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A sunny, snowy day at Andover Hall. Photo credit to the HDS Office of Communications. Photographer Kristie Welsh.

Hi, my name is Emily Rogal, and if you’ve called or emailed the Office of Admissions, I’m one of the three Graduate Assistants you’ve probably talked to. A few weeks ago, the HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants hosted a webinar specifically for those awaiting decisions for this application cycle. What follows is a condensed, blog-friendly version of the webinar with a cute, furry surprise at the end. Unlike the original webinar, this post is intended to provide food for thought for all audiences, whether you have already submitted your application or are still discerning which graduate schools you might like to attend in the future.

In the period between submitting my application and hearing back from the Admissions Office, I was a nervous wreck. I was completing my senior year at the New School in Manhattan (Go Narwhals!). It was almost impossible to complete my course work and senior thesis while thinking about a room full of stern faced people in business suits poring over my application while around a boardroom (this is also totally not how this process is!). While there isn’t anything that can necessarily alleviate the nerves of this time period, now that I am a current student, I know that there are a number of things that I could have started thinking about.

  1. Start thinking about housing, but you don’t need to know where you’ll be living right now.

In the late spring/early summer, the Office of Student Life will be sending out many resources to all incoming students regarding housing. So, you do not need to begin actively searching for housing at this point. Many students do not find housing until the summer before they begin school. However, there are some things you can start thinking about now. For example, it’s important to start thinking about what your negotiables are versus what you know you will need in way of housing. Some examples might include a longer commute for more affordable housing, living with roommates or living alone, and whether or not you will be able to bring your beloved pet. Many students live in Cambridge or Somerville for off campus housing, or in other neighborhoods such as Dorchester, Medford, Watertown, Brighton/Allston, or Jamaica Plain if they’re looking for more affordable options with a longer commute. While most HDS students live off campus, there are many Harvard owned properties that are near campus. The Graduate Commons Program, the Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR), and Cronkite dorm are all potential places to find on campus housing.

  1. While waiting to hear back from the Office of Financial Aid, you can start looking at outside funding.

The Office of Admissions has compiled a small list of possible outside funding opportunities, which can be found on the website. Additionally, a quick Google search can turn up many other scholarships available to graduate students. In particular, if you belong to a specific religious tradition, you may want to reach out to those organizations to see if they offer any scholarships. Many of these scholarships have deadlines that are before admissions decisions come out, so we encourage you to apply now.

Sometimes, outside scholarships can impact your financial aid package, so it’s a good idea to reach out to the financial aid office of any school you apply to in order to notify them of this extra funding once it has been awarded.

  1. Start thinking about whether or not you will need to have a job while you are here, and explore your options.

It may be helpful to know that many students are eligible for work study, which allows you to find a job on campus. You will not know if you are eligible for work study until after you are admitted, at which point you can contact the Office of Financial Aid.

Examples of work study jobs include working at various libraries on Harvard’s campus, working in the admissions office, and being a student assistant in other offices. If you are not eligible for work study, there are still a number of places on campus that you can work, so be sure to check out the Student Employment Office at Harvard.

  1. The timeline for what’s next.

1) In mid-March you will receive your decision via email. In order to access this, you will need your login information for the application. If you’ve forgotten your password, now may be a good time to remind yourself and write the information down somewhere.

2) Within 24 hours of receiving your decision, if you applied for need based aid, you will get an email from the Office of Financial Aid with your financial aid package.

3) In early April we will be hosting an Open House for all admitted students. This event will offer the opportunity for you to meet faculty and current students, tour the campus, and sit in on classes. If you are unable to attend, we will be filming the event for you to watch at a later time.

4) If you are admitted, April 15th is the deadline to accept or decline your offer of admission.

We hope that this information is helpful. In the meantime, try and take some deep breaths, get some sunshine, and if all else fails, watch some videos of cute dogs on YouTube (I’m a big fan of this one, if you need a recommendation).

Even though the original content of this post had recent applicants in mind, we hope this version is helpful for all of our readers to give you a sense of the sorts of things you might want to consider if you plan to apply to HDS or any other graduate school. For any questions, or if you’re interested in connecting with one of our Student Ambassadors, please feel free to reach out to our Graduate Assistants email address at ask_students@hds.harvard.edu


Emily Rogal,

Master of Divinity Candidate, 2020