Admissions Staff: What We Wish Applicants Knew

Editor’s note: As the application deadline draws closer, please enjoy these short excerpts from staff members at the Office of Admissions talking about what they wish applicants knew.

Kate Hoeting, Graduate Assistant, MTS ‘21

When I was applying to HDS, I barely knew about the marvelous HDS Admissions Blog! I promise that I’m not just plugging the blog because I’m the blog’s editor—it really will help your journey through the application process. On the blog, we publish everything from student reflections on life at HDS to nuts and bolts articles about the application requirements. Go ahead and click around! 

Julia Reimann, Graduate Assistant, MDiv ‘22 

I wish more applicants knew about the Ask Students email. Run by the graduate assistants, this email is a great way to connect with a current HDS student and learn more about the opportunities to engage specifically in programs relating to each student’s individual interests. Simply send us a note including your name and interests and we will do our best to connect you to a current student with similar interests. Current students can be a great resource when it comes to learning more about HDS and what life at HDS is like. 

John Rzasa, Staff Assistant 

You can contact us by email, and there are no “bad” or “stupid” questions. We’re always happy to help! (Editor’s Note: John is truly one of the nicest people on the planet, so don’t be scared to give us a call. Keep in mind that dragons do not answer the HDS Admissions emails—it’s just the friendly people you see on this page!) 

Margaret Okada-Scheck, Associate Director of Admissions 

The hardest part of applying to graduate school is figuring out what you want to do. There are seemingly infinite possibilities around how one can envision the next stages one’s academic and professional future, and while you don’t have to have an exact job in mind, it’s important to figure out one’s goals before applying to graduate school, and to also determine if a graduate program can provide you with the skills, knowledge, and networks to do the work you want to do. 

Read the instructions carefully. We spend a lot of time trying to make sure that all of it is clearly laid out. However, if there is any confusion or you just need clarity, definitely reach out to our office. 

Feel free to reach out with questions. We understand that it can be intimidating, but we work to support applicants through the process. There is a wealth of information on our website, including FAQs and virtual events. Representatives from our office are available via phone or email if you have any questions. 

Breathe. Applying to graduate schools is intense and it’s important to engage in self-care throughout this process. 

Sarah Guzy, Assistant Director of Admissions 

We take a holistic approach to the application process, so be sure to look at all of your materials and think about them as a whole. What is being presented in your application? Is it clear, in your materials, who you are, why you’re applying to HDS, and that you’re academically prepared to do well in a rigorous graduate program? Think about what’s within your control to change (your Statement of Purpose, your writing sample, who you select as your recommenders, your CV), and what’s outside of your control at the time of applying (your transcripts, your test scores, your work/volunteer/extracurricular history). You have more control over your application than you might think! 

One pro tip: I know it can be hard and feel awkward to write about your accomplishments in your Statement of Purpose, but try! Every year we get applications where the recommenders advocate more for an applicant than the applicant themselves. Tell us why you’re awesome! But at the same time, don’t simply enumerate what’s in your CV or on your transcript—pull out things to highlight and weave them into your narrative about who you are and why you’re applying to HDS. 

Be sure to tell us why you’re applying to HDS specifically. Mention faculty you want to work with, or programs/centers you’re excited about, or classes you want to take. This shows us that you’ve done your research and you’ll be able to hit the ground running as a student here to get the most out of your time at HDS. 

And finally, please edit, edit, edit! Typos aren’t a dealbreaker, but editing all of your application materials to be sure you’ve caught all typos goes a long way to showing us that you’re taking this seriously and are a conscientious applicant. 

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