Below is a list of some of the most frequent questions we receive from prospective applicants. For additional information, please visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Prospective Students webpage.
DEGREE, PROGRAM AND COURSE INFORMATION
In what subjects do you offer graduate degrees?
While our programs cover a wide range of topics, Ph.D. and master's students are awarded their official degree in one of four areas (applied mathematics, applied physics, computer science, and engineering science). A detailed listing of our graduate degree programs is available online on the What can I study? webpage.
SEAS offers one collaborative option, Health Sciences and Technology graduate program, with Harvard Medical School and MIT.
What areas are covered by a degree in engineering sciences?
Engineering sciences includes biomedical engineering, environmental sciences and engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
What are the degree requirements?
The degree requirements for the Ph.D., S.M., and M.E. are available online on the SEAS Degree Requirements webpage. The S.M. in Computer Science has additional requirements available online at Master’s in CS Requirement webpage.
Are there differences in the course requirements for the Ph.D. in Applied Physics versus the Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences?
There are NO differences in the course requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics versus the Ph.D. degree in Engineering Sciences. All SEAS students must take the same number of courses.
The difference is the name of the degree a student will earn. Students must decide, based on their own interests and future plans, whether an Applied Physics degree or an Engineering Sciences degree is a better fit.
Note: admitted students can change their degree program after they arrive, providing they have appropriate support from their faculty adviser.
We recommend that students in the process of applying to SEAS focus on identifying specific faculty members whose work they find of interest.
Does SEAS offer distance or online learning?
All degree programs at SEAS require the coursework to be completed on campus.
For non-credit SEAS online courses, please visit Harvard’s new initiative, edX at https://www.edx.org/, for information on free online courses offered by MIT and Harvard University.
The Harvard Extension School offers Master’s degree programs in Biotechnology and Information Technology as well as professional certificate programs in Nanotechnology, Software Engineering and Web technologies. Some of these courses may be taken online.
Should I contact members of the faculty if I am interested in their research?
We encourage serious-minded candidates (i.e. those who have a clear sense of what they would like to do and whom they would like to work with) to get in touch with relevant faculty to discuss their research plans.
CAREERS AND INTERNSHIPS
Does SEAS offer career counseling?
The Harvard Office of Career Services and SEAS collaborate to offer several workshops and individual advising to our current undergraduate and graduate students. Our graduate students also work closely with their faculty advisor to discuss research opportunities. For additional information, please visit the SEAS Career Services and Internships webpage.
What kind of careers and/or jobs do students obtain after graduation?
SEAS periodically surveys undergraduate and graduate alumni about their jobs after Harvard. The latest survey results can be found online on the Life After Harvard webpage.
What are the fees and estimated associated costs of attending?
APPLYING TO SEAS
How can I tell whether I should apply?
We often receive inquiries from students who want to know whether to apply to the program. It is very difficult to predict outcomes without reviewing the completed application. In particular, we cannot make a full assessment just from seeing just your vita, resume, or transcript.
How can I be admitted to a Harvard Ph.D. program?
You must distinguish yourself among your peer group. Every year, we only admit the very best candidates. Because we have a limited number of places, we are sometimes forced to turn down candidates who could have successfully completed the program.
What can I do to improve my chances of admission?
Undertake an ambitious course of study (including advanced courses) and do well
Become involved with a research project, take part in research internships during the summer, or work in an industry research lab.
Obtain recommendation letters from people who (a) know your work and (b) know what is expected at a major research university
What are the criteria for admission to the Ph.D. program?
While there is no perfect set of criteria for admission, we especially look for candidates who...
- Have a bachelor’s degree – may be in any academic discipline
- Have a strong interest in and great potential for undertaking research
- Have excellent grades, e.g., in the range of A to A-
- Have competitive GRE scores
- Have solid preparation in coursework and research experience (e.g., a strong plan of study at a respected university)
- Have solid letters of recommendation from distinguished faculty and mentors
Should I apply for the S.M. degree and follow through to the Ph.D. later on if it suits me
If you are ultimately interested in performing research, you should apply to the Ph.D. program directly because:
1. S.M. and M.E. programs are course-intensive and are not focused on research.
2. There is extremely limited financial aid available (only in select areas of study) for the S.M. and M.E. programs; all Ph.D. students receive full financial aid.
May I study part-time?
We do not have a separate part-time program. After being admitted, Master’s students may petition to change their status to Part-Time study. Ph.D. students are expected to be enrolled full-time for the duration of their program.
ONLINE APPLICATION FORM
What does the application require?
How do I obtain an application for admission?
You can access the online application on the GSAS site.
Please do not send any application materials directly to us. If you do so, we cannot guarantee that your application will be processed in time for review.
When is your application deadline for prospective Master's and Ph.D. and students?
The deadline is Friday, December 14, 2012 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Note: We do not offer rolling admissions. ALL admitted students begin their studies in the fall.
LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION
Who should write my letters of recommendation?
The strongest letters of recommendation are from people who (a) know your work and (b) know what is expected at a major research university. The most helpful letters will not simply claim that you are smart, are creative, work well independently, etc. The best letters are packed with specific information about what you did and what the results were.
What is the minimum score for the GRE?
There are no minimum scores for the GRE.
What are the minimum scores on the TOEFL?
80 is the minimum score on the Internet-based Test (iBT). For additional information, please visit the GSAS Application Instructions and Information’s section on English Proficiency at and review the GSAS Oral English Language Requirement.
GSAS does not accept the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
What is the institutional and department code?
When requesting official score reports, indicate the receiving institution as Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Code 3451. There is no department code; leave it blank.
What is the postal address for mail sent by FedEx, DHL, UPS, and other carriers?
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) posted the mailing addresses for both regular postal mail and express mail in the Transcript section of the GSAS Admissions Checklist webpage.
SUPPLEMENTAL APPLICATION FORM
If I am interested in a particular research sub-area (such as materials or biophysics), and it appears as a choice in more than one top-level research area on the application form, how should I best respond?
SEAS is extraordinarily interdisciplinary in its approach to research. Keep in mind, that while you are applying to a particular degree program, it is far more important to determine which faculty member's lab does the kind of work you are most interested in pursuing. With that in mind, use your statement of purpose to elucidate this.
Increasingly, research falls between areas, and hence, the sub-area selection should be seen more as a guide than as an absolute commitment.
STATEMENT OF FINANCIAL RESOURCES
Who should complete the Statement of Financial Resources?
The Statement of Financial Resources is only required for Master’s applicants (S.M. or M.E.). This form is NOT required for our Ph.D. applicants. If you have any questions completing the Statement of Financial Resources, please call the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday through Friday, (617) 496-6100.
TRANSFER APPLICATION AND CREDITS
Is there a separate application for students interested in transferring to SEAS?
SEAS does not have a formal transfer application process. All students complete the standard online Harvard GSAS graduate application. After being admitted, Ph.D. students may submit a petition as noted below.
Can I transfer credits for previous academic work into your graduate programs?
Ph.D. students can petition for up to 5 transfer classes to count toward the Ph.D. To count toward the degree, all "transfer" courses must be approved by the student's faculty advisor and the Committee on Higher Degrees after the student begins graduate study.
The master’s degree programs does not allow for any transfer courses.
How do I find out the status of my application?
To check the status of your application and receipt of standardized test score reports, please contact the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) by phone or email as listed below. The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) cannot provide information regarding the status of your application or supporting materials.
- PHONE: Please call the GSAS by phone between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST), Monday through Friday, at 617.496.6100.
- EMAIL: Please email GSAS at email@example.com with the SUBJECT LINE and information for the message as noted below. Please allow 24 to 48 hours for a response.
- SUBJECT LINE: Enter “ADMISSIONS QUESTION: CHECKING APPLICATION STATUS” in the subject line exactly as is and in all caps.
- MESSAGE (BODY OF EMAIL): Include your Name, Date of Birth, Program of Interest, and a note that you are checking the status of your application
May I defer my admission?
Decisions on deferral are made on a case-by-case basis, and we cannot guarantee that requests to defer admission will be approved.
I am an international student and will earn a degree from an institution outside of the U.S. Can I apply to SEAS?
Applicants who wish to pursue a degree at the Graduate School must hold the equivalent of a US bachelor's degree (BA or BS) from an institution of recognized standing.
Applicants from institutions outside of the US; applicants must hold the equivalent of US bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) from institutions of recognized standing (either a three or four year undergraduate degree).
Students who are unsure of the US equivalency of their degree(s) should consult a reputable credential evaluation service.
I am an international student. What are the requirements for undergraduate programs outside the U.S.?
Applicants who wish to pursue a degree at the Graduate School must hold the equivalent of a US bachelor's degree (BA or BS) from an institution of recognized standing. The following guidelines apply to undergraduate programs outside the US:
- British-patterned education: bachelor's degree with honours
- French-patterned education: degree or diplome requiring four years of post-baccalaureat study
- Germany: minimum three to four years of post-secondary study (vordiplom plus one year)
- Other European countries: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
- Middle East: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
- Canada: three-year bachelor's degree from Quebec, four-year bachelor's degree from all other provinces
- Latin America: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal: bachelor's degree in engineering, master's degree in all other fields
- Philippines: five-year bachelor's degree or four-year bachelor's degree plus one year of graduate work
- Other Asian countries: university degree requiring a minimum of four years of study
- Students who are unsure of the US equivalency of their degree(s) should consult a reputable credential evaluation service.
Please visit the GSAS Academic Requirements webpage for a complete list of guidelines.
Should I take the TOEFL exam? How do international students meet Harvard’s English proficiency requirements?
Please visit the GSAS Application Instructions and Information’s section on English Proficiency at and review the GSAS Oral English Language Requirement.
TRANSITIONING TO SEAS
Does the Graduate School admit for fall, spring and/or summer?
No. New students are admitted once a year, to begin studying in the fall.
What if I have specific questions not covered here?
If you have any additional questions about admissions to graduate programs at SEAS, please contact Gloria Anglón in the Office of Student Affairs by phone at 617.496.4702 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.