How does Harvard’s Ph.D. Application Work?

December 19, 2022
By AdmissionSight

How does Harvard’s Ph.D. Application Work?

The exceptional transdisciplinary capabilities of the university are put to use in a variety of doctoral programs offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Candidates for a doctoral degree at Harvard University have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research that is informed by a variety of fields, including the cognitive sciences, economics, medicine, and the humanities. We have provided you with all of the information that you will require in order to successfully complete the Harvard Ph.D. application.

What are the Ph.D. programs at Harvard?

What exactly constitutes a Ph.D. program at Harvard University? As a Ph.D. student at Harvard, you will collaborate with academics from all of the university’s other graduate schools on cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. The following is a list of the areas of concentration that you can take a look at before you start your Harvard Ph.D. application journey:

The University of Harvard Ph.D. Subfields and Specializations:

  • African and African American Studies
  • American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Applied Mathematics SEAS
  • Applied Physics SEAS
  • Archaeology
  • Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning
  • Astronomy
  • Bioengineering SEAS
  • Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics DMS HILS
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences DMS HILS
  • Biological Sciences in Public Health HILS
  • Biophysics HILS
  • Biostatistics
  • Biotechnology: Life Sciences
  • Business Administration
  • Business Economics
  • Byzantine Studies
  • Celtic Languages and Literature
  • Chemical Biology HILS
  • Chemical Physics
  • Chemistry and Chemical Biology HILS
  • The Classics
  • Comparative Literature
  • Computational Science and Engineering SEAS
  • Computer Science SEAS
  • Data Science SEAS
  • Division of Medical Sciences
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • East Asian Languages and Civilizations
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Electrical Engineering SEAS
  • Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • English
  • Environmental Science & Engineering SEAS
  • Film and Visual Studies
  • Germanic Languages and Literature
  • Government
  • Harvard Integrated Life Sciences
  • Health Policy
  • History
  • History of Art and Architecture
  • History of Science
  • Human Evolutionary Biology
  • Immunology DMS HILS
  • Inner Asian and Altaic Studies
  • International Relations
  • Linguistics
  • Materials Science & Mechanical Engineering SEAS
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Eastern Studies
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology HILS
  • Music
  • Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
  • Neuroscience DMS HILS
  • Organismic and Evolutionary Biology HILS
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Philosophy
  • Physics
  • Political Economy and Government
  • Political Science
  • Population Health Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Public Policy
  • Quantum Science and Engineering
  • Regional Studies–East Asia
  • Regional Studies–Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia
  • Religion
  • Romance Languages and Literature
  • Slavic Languages and Literature
  • Social Policy
  • Sociology
  • South Asian Studies
  • Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology DMS HILS
  • Statistics
  • Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative BiologyHILS
  • Virology DMS HILS

Who are eligible for Harvard Ph.D. admissions?

So, who can apply to the Doctor of Philosophy program at Harvard? The minimum educational requirement for applicants is a bachelor’s degree. The application process is also open to senior-year undergraduate students who are interested in applying.

Group of students studying on a table.

The educational and professional backgrounds of students vary, although most students have already earned a master’s degree and/or have relevant work experience.

What are the application requirements for the Harvard Ph.D. program?

In order to participate in the Harvard Ph.D. program, what are the prerequisites for the application? The following should be sent to the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) in order to be considered a full application for the Ph.D. program:

  • Online Application Form (Accessed through the GSAG website)
  • Résumé/Curriculum Vitae
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Standardized Test Score(s):
  • GRE (must be sent directly to GSAS, institution code 3451)
  • TOEFL or IELTS (if applicable) – must be sent directly to GSAS: institution code 3451 for TOEFL; specify Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for IELTS
  • Transcript(s) from each postsecondary institution attended: uploaded copy of each transcript with the online application
  • $105 application fee (paid via credit card with the online application)
  • Supplemental form for the Ph.D. in Education

What is the admission process for the Harvard Ph.D. program?

So, what are the steps involved in getting accepted into the Ph.D. program at Harvard? To get started with the Harvard Ph.D. application follow these steps:

Choose a program.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) confers master’s and doctoral degrees in a variety of fields, including the social sciences, natural sciences, arts and humanities, and engineering and applied sciences.

View of a male student studying in front of a laptop.

Students in many programs have the opportunity to select an area of concentration, which enables them to do research with a greater degree of specificity. Examine the available programs to find the one that caters most closely to your academic objectives.

Check the application deadline and make a note of it.

The last day to submit an application varies from program to program and is listed on each program’s page.

Review the requirements for standardized tests.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test or a subject test score may be required for admission to some programs. Applicants who are not native English speakers may be required to submit their scores from an English Language test in order to establish that they are proficient in the English language (TOEFL or IELTS). For further information, please take a look at the admissions policy on English Proficiency. Make sure that you register for any relevant tests in plenty of time.

Unidentified student writing on a table.

Ensure that your application is complete and submitted before the deadline.

September is the month that the online application becomes accessible. On the day of the deadline, the application and all of its components must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. eastern time.

How do you get a Ph.D. admission to Harvard University?

Earning a doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D. demonstrates not only an expert level of knowledge across a large academic subject but also an expert level of knowledge within a specific academic subfield. In addition to the requirements that are shared across all Harvard Ph.D. applications, candidates must also fulfill the requirements such as the following:

Academic Residence

In order to be awarded a Ph.D., students are required to be enrolled in school on a full-time basis for a period of at least two years. If academic credit is awarded for work done elsewhere, the length of time needed to fulfill this prerequisite may be cut by up to one year (eight courses for a total of 32 credits), at the discretion of the program. It is possible for a department to file a complaint with the Office of Student Affairs in order to acquire a certification of additional criteria to evaluate the amount of progress a student has made.

Competence in the English Language

The ability to communicate in English is a prerequisite for enrollment in the Ph.D. program at GSAS. The TOEFL or the IELTS Academic speaking score will be used to determine a person’s level of English proficiency if they are not native speakers of the language and did not receive their undergraduate degree from an English-speaking institution. This screening will only apply to individuals who are not American citizens.

2 female students studying inside a library

Cost of Instruction and Fees

Students pursuing a Ph.D. are required to pay the full tuition rate for two years and then a reduced rate for the next two years unless the amount of time between first registration and completion of the degree is less than four years. Students who are in grades 5 and above are required to pay the facilities fee.

General or Qualifying Examination

Before beginning independent dissertation research, students in the majority of programs are required to first demonstrate their competence on a general examination or one of several other preliminary or qualifying examinations designed and administered by the program. Students are required to pass these examinations by the time they reach the end of their second year of full-time academic residence, provided that both the nature of the discipline and their prior preparation allow for it.


Many educational institutions mandate that students develop a dissertation prospectus, which then needs to be authorized by the educational institution where they are enrolled. Any student who wishes to present their dissertation in the form of a published article, series of articles, book, or other documents, or a manuscript that has been approved for publication is required to further obtain their program’s approval.

Dissertations that have been approved must be uploaded to ProQuest ETD by the dates specified in the degree calendar, which are as follows:

  • It is not permitted to use a dissertation that has been submitted for another degree, either at Harvard or elsewhere.
  • Students at Harvard University who are writing their dissertations are required to follow Harvard’s requirements.


A student is exempt from having to register for a given term if they have already handed in and had their dissertation accepted by the Registrar’s Office before the day when registration begins for that term.

If a student registers for a term and then submits an approved dissertation to the Registrar’s Office by the last day to cancel registration for the term without payment of tuition, the student’s registration will be canceled and any tuition payment that was made for that term will be refunded. This only applies if the student meets the deadline to cancel registration for the term without payment of tuition.

Satisfactory Progress toward the Ph.D.

In addition to meeting the standards for overall good progress, the following are prerequisites for Ph.D. students:

During the first two years of graduate school, you are expected to complete all of the required coursework.

  • At the end of the third year, you will need to have passed general examinations or the program’s equivalent.
  • Obtain approval of a dissertation prospectus or an equivalent that has been defined by the program by the time the fourth year is over.
  • Produce at least one acceptable dissertation chapter by the end of the fifth year and each subsequent year during which a student is allowed to register. This requirement applies to each year beyond the fifth year in which a student is permitted to register.

It’s possible that certain programs will need extra or more strict requirements.

G10 Enrollment Cap

Candidates for the doctoral degree who are in their tenth year of study but have not yet completed all of the criteria for the degree will have their applications removed. Students who were expelled from the program but later completed their dissertations are eligible to reapply for readmission and register for classes with the intention of earning their degrees.

Students who are in unique situations may be eligible for exemptions from the requirements. Students who want further information should get in touch with their program, which in turn might discuss the matter with the Office of Student Affairs so that they can look into their specific situation.

The acceptance rate at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is extremely low, making the competition quite fierce. This indicates that prospective students will need to put in a significant amount of effort in their work or studies in order to be accepted into the Ph.D. program at Harvard University.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences received nearly 4,300 Harvard Ph.D. applications for the autumn 2020 cohort of graduate students; however, the university has only admitted 301 applicants.

As a direct consequence of this, the proportion of applicants who are granted admission is 7%. This indicates that just seven applicants out of every one hundred have a chance of being accepted.

Should you find yourself needing help with your Harvard Ph.D. application, AdmissionSight got you covered. We have over 10 years of experience guiding students through the competitive admissions process to get accepted to the top universities in the world. Feel free to set up an appointment today to book your initial consultation.

AdmissionSight can help you put your best foot forward when applying to college. Contact us today for more information on our services.


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