for HDS.

Mind you I visited in April, right in the middle of the semester. Yet I didn’t hear students talk about how stressed out they were or about how much work they had to do. Instead I heard about the school’s Ultimate Frisbee team, the multi-religious Noon Services, the incredible classes that students were taking, and the support students said they felt from the faculty, staff, and their peers.

Harvard’s world-class library system was certainly a draw. Top professors in my field of study were another enticement. Financial help was a huge bonus. Above all, however, was the sense that I would be well taken care by the Harvard Divinity community during my years of graduate study.

Halfway through my second semester at HDS I can reflect upon the decision I made and know that it was the right one for me. The high level of intellect and compassion found at HDS constantly impresses me. It is truly a unique environment in which to study religion, explore career opportunities, and form a network of friends and colleagues that will persist after graduation.

If you are considering joining our HDS community, I encourage you to visit and see for yourself. Let HDS be brought to life and come see what can’t be explained on paper. If you can make it, come to the Open House for Admitted Students.