Editor’s Note: For this blog post, we wanted to highlight some of the questions we receive most often in the Ask Students inbox. If you don’t see your question here, we encourage you to reach out to the Admissions Graduate Assistants.
I do not have experience in religious studies, is there a place for me at HDS?
At HDS, we admit students from a diverse range of academic backgrounds. We receive many applications from individuals who have not completed coursework in religious studies and theology. In these cases, the Admissions Committee pays attention to previous coursework in the humanities and social sciences and to the applicant’s demonstrated interests and qualifications. If your work in the humanities and social sciences is limited, you might want to consider enrolling in a course in the field to demonstrate that you are prepared to do graduate-level work in religion. Make sure to use your statement of purpose as an opportunity to demonstrate how your past academic and professional experiences have uniquely prepared you for graduate study in the field of religion.
My interests overlap with both the MDiv and MTS program, which one should I apply for?
We receive numerous emails from students who find that both the MTS and the MDiv align with their academic interests. Both degrees will prepare you for a variety of career paths as well as PhD programs. There are some logistical differences between the two programs and the best way to get a snapshot of the two is to look at the comparison chart of the two programs here. We also have recorded panels on both the MDiv and MTS degree programs that you can check out here. We would recommend that you pay extra attention to the MDiv requirements. The MDiv requires a field education component that is optional for the MTS program. Does Field Education feel like an important part of what you want out of divinity school? We’d also recommend asking yourself if you would be interested in courses that involve reflecting on the meaning of ministry and your own personal relationship with religion/spirituality. If so, then the MDiv might be a better option for you.
What is the community at HDS like?
The HDS community is incredibly diverse! There are so many opportunities to get involved and learn from other students of various backgrounds and experiences. While there are numerous activities and events that HDS students can attend, two of the most popular ones are Noon Service and Community Tea. Noon Service is a weekly gathering led by different organizations each week. It is a great resource for those interested in practicing ministry or ordination. It is also a great space to learn about other religious traditions and practices. Community Tea is another HDS student favorite. It is a time where the HDS community including students, staff, and faculty get together over food. Each week a different student organization gives a short summary about the work they are doing during this event, so it also gives students a chance to learn more about what other students are doing on campus. You can also check out our recorded panel on Religious, Spiritual and Community Life at HDS to hear about current student experiences at HDS.
I’m a mid-career professional, is there a place for me at HDS?
Yes! There are many students that matriculate at HDS after a long hiatus from academic work or who are making a mid-career change. If you are worried about the strengthening your application after a long absence from academia, you might consider enrolling in a graduate-level course before you apply in order to submit a more recent transcript and letter of recommendation. Many students also choose to have a professional supervisor or mentor serve as one of their recommenders, as such a recommender can speak to their current personal qualities, intellectual prowess, and relevant career skills. We also advise that you use your Statement of Purpose to tell the Admissions Committee more about how your unique experiences have prepared you for graduate study at Harvard and why HDS fits into your future goals. Please sure to also check out the recorded panel on Applying to HDS as a Mid-Career Student.
What does a typical financial aid package look like?
It is difficult to say what a “typical” financial aid package looks like because it depends on the student. However, HDS offers generous financial aid. We offer both merit- and need-based grants for students enrolling in the MDiv or MTS programs with most of the funding going to need-based financial aid. Our baseline package includes 75% of tuition covered, the next package includes 100% of tuition covered, and for students with the most demonstrated need we provide 100% of tuition covered plus a living stipend. Approximately 90 percent of students receive some form of institutional grant assistance. We highly encourage all applicants to apply for financial aid even if they are not sure they will qualify.
You learn more about financial aid options here.
What MTS Area of Focus should I choose? Am I allowed to change it?
MTS students craft their program of study around a chosen area of focus. You can view a list of the 18 areas of concentration and more details about each on our website. All MTS students must take six (6) courses within their area of focus, so one way to figure to decide is to explore our Course Catalog and filter based on the MTS Area of Focus you are considering. As you will see, there is a lot of overlap between these areas and plenty of course options. If you feel that none of the 18 areas listed accurately depict your academic interests, you may consider creating your own individual program, with the help of a faculty adviser, and submitting an individualized program of study for approval to the MTS Curriculum Committee. You can also check out the Exploring the Master of Theological Studies Degree At HDS recorded panel to hear from current students who are pursuing an MTS degree.
I belong to X tradition. Will I fit in?
HDS students come from many different faith traditions and backgrounds as well as from no faith tradition or religious background. One of the great aspects of attending HDS is the opportunity to learn alongside and from a diverse student body. HDS currently has around 30 religious traditions represented.
What is the application timeline?
The HDS application typically opens in mid-September but we highly encourage you to spend time in July and August considering your intention to apply to divinity school and researching program options. You have October-December to work on your application materials before the early January application due date. After you’ve submitted your application, you will be invited to apply for financial aid in February. Admissions decisions are released in mid-March and you will need to decide by April 15th. You can check out our Suggested Application Timeline blog post for more tips. Also be sure to check out our recorded panel on Application Requirement and Best Practices as you work on your materials.