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Post by: Tessa Steinert Evoy, MTS 2020, HDS Office of Admissions Graduate Assistant 

This time last year, I was right where you are, making that difficult decision to finally press the submit button. Were there things I was forgetting, last edits I should have made, did I upload the wrong version of my statement of purpose? These were all questions that I asked myself before submitting. Looking back a year later, I wanted to share some last tips with you before you press that button. 

My recommender hasn’t submitted their recommendation letter yet—what should I do? 

It’s always good to follow up with your recommenders to make sure they received the unique link that will allow them to access the portal to upload their recommendation letter. Sometimes the unique link is received as junk mail. If your recommender has not received the form, they should first check their spam folder. If they do not find it there, you should also double-check that you have entered their email address correctly into the application. This is a common mistake that people often forget to check but that can be frustrating for applicants and recommenders alike. If you find a mistake and haven’t submitted your application, you should exclude the recommender whose email is incorrect and add them again with the correct information. If you have already submitted your application, please reach out to us at admissions@hds.harvard.edu. 

If you know they have received it but have yet to submit, you are able to re-send the recommendation form from within your application. This will send an email to their inbox again. You can also send a reminder even if you have submitted your application. All you have to do is go to your application checklist, scroll to the bottom of the page, and follow the instructions there for resending the link. If your recommender is having any trouble, we suggest that they reach out to our office directly with any concerns they may have.  

I can’t figure out how to apply for financial aid, what am I doing wrong? 

The need-based financial aid application is not released until after the application deadline on January 15th and you will receive it only if you have submitted your application. It is a simple and quick form and does not take too much time to complete. If you are an American citizen or qualified resident, you must also submit the FAFSA. International applicants are not required to submit the FASFA.  

Upon submitting your application, everyone is considered for merit based aid. However, you do have to submit the HDS financial-aid application to be considered for need-based aid. It is crucial that you complete this application or you will not be considered for need-based aid.  

How do I know you received my application? 

Our office receives your application when you submit it, so there is no need to verify its receipt once you have submitted it and paid the $75 application fee. Please monitor your application checklist to make sure that all materials have been submitted and received by the deadline, including test scores and letters of recommendation. If our office has received these materials, you will see a green arrow next to them on the checklist. In the weeks after January 15th our admissions staff will begin processing all materials within every application to make sure everything is correct. We will contact you directly if there are any issues. Once our office’s review is complete, the red x found at the top of the application checklist reading “all documents have been checked and verified by the Office of Admissions” will turn into a green check-mark. If our office has received all application materials and the only red-x is the one next to “all documents have been checked and verified by the Office of Admissions,” there is no need to contact us.  

What is the best way to upload application materials? 

The easiest and best way to upload documents (e.g unofficial transcripts, statement of purpose or CV/Resume), is in a PDF document. This protects the integrity of your document and ensures that the Admissions Committee sees the document just as you did before submitting them. Before you submit your application, you should also double-check all documents to make sure they are the correct document. Applicants upload the wrong document each year and unfortunately, we cannot make substitutions when this occurs.  

Is there anything I should do once I submit my application? 

Once you press the submit button you’ll have the option to download a complete pdf of your application. I suggest saving yourself a copy of this as you will be not be able to access your application materials once the application is submitted. You should also monitor your checklist for any test scores or letters of recommendation that may not have been received by our office at the time that you submitted your application. If there are any outstanding documents that you believe we should have received, please contact us at admissions@hds.harvard.edu. 

How do I pay the application fee? 

Once you submit the application, you will be prompted to pay the fee. If you have already submitted your application and did not pay the application fee at that time, you can go to the main page of the application, sign in, and follow the link there.  

What is the purpose of the extra box named “Academic Record Concerns” under the Academic History tab—should I use it? 

If you experienced a period of time during your academic career due to extenuating circumstances where you believe your grades do not accurately reflect your capabilities, it might be beneficial to explain what was happening in this section of your application. Otherwise, the Admissions Committee will have no way of knowing if you experienced a hardship that impacted your academic life. In such a competitive application process, it is crucial that you provide this information if you experienced extenuating circumstances that greatly impacted your academic performance.  

I double-checked everything and am still worried about submitting, can you provide any advice on this?  

If you reviewed everything and made a scan of all your documents and information, you should take a deep breath and submit. Then, you should close your computer and take a break, rewarding yourself with something that brings you joy. If you are still awaiting materials, continue to monitor your checklist, but if we have received everything, it is time for the long wait until we release decisions in mid-March. You should also keep an eye on your email for the financial-aid application and in the case that we need further information or verification from you.  

While we do have an admitted students day after decisions are announced, you are also welcome to register for class visits, tours, and other Admissions events on our Admissions event calendar. Please note that this calendar will not be updated in its entirety until mid-February. If you would like to schedule a tour because you are visiting the Boston area before we have finalized our calendar, please reach out to our office at admissions@hds.harvard.edu and we might be able to arrange an individualized session based on your schedule.  


We do hope that your application has gone as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions or concerns please do reach out to our office at admissions@hds.harvard.edu