With the beginning of a new academic year around the corner, returning HDS students reflect on their application process and offer their advice to students thinking about applying to HDS:
- My number one advice to people is to recognize that the decision to attend divinity school requires a leap of faith. It is perfectly normal to be less-than-certain that this mysterious path is the “right one.” But if you find the big questions in life to be the most compelling ones, it is the best place to continue your journey toward wisdom and understanding. The main thing I wish I had known was just how stark the difference could be between interreligious and tradition-specific schools. If you want to study across religious borders, don’t expect to do that at a Christian seminary (even one that seems open to those inclinations). The tradition(s) in which a divinity school is grounded enhance and restrict the type of learning that takes place there, even if one is not pursuing ordination. If you are coming from a Christian or Jewish tradition, it is worth weighing whether you want to go significantly deeper into that tradition or broaden your study. —Daniel Becton, M.Div. ’18
- A month into my year-long Fulbright fellowship in Turkey, I knew I wanted to pursue my interest in Islamic religion and culture in an academic setting. Finding a school and a program that combined my academic interests in Islamic Studies and Women and Gender Studies with my passion for religious literacy and intentional community building seemed like an unachievable goal. Harvard Divinity School offered the incredible opportunity to pursue a rigorous academic discussion with the understanding of how the lived experience of religion impacts individuals and communities. – Brittany Landorf, MTS ’18
- The application process introduced me to the practices of deep thinking and courageous writing that have made my Harvard Divinity School education transformative beyond my wildest imaginings.—Sitraka St. Michael, M.Div. ’17
- I was surprised how much my visits to the schools impacted my decisions to apply and helped my decision to enroll. Visit, if at all possible, even before applying. Start and submit early. Sweat the small stuff. Pay particular attention to details like GREs, due dates, giving your advisors enough time, etc.). Don’t be shy about calling the admissions office, but don’t wait until the last minute. Your letters of recommendation matter; choose your writers wisely and give them lots of time. Your statement of purpose is the most important. Don’t be shy about naming specific professors/programs/offices in your statement. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID!!! HDS has very, very, very few merit awards, BUT the majority of students qualify for financial aid, and it’s very generous, so do it. Our need-based aid can sometimes even trump other schools’ merit-based aid. —Keith Esposito, M.Div. ’18
- The one thing I would say I wish I had known is that relief doesn’t automatically come when you finish the applications. The waiting period is almost as hard as the application period, but it does make finding out that your hard work paid off even sweeter! – Allison Hurst, MTS ’17
- Applying to HDS was a total labor of love for me. There is something about applying to pursue graduate studies that feel uniquely personal and self-directed. I was surprised by how easy it was to craft a statement of purpose and by how much of myself I poured into the essay. My best advice to future applicants is to spend time reflecting on what is motivating you to study at HDS, and then write about that! Not only will it help give the admissions committee a clear picture of the person behind the application, but it will also help you clarify your values and aspirations as you move into this new chapter of your education. —Carly Matas, M.Div. ’17
- My application to HDS required creative and logistical planning. On the logistical side, I recommend setting up a schedule with the important dates for when documents are due (transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, financial aid forms) and to stick as close to your schedule as you can. Obtaining the right documents from various institutions requires patience and time and the more days you have set aside to get this done will enable you to have more flexibility with the creative planning. The creative planning involves thinking about your particular academic and vocational interests and how you plan to utilize the wealth of resources, classes, and experiences at Harvard. At this point, I recommend visiting the HDS website and accompanying social media to enrich your understanding of what HDS does and how you would fit into the fabric of our community. Use the information culled during this stage to write the best admissions essay you can. Remember: leave room for “happy accidents,” and enough time to edit and re-edit your admissions essays to reflect the most prismatic version of yourself.
– Sujay Pandit, MTS ’18
Stay tuned to the Harvard Divinity School website for more updates and the release of the admissions application for the 2017 academic year!