Hello everyone, we hope you are taking good care of yourselves as you prepare your application materials. As prior applicants, current students, and Graduate Assistants in the Office of Admissions, we know how stressful a time this can be. We’ve gathered quite a bit of behind the scenes information throughout our experiences in each of these roles, so we thought we’d write a blog to help you out. We’ve divided this post into two sections, beginning with a Q+A between Graduate Assistants Emily Rogal and Mikaela Allen and ending with a section featuring Application Myths, also produced by Emily Rogal and Mikaela Allen. Enjoy, and let us set your minds at ease! Continue reading
Hello prospective and current HDS Community!
We are K.C. Mcconnell, Mikaela Allen, and Emily Rogal, and we are thrilled to serve as graduate assistants for the Office of Admissions. We work both behind the scenes to prepare for admissions events like DivEx and Theological Education Day, while also serving as student liaisons to answer many of your admissions related questions. If you have time to see the magnificent HDS campus in person, we will also serve as your enthusiastic tour guides. Continue reading
Meet the 2016-2017 Admissions Office Graduate Assistants:
Greetings from the 2016-2017 HDS Office of Admissions Graduate Assistants! Recently, we had a virtual conversation about HDS, working in the Office of Admissions, and pies. We hope this gives you some insight on how students live and work at HDS; we look forward to interacting with the 2016-2017 applicants this year!
-Brittany Landorf, MTS ‘18, Samantha Melton, MDiv ‘19, Sujay Pandit, MTS ‘18
Who we are:
SP: My name is Sujay Pandit, and I am incoming MTS student here at HDS. My concentration is Religion, Ethics, and Politics and I am interested in exploring the intersections between disaster research and religion in the United States.
BL: My name is Brittany Landorf, and I’m also an incoming MTS student at HDS. I am studying Islamic Studies with a focus on Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Islam. I am interested in studying modern social movements and female spiritual leaders in Islam through the lens of feminist and queer critical theories.
SM: Hi Friends! My name is Samm Melton, and I am currently a first year M.Div. candidate at HDS, currently in the ordination process with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). I am particularly interested in social justice issues within the church the congregational response to these issues and have a passion for mental health advocacy within the church.
Why are you here/what brought you here?
SP: I came to HDS after recently completing my Ph.D. in Performance Studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. As part of my research, I became fascinated with the role that individual and communal religious experiences play in the aftermath of a crisis. I wanted to learn more about how religion and faith correlate to local and global experiences of disaster.
BL: As an undergraduate at Macalester College, I came to Religious Studies while studying International Studies and Arabic Language. I found that Religious Studies offered an interdisciplinary approach that gave me a deeper understanding of Islam. I became interested in the lived experience of piety Muslim people, specifically young Muslim women, performed in their daily lives. After graduating from undergrad, I spent a year in Turkey on a Fulbright English Teaching Fellowship. That experience helped me realize my interest in deepening my understanding of Islam from the intersection of religious studies and feminist and critical gender theories.
SM: Although I have considered ministry since high school, oddly enough, my journey to Divinity School started while I was a barista at a local non-profit coffee shop in high school. An unlikely scene to spark my interests, this coffee shop doubled as an interfaith community that had a passion for social justice and sparked my interest in the intersection of faith and social justice. Throughout undergrad, I spent the majority of my summer in Limpopo, South Africa, learning and working towards a sustainable ministry. As a psychology major, the value of mental health within the church, combined with my passion for social justice, and a call to ministry rooted in an interfaith space, led me to study at a multireligious divinity school.
What do we do as Graduate Assistants at HDS?
SP: As Graduate Assistants, we are in charge of working with the Office of Admissions on a variety of tasks. Each day brings new surprises! For example, in one day, I can be juggling working as a tour guide for prospective students, using my graphic design skills to create flyers or presentations, or answering prospective students’ emails and phone calls to our office. Since no day is typical, I am always eager to learn new skills and add them to my HDS tool belt.
BL: My favorite part of being a Graduate Assistant at HDS is speaking to and meeting prospective students. When I was applying, the GAs offered incredible advice and insight into the academic programs and community at HDS. In addition to helping prospective students, we help host on and off-campus admissions events and facilitate conversations between current and incoming students.
SM: I would agree with Brittany and Sujay. Our typical day can vary pretty drastically. However, nothing brightens my day like meeting and speaking with prospective students. Since I’ve recently been through the admission process, I love hearing about where students are hoping their education can take them, as well as connecting them with the many resources here at HDS.
What is one thing we are excited for this year?
SP: I am excited to experience Theological Education Day 2016 (T.E.D.) and the Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx) because I was unable to attend those events when I was applying to HDS. Now, I’ll get the chance to see how the Office of Admissions organizes and executes these two exciting events!
BL: I am also very excited for T.E.D. and DivEx. I cannot wait to meet the prospective applicants and help show them around HDS’ campus! In the spring, I am looking forward to organizing our Open House for incoming students.
SM: As a recent DivEx Alum, I am most excited to share in the DivEx experience with prospective students this year, particularly since my DivEx experience became such an integral part of my discernment process. I too am also excited for the Open House for incoming students, as I look forward to campus coming alive as we welcome new students and prepare for a new year.
What do we like about the community?
SP: I enjoy the diversity here at HDS. This diversity extends beyond the classroom walls, and I see it in the Office of Admissions. It is thrilling to work in an office surrounded by people with diverse perspectives on religion, academia, faith and spirituality. Most importantly, I wanted my time at HDS to prepare me with academic and also practical skills, and working as a GA helps me keep some balance to all the theoretical work I do in my coursework.
BL: Working in the Admissions Office has helped me develop a deeper understanding of the HDS community. It is wonderful to see the Divinity School’s emphasis on fostering diverse and intentional spiritual communities extend to all aspects of the school.
SM: The Admissions Office has also helped me to develop a deeper understanding of the community of HDS. The diversity of the community is truly mirrored in the vast array of activities, community events, and students groups that HDS has to offer. Simply by walking around campus, you can truly feel how tight-knit this community is and their commitment to one another.
Favorite moment at HDS, thus far?
SP: Too many to count! One stands out: my supervisor and Assistant Director of Admissions, Sarah Guzy, brought us decadently rich pie to our first GA meeting of the semester!
BL: We went candlestick bowling for our office retreat at my favorite pizza place. It was a great way to bond with everyone and show off our bowling skills!
SM: There so many, but mine would likely have to be meeting with the Innovative Ministries group. It’s incredibly exciting and inspiring to hear the innovative ways in which people are seeking to do ministry!
BL: Apple!!!! Or Rhubarb, it depends on the time of the year.
SM: Nothing beats a homemade pie of any type!
We can’t wait to connect with you as you discern if HDS is the right place for you, and move through the application process. Contact us via email at email@example.com or call us at 617-495-0639!
With the beginning of a new academic year around the corner, returning HDS students reflect on their application process and offer their advice to students thinking about applying to HDS:
- My number one advice to people is to recognize that the decision to attend divinity school requires a leap of faith. It is perfectly normal to be less-than-certain that this mysterious path is the “right one.” But if you find the big questions in life to be the most compelling ones, it is the best place to continue your journey toward wisdom and understanding. The main thing I wish I had known was just how stark the difference could be between interreligious and tradition-specific schools. If you want to study across religious borders, don’t expect to do that at a Christian seminary (even one that seems open to those inclinations). The tradition(s) in which a divinity school is grounded enhance and restrict the type of learning that takes place there, even if one is not pursuing ordination. If you are coming from a Christian or Jewish tradition, it is worth weighing whether you want to go significantly deeper into that tradition or broaden your study. —Daniel Becton, M.Div. ’18
- A month into my year-long Fulbright fellowship in Turkey, I knew I wanted to pursue my interest in Islamic religion and culture in an academic setting. Finding a school and a program that combined my academic interests in Islamic Studies and Women and Gender Studies with my passion for religious literacy and intentional community building seemed like an unachievable goal. Harvard Divinity School offered the incredible opportunity to pursue a rigorous academic discussion with the understanding of how the lived experience of religion impacts individuals and communities. – Brittany Landorf, MTS ’18
- The application process introduced me to the practices of deep thinking and courageous writing that have made my Harvard Divinity School education transformative beyond my wildest imaginings.—Sitraka St. Michael, M.Div. ’17
- I was surprised how much my visits to the schools impacted my decisions to apply and helped my decision to enroll. Visit, if at all possible, even before applying. Start and submit early. Sweat the small stuff. Pay particular attention to details like GREs, due dates, giving your advisors enough time, etc.). Don’t be shy about calling the admissions office, but don’t wait until the last minute. Your letters of recommendation matter; choose your writers wisely and give them lots of time. Your statement of purpose is the most important. Don’t be shy about naming specific professors/programs/offices in your statement. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID!!! HDS has very, very, very few merit awards, BUT the majority of students qualify for financial aid, and it’s very generous, so do it. Our need-based aid can sometimes even trump other schools’ merit-based aid. —Keith Esposito, M.Div. ’18
- The one thing I would say I wish I had known is that relief doesn’t automatically come when you finish the applications. The waiting period is almost as hard as the application period, but it does make finding out that your hard work paid off even sweeter! – Allison Hurst, MTS ’17
- Applying to HDS was a total labor of love for me. There is something about applying to pursue graduate studies that feel uniquely personal and self-directed. I was surprised by how easy it was to craft a statement of purpose and by how much of myself I poured into the essay. My best advice to future applicants is to spend time reflecting on what is motivating you to study at HDS, and then write about that! Not only will it help give the admissions committee a clear picture of the person behind the application, but it will also help you clarify your values and aspirations as you move into this new chapter of your education. —Carly Matas, M.Div. ’17
- My application to HDS required creative and logistical planning. On the logistical side, I recommend setting up a schedule with the important dates for when documents are due (transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, financial aid forms) and to stick as close to your schedule as you can. Obtaining the right documents from various institutions requires patience and time and the more days you have set aside to get this done will enable you to have more flexibility with the creative planning. The creative planning involves thinking about your particular academic and vocational interests and how you plan to utilize the wealth of resources, classes, and experiences at Harvard. At this point, I recommend visiting the HDS website and accompanying social media to enrich your understanding of what HDS does and how you would fit into the fabric of our community. Use the information culled during this stage to write the best admissions essay you can. Remember: leave room for “happy accidents,” and enough time to edit and re-edit your admissions essays to reflect the most prismatic version of yourself.
– Sujay Pandit, MTS ’18
Stay tuned to the Harvard Divinity School website for more updates and the release of the admissions application for the 2017 academic year!
At HDS, we understand faith to mean engagement with the future. From the first day of classes, HDS has drilled one question into my soul: how can my lifetime offer something to the future? How can reading this book, writing this paper, learning this ancient language, and taking on this field education placement offer something to the future? How can encounters with suffering and possibility offer something to the future? Here’s a little story.
Exactly a year ago, I received an email from one of my little brothers of choice. His twin sister had just died after a long battle against a complex medical condition. She was 26. The news of her passing was my first encounter with a peculiar kind of suffering: the oceanic, inexplicable, unspeakable kind that just does not make sense. She was too young, too loving, too special. Their dad kept repeating: “No, she’s not dead. My daughter is not dead.”
It didn’t help that I was in the throes of my own transition to HDS. The insights we kept unearthing from reflecting and writing about learned ministry and many faces of religious experience were beginning to shake my core. HDS’s safe and diverse community of learning and transformation had already ushered me into the humbling and undeniable limits of what I can comprehend or change. Here was yet another encounter that beckoned me to humility.
I did not have a plan. I had no idea what to say to my little brother. What I did know was what I did not want to say: platitudes. “Things happen for a reason.” Yeah, right. That clearly helps when you don’t know why something has happened to you or someone you love, or how you are going to be the new person your new circumstances are challenging you to become. Here’s another one: “Better days are to come.” Uh huh? That clearly helps when someone feels they are drowning in the 12-foot end of the pool, and there is no one around. Thank you, but no thank you. I’ll take some calming silence instead.
My little brother had told me to ring him an hour after our Theories & Methods class—a required course for all M.Div. and MTS students. Theories & Methods introduced me to a professor whose generosity of heart has sustained me at HDS: Charles Hallisey. I went up to him after lecture to seek his counsel regarding my anxieties about the dreaded phone call.
“I don’t know what to say to him. And I don’t want to whip out the usual, useless platitudes,” I said.
“That’s precisely where you’ll find your voice,” he said. “In that silence. In that inability to say anything.”
“So, I’m supposed to tell him that I don’t know what to say?”
That was not exactly the counsel I had expected to receive. I still had no plan. The clock kept ticking. Ten minutes before I had to call, I sat on a bench outside the Law School Library to reflect and pray. I prayed to make peace with saying to someone I love that I did not know what to say.
My prayer was fairly orderly and coherent at the beginning:
“Lord, please use my voice to radiate some light and warmth in this dark time.”
As the time drew near, my prayer came down to fewer and fewer words until only one word came to mind:
“Please. Please. Please. Pretty please, Lord. Have mercy. Please. Please. Please.”
I took a deep breath. I called. I heard his voice. And I began to utter the words I had dreaded: “I am so sorry. I don’t know what to say. And I’m here. You can yell. You can hang up. You can weep. You can do whatever you want. I’m sorry, and I’m here.”
My heart rate slowed down. Being true-true—no matter how incompetent it made me feel—was easier than I had thought. Next thing I knew, we had been talking for 45 minutes.
I cherish the memory of that phone call. What makes its memory worth cherishing is not just Professor Hallisey’s intentional and gentle challenge. He had sent me away with a religious question, a very HDS question: how can acknowledging that I do not know what to say offer something to the future? It’s also what the phone call became: a song of joy.
The wound was too fresh, the grief too acute to ignore, dismiss, or wish away.
And yet, neither of us could take our eyes off the future we share.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” my little brother said.
He is not wrong.
He and I are where we are thanks to sisters like his and many others who had embraced and unleashed us back when we were still buried deep inside the closet. He and I are who we are thanks to sisters like his and many others who chose to have faith in the stories they saw in us.
Our time with his sister was over. Our story wasn’t. We renewed our commitment to keep writing it. Yes, things can and will inevitably fall apart along the way. And yes, we can and must pick up the pieces for the future—intentionally and joyfully. We owe it to the audacity of our sisters. We owe it to the future. Many more notes of joy filled the song my little brother and I sang in that dark hour.
I do not know what seasons of struggles and moments of glory await as my second year at HDS starts. And I am prepared. HDS has impressed upon my soul the disciplined practice of transforming each and every paragraph of my story into an offering for our future. That is our story. That is our song. Please join us in singing it with humble notes of intense joy.
David Waters, newest graduate assistant for the HDS Office of Admissions, has quite the resume. From his time in the Navy to his participation in our Diversity and Explorations Program (DivEx), David ultimately chose to attend HDS to study the intersection of religion, literature, and culture. David looks forward to talking with prospective students about the DivEx program and about life at HDS!
As you deliberate on your plans for the upcoming academic year, you might be curious about how our current students decided to commit to HDS. Below, second year MTS student Cody Musselman reflects on how her experience at our Admitted Students Open House confirmed that she would thrive here at HDS.
In the spring of 2013, I arrived in Boston for the Admitted Students Open House at Harvard Divinity School. I was nervous and still unsure about whether or not I should attend in the fall. I was fortunate to have other offers and to be in the position of finding the best fit for my ambitions, interests, lifestyle, and personality. It was a wonderful, yet overwhelming position to be in. Visiting the schools in person, I had decided, was the best way to determine the proper fit.
Decisions have already been released online, but we like to keep things old-school: Look out for a hard copy of your letter of admission in the mail next week, along with plenty of new information about housing, summer programs, and more! We can’t wait to welcome you to our school.
Applying to graduate school can bring many new things to light: Is my application process something I want to discuss with everybody, with nobody, or with a few trusted confidants? How well can I juggle my everyday commitments with this extra task? What is it that is truly driving me to apply for graduate study, and how can I best translate that into my statement of purpose?
As application season rapidly draws to a close, current HDS students stopped to reflect on what surprised them most during their own application processes…
Wherever you are in the application process, we current students at HDS remember the discombobulating stress that can accompany embarking on the massive undertaking of applying to graduate school. Below is some of the advice we wished we would have known as we clicked “Begin an application” on the HDS website…