Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Application

At a cohort Christmas party a few weeks ago, I asked several of my wonderful colleagues from the International Education Policy program what their one piece of advice might be for those of you working on your applications through the holiday season. By far the best thing about my time here at HGSE, our IEP cohort is filled with a number of brilliant, generous, highly successful people, and I thought it would be useful for you to have multiple perspectives on what a successful application might look like. There are too many of us for one blog post, so I am only putting down a few responses here and look forward to blogging more about other talented individuals in our program over the course of this year.


Jeff: “Try to connect what you are interested in with what HGSE has to offer.”

Jared: “Dig really deep into the website — it has so many things to offer, and can probably answer about half the questions you have. Use your Program Director as a resource — ours is very open to questions!”

Nina: “Be sincere in your essay, and don’t be afraid to try something different! You don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing.”

Alyson: “Tell an amazing story, and make sure your passion for education shines through.”

Janan: “As an international student, I was intimidated at first by the prospect of applying to such a well-known university, but you have to have confidence and faith that your unique experience is very valuable.”

Shazia: “Research the classes you’d like to take and the professors you’d like to work with — the Ed. M. is less than a year at HGSE, so it is really helpful to have a tentative roadmap before you come in. Of course this will change when you get here, but it is always useful to come in with a plan so you can make the most of your year.”


Drew: “There are some really good deals you can find online for boots and jackets before you come, and this is quite important because it gets so cold here. Be looking out right now for deals on boots and other winter apparel. Also, don’t give in to groupthink.”

Andy: “Be confident and believe in yourself. Believe that you deserve to be here because you know that this is the program that can help accelerate your career and get you to the place where you can accomplish your goals (and make sure this comes through in your statement of purpose!). Submit your application and let it go — don’t stress about whether you get in or don’t get in.”

Elizabeth: “Try to create a narrative that best displays your talents, your unique gifts to the world and your contribution to the field of education.”

Jim: “Be specific. Choose two or three really meaningful professional experiences, and use your personal statement to elaborate on those experiences as you highlight your passion for education. Use all parts of the application to your advantage, so that you show something new about who you are not only as a professional but also as a person.”

Fernando: “Be exceptional. We are really interested in attracting people who have a vision for what kind of difference they want to make in the world. The committee is going to look at your application holistically, and there isn’t a single piece in the application packet that determines whether you get admitted or not. Really, the only sure way not to be admitted is not to apply, so if you have any interest in being here, you should apply.”

Cass: “Just do it. I never believed I would get into Harvard and I got here because I was encouraged by some very special people in my life. If they hadn’t encouraged me I would never have got here, so dream big.”

MacKenzie: “Dream big. Prepare to have all your expectations exceeded.”

Mark: “Seek out mentors for your application. Talk to people who are already working in the field and find your place with them.”

Anita: “Just apply. Don’t be intimidated by the name of the school.”


Nick: “Apply to the Ed. M. program as if you were applying to the Ph.D. program, because it will really help you to think about the professors here and what you want to study.”

Manasa: “Don’t feel like your statement needs to be 1500 words (mine was about 900). The GRE isn’t everything. Breathe.”

Adam: “Figuring out who I would be learning from and what kinds of experiences they had was the most important part of my decision to come to Harvard. When I was looking into similar programs at other universities, I found that a lot of them started to sound the same, and in deciding whether I wanted to apply here I found it really useful to read about what kind of work professors at HGSE have done and what types of research they are doing.”

Francisco: “By carefully examining the curriculum, I was able to identify the intersections between my interests and expectations, and the IEP program.”

Best wishes and much love for a phenomenal holiday season!

Kim Fernandes is a Master’s candidate in the International Education Policy program. Having taught previously in Mumbai, Kim hopes to return to India after graduation to support government and low-income private schools.