Misconceptions I Had When Applying to HDS

Editor’s Note: We know that students who are considering HDS may have some preconceived notions about what being a student at HDS is like. In this post, one of our Graduate Assistants, Kate Hoeting, helps dispel some common misconceptions.  

Post by Kate Hoeting, MTS ‘21 

Photo Courtesy of Kate Hoeting

When I was applying to HDS two years ago, I did my research, but I still made a lot of assumptions about what attending HDS would be like. Looking back now, I can’t believe that I had these misconceptions—some of them seem funny because they’re so far off from the truth about HDS. So now, I’m letting you know what my misconceptions were so that you won’t make the same ones. 

  1. Ithought all MDiv students were affiliated with a religion. When I was first figuring out which degree program to choose, I didn’t even consider the MDiv because I’m not affiliated with a certain religious tradition. In reality, I could have totally been a nonreligious MDiv! The MTS degree is not at all a degree for analyzing religion from a nonreligious point of view, and the MDiv is not a degree exclusively designed for affiliated folks. At HDS, the lines between these two degrees are blurred.  
  2. I thought that Harvard professors wouldn’t have time for their students. It turns out that assumption couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I have been absolutely floored by the care and dedication that some of my professors have offered up to their students during the pandemic. It’s such an honor to be taught by people who make me feel “star struck,” but also are down-to-earth and ready to offer feedback on whatever projects I’m working on. 
  1. I believed that HDS students wouldn’t be able to access all the resources of Harvard. In hindsight I don’t know why I made this assumption, but it was completely wrong. From studying in the law library to taking classes at the Harvard School of Public Health, I’ve been able to go well beyond the boundaries of HDS and use everything the university at large has to offer. 
  2. I imagined the MTS Area of Focus as a pre-set track. In reality, the 18 Areas of Focus that MTS students must choose from are incredibly flexible—two people from the same Area of Focus will have totally different transcripts. MTS students only need to take 6 classes within that Area of Focus and 3 classes outside. 
  3. I assumed that most MDivs would be seeking formal ordination. I have plenty of friends at HDS on the road to ordination, but MDivs head into a variety of different fields. As this career snapshot breaks down, many MDivs go into chaplaincy, education, public policy, and the nonprofit sector. 
  4. Finally, stories I heard about graduate school led me to believe that going to HDS would be an isolating experience. This is completely untrue! I have found that people are often drawn to divinity school because they are skilled community builders, and those skills shine through in my peers’ everyday interactions with fellow students. 

Looking back, I couldn’t be happier that two years ago I decided to apply to HDS. Even despite the pandemic derailing my degree experience, I will graduate this May a more compassionate and intelligent person, surrounded by the friends and professors who supported me along the way. 

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