Exploring Divinity School during COVID-19

Post by Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21, & Julia Reimann, MDiv ‘22 

If you’re thinking about coming to divinity school, you might be wondering how to decide where to apply when you can’t visit campus. We at the HDS Office of Admissions feel for you, and we’re working hard to develop resources to help you explore HDS!  

  1. Draft Your Statement of Purpose 

Divinity school is a big investment of time and money, so you’ll want to devote time to thinking about why you want to attend. Even if you’re just exploring, starting to draft your Statement of Purpose can give you a good sense of what you’d like to get out of graduate school and why. Having a grasp on your future goals will not only strengthen your application but also make your life happier in the long run by helping you decide which kind of school is right for you. 

  1. Make a Research Spreadsheet 

Summer is a great time to research different schools before you can start filling out our application in September. If you make a spreadsheet to track your research, you can mark things like tuition, programs that interest you, and testing requirements. Just making the spreadsheet can be helpful because it will help you consider which aspects of divinity school matter to you. For example, when I was searching for schools, my spreadsheet had a column to rate each school’s library. 

Students preparing for our annual multi-religious  
celebration Seasons of Light // photo courtesy of HDS OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
  1. Explore Course Catalogues 

Beyond the aspects you can quantify in a spreadsheet, every divinity school is different in terms of the dialogues happening on campus. One way to get a sense of whether HDS fits your interests is to check out the HDS course catalog. Currently just a few Fall 2020 courses have been entered, but looking at the courses offered this year will let you see the kinds of ideas HDS students are writing, reading, and thinking about. One of the most effective ways to choose a school is to compare different course catalogues, which will help you better understand how different campus conversations compare. 

  1. Look at Faculty Lists 

At HDS, we have faculty members engaging in innovative and important work across a variety of fields. Looking at the faculty list can be a helpful way to see if there are professors doing research that interests you. Remember that at HDS you can cross-register in up to half of your classes, so it’s worth looking at Harvard professors beyond HDS. If you’re looking for some good summer reading, you can even read books and articles by faculty whose work is similar to yours! 

  1. Listen to Podcasts 

You can also listen to the HDS podcast,where you’ll find recordings of panels and talks, which will give you an idea of the kinds of conversations happening on campus. In response to COVID-19, two HDS students also created the podcast Closing the Distancewhere they frequently interview current students about their pandemic spiritual practices. You can also check out Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, which is hosted by HDS alums and seeks to read the Harry Potter series as a sacred text. Another one to add to your list is Ministry of Ideasa podcast that discusses how religious ideas shape the world. Ministry of Ideas was started by an HDS alum through the Religious Literacy Project, and often welcomes scholars of religion as guests. You can also check out the HDS Admissions Blog’s interview with host Zachary Davis

  1. Watch Recorded Lectures 

Especially because HDS is connected to the broader Harvard University, there are so many events that it’s hard to decide how to spend your time! The Harvard Watch HDS YouTube channel includesrecordings of events like presentations by the Women’s Studies in Religion Program fellows and the panels from the 4th annual Black Religion, Spirituality, and Culture Conference.   

Author, activist, and farmer Leah Penniman  speaks at the event “Farming While Black” // photo courtesy of HDS OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
  1. Talk to Denominational Counselors 

At HDS, it seems like most students are in their own process of exploring their relationship to religion, certain traditions, and their spiritual identities. Whether or not you identify with a certain religious tradition, you’re welcome to talk with one of our 12 Denominational Counselors to help in your discernment. 

  1. Connect with Current Students via email 

If you’d like totalk to a current HDS student who does not work for the Admissions Office, email ask_students@hds.harvard.edu. Let us know a little bit about yourself and your research interests, and we will pair you for an email conversation with a current HDS student who has similar interests. 

You can also email ask_students@hds.harvard.edu to connect with a Graduate Assistant, who is also a current student, via email. 

  1. Attend a HDS Admissions Webinar 

Register for the “Considering HDS” webinar with the Graduate Assistants this summer:  

  • Join the HDS Admissions Graduate Assistants, Kate & Julia, for a webinar introduction to divinity school and HDS. They will address frequently asked questions, as well as what life as an HDS student looks like. There will be time for questions at the end. 

Explore the other opportunities to connect with HDS Admissions virtually this summer on the HDS calendar of events

  1. Subscribe to the Blog! 

Stay updated by subscribing to the HDS Admissions Blog, where we’ll keep posting current students’ perspectives and showcasing the projects they’re working on. Click the “Follow” button in the lower right-hand corner, and then enter your email to subscribe. 

If you’d like to sign up to receive more information from HDS, please fill out our email sign-up form. Then we’ll be able to let you know when we’re hosting events like webinars throughout the summer and fall. We know that this time of uncertainty can be especially frustrating when it comes to making big life changes, and we want to let you know that you can reach out to us—we’re happy to help! 

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