Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Note that the GRE is now optional for our graduate admission process.  

1. What are the application dates?

The application dates are set by the Admissions Office, with the online application ordinarily opening in mid-September and closing in mid-December.  Please consult the Admissions Office website to verify specific dates. 

2. Can I turn in application materials after the Deadline?

The Admissions Office will not accept or forward materials after deadline.  

3. Can students apply to begin in the Spring semester?

No, we only accept students who can begin the program in the Fall semester.

4. Are applicants required to submit GRE scores?

Submission of GRE test results is optional, as we do not require the GRE examination for consideration for admissions. Applicants will not be penalized if they choose not to submit a score, and the GRE will not be used as a benchmark to compare applicants. 

5. What is the minimum score required for the TOEFL?

The department does not have a minimum score for the TOEFL and all applications will be considered.  Please note that the TOEFL scores expire and the submission of these scores is a requirement of the GSAS Admissions Office.  They will still send the incomplete application to the History Department and all applications are considered, but is it worthwhile for applicants to plan ahead when it comes to the submission of these scores.  Per the Admissions Office’s requirement, students for whom English is a second language are only able to waive the TOEFL requirement if they received a bachelor’s degree from a University where English is the main language of instruction.

6. What is the required length for the writing sample/statement of purpose?

There is no formal requirement when it comes to the length of either.  Students are encouraged to keep in mind that all applications are read and an overlong writing sample is not recommended.  Most Statements of Purpose are around 3-5 pages.  Most writing samples are around 20-25 pages.  If you are submitting a sample that is part of a larger work (a chapter from a thesis, for instance) you may include a brief abstract situating the piece in the larger work.


7. What percentage of applicants are accepted?

Generally around five to six percent of applicants are accepted into the History PhD program.

8. Can I apply to more than one program?

Yes, students can apply to GSAS up to three times.  This means that you can apply to just one department three years in a row, or you can apply different departments.

Q: Do I need two applications if applying to two different departments?

Yes, if you apply to more than one department, you will need to fill out an application for each.  You will also need to create two separate accounts with the Admissions Office.


9. May I contact a faculty member directly?

Can I contact a faculty member directly if I’m interested in working with him or her?
Yes, you can reach out to a faculty member with whom you are interested in working or, if you have general questions and would like to speak with someone face to face, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.

10. Is there a Master's Degree Program?

Harvard’s History department does not offer a Terminal MA.

11. Is a Master's required to apply to the PhD Program?

Can I apply to the PhD program if I don’t have a Master’s Degree?  Will it hurt my application to not have a MA?
Many of our students are coming straight from a BA and their application is not hurt by the lack of an AM.

12. I already have a Master's, do I still need to do the coursework?

Yes.  All of our students begin the program at the first year, regardless of whether they come directly from a BA program or from an MA program. 

13. What if I’m not yet finished with my BA?

What if I’m not yet finished with my BA, will it hurt my application to not have my Spring grades in before applying?
The Admissions Committee understands that most applicants applying in their senior year of college will not have grades for a few semesters.  As stated in the previous response, many of our students come straight from their BA and we only ask that they provide their grades when they are available.

14. When will I hear whether or not I was accepted?

The department has until March 15th to communicate admissions decisions to the Admissions Office and they communicate with students via postal mail. 

Realistically, the offers of admission go out earlier than March 15th, but it is the latest date by which we can get the information to Admissions.  You will have until April 15th to respond to an offer of admission.

To check on the status of your application, you can call  617-496-6100 between 2 pm and 5 pm EST.

15. How does financial aid work?

Our students receive a very competitive funding package, the specifics of which can be seen on the Financial Aid Office website.

16. Health Insurance?

The Harvard University Health Services has complete student health and insurance coverage information. Their main offices are located at 75 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge , MA 02138 (phone: (617) 495-5711.

Please note: Withdrawn candidates covered by student health insurance will receive a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) letter from Blue Cross / Blue Shield indicating the termination date of group coverage. The letter may be used to obtain non-group coverage in Massachusetts or other states.