Category Archives: Admissions

HGSE Acceptance Stories (Part 3)

In a final installment of heart-warming stories, Class of 2018 recalls the moment they found out they were accepted to HGSE. We’re looking forward to welcoming the Class of 2019 soon!

Boston, MA:  “I was in Boston for the evening having dinner at My Thai Vegan Cafe before seeing a show with my partner. The wait for our table made me feel like we were in some alternate reality as we watched many tables leave as the wait line grew, as if the whole restaurant might clear before we’d get a table. When we finally were seated I was scrolling mindlessly through my phone applications and was halted with the non-informative admissions email. I silently went through all the hoops of logging into all the things necessary to find the decision (luckily I had a second work phone at the time and was able to use that for two-step security it required.) I read the decision, shared with my partner, and we enjoyed a delicious dinner!” -Ali, AIE

Elon, NC: “I was FaceTiming a friend who was studying abroad in Copenhagen when I clicked back to the tab with my email account. I saw that HGSE sent that my admissions decision was posted, so my friend told me I had to check right then and there. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but the first word I saw on the screen was “congratulations!” and the rest is history. I hung up with her and called my parents and I don’t think I’ve ever heard them be more excited than right then and there. I couldn’t escape a “Hahvahd” joke at my undergrad from that point forward!” -Danielle, HDP

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Carolyn (AIE ’18) and her family celebrate over dinner

Hong Kong: “I was working overseas in Singapore last year but decided to go home to Hong Kong for a weekend to see my family. When I got the admission email, I screamed and ran into my parents’ bedroom and just cried! We celebrated over dinner that night, and I am so happy I got to share that day with my family.”-Carolyn, AIE


New York City: “I was visiting the New York City library. While my friend was telling me about the history of that building, I clicked into the email that I just received. I hugged my friend and told him ‘Harvard accepted me.’ He burst into tears ahead of me. Haha.” -Cicy, SSP

San Antonio, TX: “I was living in San Antonio, Texas. I was after school with my academic decathlon kids when I got the email, and I honestly couldn’t pay attention to what they were saying because I was so nervous. I told them I got an email from Harvard. They all crowded around my computer when I clicked on the email, and we all screamed when I got in. Two very sweaty puppy dog 10th graders gave me a giant hug at the same time, and I miss them dearly.” -Samantha, TEP

California: “I was in my 6th grade classroom in California. My class was working in groups on a project and while I was putting music on, I checked my email. I saw that I was accepted, threw my hands in the air and yelled, “I GOT INTO HARVARD!” Everyone immediately looked up and stared at me in silence for a moment, but then proceeded to get up and sing ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’ while dancing in a circle around me.” -Brendan, HDP

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Brendan (HDP ’18) and his 6th grade class

Denver, CO: “I found out at work in Denver, Colorado. The job I was doing was my catalyst to applying to HGSE in the first place. It was a great relief!” -Abbie, EPM

Hong Kong: “I was snoozing on my bed. I grabbed my phone to check the time, hoping that I can sleep for another 5 minutes before going to work. Then, I spotted the email from HGSE in my notification, so I immediately opened it and saw the great news! I probably bounced around for a good while then tried to use the HarvardKey on my way to work. I couldn’t believe this life-changing news is real even after I was able to log in. I also took my resignation letter to work, too, and the rest was history.” -Janisa, HDP

White Plains, NY: “I had gotten to CVS after a long day of student teaching in White Plains, NY. Right before getting out of my car, I saw the email saying my admission decision was ready, and immediately called my mom to tell her that the email was sitting in my inbox. I was scared to open it and risk being disappointed and then have to go into CVS to shop, so I actually shopped for 10 minutes before getting back in my car and actually getting the courage to open the admission decision. Once I found out, I was honestly so stunned that I called my mom and didn’t end up saying anything for a minute or so, which made her think that I didn’t get in. Let’s just say when I told her that I had been accepted, her and I pretty much flipped out! It was honestly one of the most surreal days of my life!” -Jess, HDP

New York City: “I was teaching in New York City at the time and I had had one of those really exhausting days. I was going back up to clean my classroom after school, and saw that I got an email from HGSE. I didn’t want to open the email, because I wanted to just finish my day, so I grabbed a few student helpers from the after school program to help me clean the classroom. I got so anxious and decided to open it anyway, and got the best message of my life! It was a pretty special moment getting that message surrounded by a few of my students.” -Allyson, EPM

“My dad had just come home from a business trip in China, so I was eating dinner and spending time with my family. As soon as I left the table and went upstairs, I saw the email. I ran back downstairs and gave my parents the news–and then they proceeded to give the news to literally everybody in my extended family.” -Mehtab, HDP

New York City, NY: “I had just finished doing yoga in NYC’s East Village. Stepping onto the subway I opened the email and wanted to scream, “I got into Harvard!” But New Yorkers don’t do that. So I remained silent while I cried and smiled to myself.” –Christina, HDP

Durham, NC: “I was at my second job at the Emily K Center, teaching 5th graders, and got the email to check my admission status. When I saw that I got in, I immediately started screaming and crying and my kids started screaming and crying and we fell to the floor hugging cause kids are the best. Literally one of my kids looked up at me and said, ‘You’re living my dream. I want to get that exact letter one day,’ and I started bawling and holding him and am here today thinking about what we’re going to do so we can stand with our Alans when they get their acceptance letters to Harvard.” -Megan, L&T

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Megan (L&T ’18) celebrates with future Harvard students at the Emily K Center

Jerusalem: “I was in Jerusalem, and had just finished Friday night dinner with my friends. I had been sick with stomach flu for the two weeks prior and was just starting to feel better. As we were all sitting around talking I decided to check my email and stared at it in shock for a minute before starting to tear up and announcing it to my friends and then calling my family! My friends joked that news was what pushed me over the edge to recover from my flu. I stayed up until 4am that night looking at all the courses I couldn’t wait to take!!” -Elissa, EPM

I had stopped into my part-time job to connect with a colleague, who happens to be my former department head and the women who gave me my first teaching job. I saw the email, but wasn’t going to read it until I was some place private; my curiosity got the best of me. I think I was in shock, I could not get any words out. I handed my phone to my colleague and she made the first public announcement of my acceptance. I called my mom in the car on the way home and start bawling my eyes out, all out sobbing – I probably shouldn’t have been driving. -Jaime, MBE


HGSE 2018 Acceptance Stories (Part 2)

HGSE’s Class of 2018 continues to reflect on the magical moment they received their admissions decision.

New York City, NY: “I was giving a presentation to my team at Google in NYC when the desktop notification popped up. Afterwards we went into our shared office space where everyone huddled around me as I opened the email — once the good news was out, I had 12 people scream with excitement directly into my ear. They were so loud, people from down the hall ran over to make sure we were okay.” Andy, TIE

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Heather (HEP ’18) celebrating post-run

Washington DC: “I was living in Washington, DC and decided to go for a run that afternoon.  While stopped at a cross-walk, my phone buzzed and I saw that I had an email from HGSE. I quickly opened it on my phone and tried to log into my account to see my decision but could not remember my password for the life of me! After a few attempts, I immediately turned around and sprinted over a mile home to my apartment so I could log in on my computer. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast in my life! I was so excited when I finally opened the email and found out I got in, I put on a Harvard t-shirt and started dancing around my kitchen to Harvard’s fight song on repeat. Such a great day! Go Crimson!” -Heather, HEP


Worcester, MA: “I was doing laundry. I was going to visit my parents in the UK for spring break the next day, and before I checked in for my flight, I checked my email and there it was! I couldn’t wait a whole day to tell them the news (actually, I couldn’t even wait five minutes) so I called them on Skype and we celebrated from afar. I got them Harvard mugs from the airport and had the best break ever.” -Despoina, HDP

Dallas, TX: “I was watching television in a hotel room in Dallas, Texas. I was in the city for a couple of days to attend a book festival. I had just ordered dinner when I saw the email notification. I ran over to my computer unsure whether to open or avoid the email. I finally got up the courage to check and I could not believe my eyes. I had been accepted to Harvard! I honestly think I screamed when I first read the word ‘accepted.’ From there I immediately started pacing back and forth debating who I should call first.” -Brianne, L&L

Toronto, Canada: “I was finishing a long day at work and after I read the email I was completely shocked. I refreshed the page several times to make sure it wasn’t a mistake and just sat at my desk processing (and watching the celebratory video) for a full half an hour. The enormity of the event didn’t hit me until I told my boyfriend and saw the joy on his face!” -Cecelia, HDP

Bangalore, India: “Well, I heard from Harvard at 3am, early morning. I gave it a pass because I was sure that I was not getting the offer, so why disturb my sleep. At 6:30am the next day, the first thing I did when I woke up was to check my email. It took a lot of courage to log into the portal to find that I was accepted. I refreshed the page 6 times because I felt I was reading it wrong and then I called my dad. It was most definitely the happiest day of our life. Following this, I went to teach kids in school and when I broke them this news, they literally went and announced in the entire neigbourhood of 1000 people! That was my Harvard story.” -Aarushi, IEP

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Christina (SSP ’18) wit her her dad in Poughkeepsie, NY

Poughkeepsie, NY: “I was on the Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY with my dad on spring break. I took my phone out to take a selfie, but my hands were so cold that I saw the email and didn’t open it. We went to a delicious dinner, and I was none the wiser. When we got back to our Airbnb at 9 PM, I opened my computer and saw the email. Our host, Kim, gave me the loudest theater whistle from downstairs. It was magical. The next day, we visited the FDR Presidential Library, and two days later we boarded a train to Boston and visited campus.” -Christina, SSP

Houston, TX: “I was sitting in the front seat of my then-boyfriend, now fiancé’s car on my way to pick up some soup and my Tamiflu RX after an unplanned doctor visit (flu b hit my Houston middle school HARD last year and I was one of the first teachers to fall!) I waited until he stopped at a red light (at the intersection of 610 West and Richmond, which I will never forget) before I opened the email. The anticipation was extra intense because fiancé was also applying to grad school (MBA) and we were very much hoping to avoid doing distance. He was elated for me when I deliriously opened the email, but we still had a few weeks before we’d hear back from HBS for him. The flu killed the excitement a little, but luckily Harvard was smart enough to accept us both and we celebrated after we both received our official acceptances!” -Courtney, EPM

Shenzhen, China: “I was about to gmail sisters I met in the 18th Christian Women Conference I attended in Hong Kong during the day, when this email named “Your HGSE Application” caught my eye. The moment I saw “Congratulations!” I stopped reading whatever was there and shouted out loud ‘OH MY GOD HARVARD”. I was alone for the most exciting congratulations ever received in life, but I know God was there with me, for this moment.” – Helen, IEP

“I was in a bathroom stall with no lock at the high school I worked at. Had to hold the door with one hand and open the email with the other…” -Rita, EPM

Between Chicago and Ohio: “I found out when I randomly checked my email as I was riding passenger in a car driven by my friend Lisa from undergrad (Miami University ’06). We were en route from Chicago to Ohio to visit another college friend, Julie, who had recently given birth to her second child. It felt wonderfully full circle to find this out with one of the first people I met in my undergraduate dorm. Lisa was so excited for me, I joked that she needed to pull over and calm down!” -Amanda, AIE

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Amanda (AIE ’18) celebrating with college friends

Omaha, NE: “Having a job that required me to work partially on weekends, I had the afternoon off and, so, was at the gym and saw that I had a message. I was fairly dedicated to my workouts and wanted to complete my circuit. I did that, went home, and checked email again on my computer.” -Andrew, TIE

New Hampshire: “I was at home watching TV with my boyfriend and checking my emails on my phone when I noticed that a decision had been made. Without saying anything I quickly got up and rifled through my stuff to find my laptop. By this point, I caught my boyfriend’s attention and he wanted to know what was going on. Before I could answer him I saw that I was accepted and I just wordlessly cried and showed him my screen. I had wanted to call my parents right away, but I had plans to meet them for brunch the next morning so I held out. I waited for my parents to bring up admissions, they made a point of always checking to see if I had heard back. When they did, I told them I had heard back from Harvard, but I did not say if I got in or not. They assumed the worst, but once I told them I got in my mom started immediately crying and my dad’s first words were, ‘Wow I can’t believe I’ll get to go to a Harvard graduation!’” Molly, HDP

Somerville, MA: “I had a feeling decisions were coming out so I kept nervously refreshing my email. When I saw it, I not-so-sneakily went to my computer, opened the link, and, either from getting in or finally being done, I immediately started crying. I’m not even a crier!” -Yulia, HEP

Stay tuned for more acceptance stories coming soon…

HGSE 2018 Acceptance Stories (Part 1)

Given the diversity of HGSE students, it’s no surprise that Ed.M. students received their acceptance letters in a variety of quirky, surprising settings all over the world.

The 2017-2018 HGSE cohort share their experiences getting in:

Boston, MA: “I was resting after LASIK eye surgery, with gauze taped over my eyes. My husband opened the email for me, after he saw a friend’s Facebook post on their acceptance. He became quiet and told me to try and peek for myself- all I saw was a “Congratulations!” before I had to close my eyes again, which was enough for me! It was an unforgettable moment to dance and jump around in pure excitement, joy, and relief without looking, like I normally would have. The next day I tested my vision (and tears!) and read the entire email.” -Rachel, L&L

Raleigh, NC: “I had just got seated on a date at a restaurant. My date got an important phone call and while she was on the phone I decided to just check my email on my phone. Needless to say, after she got off the phone we proceeded to have one of the best dinners we ever had.” -James, EPM

“I was on a date too! I was on my fifth or so date with my current partner at my apartment. We sat down with takeout Indian and were just about to start a crappy sci-if movie when I got the email. I paused the movie and remember saying something to the effect of “sorry but I need to check this now and this date is either going to go really well or really badly.” I then spent the next 30 minutes on the phone crying with my family while he happily ate his dinner. That’s still our essential dynamic today.” -Natasha, EPM

Manama, Bahrain: “I was in my apartment in Manama, Bahrain. I opened the decision with shaking fingers and then stared at the letter for a minute or two, not really understanding what it said. I called my family Stateside and my fiancé in Jordan in tears and then kept going back to read it again and again all day to make sure I read it right!” -Elizabeth, HDP

Berkeley, CA: “I was living in Berkeley, CA at the time, and happened to be working from home that day (not realizing that acceptances would come out that day). I was checking my email, waiting for something to come for work, and then there the email was. I was home alone, and had to wait until I was around other people again to share the news!” -Alyssa, TEP

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Eli (SSP ’18) visited the Coop after he returned from Jerusalem

Jerusalem: “Ever been half-awake during a moment you’ll never forget? That was me, in Jerusalem. I had been wide awake until well past 2:00am local time, and was still checking email at 3:30am. The jet lag and Dramamine had left me so disoriented that I couldn’t understand, let alone believe, the admissions letter I had just gotten  from HGSE. I awoke my wife, and handed her the phone: “could you read this, please?” She dropped the phone and confirmed: I got in! We laughed, we cried, and because it was still early in the States, we got on FaceTime to tell everyone we could reach. Not having slept, I should have been exhausted the next day–but I didn’t notice.” -Eli, SSP

Texas: “I was on a work trip with my boss and a co-worker traveling on the US highway from Laredo to Eagle Pass. I had moved positions to become a part of this work team just a couple of months earlier. I looked at my boss and I said, ‘I’m sorry my friend but I’m going away in the summer.’ I told him I got into Harvard and he was very supportive. We went out and celebrated that night. He gave me days off to complete the endless paperwork required for grants and scholarships, and many things more. He also secured a stipend for me that helped me cover the cost of living here. Needless to say, as soon as I get back I’m going to work for him again to repay his support.” -Josue, IEP

Washington DC: “I had just finished up another soul-crushing day at work. I was driving home and checked my email when I got to a traffic light. I’m surprised I didn’t get into a wreck.” -Bobak, TIE

Naples, FL: “I was in my kindergarten classroom in Naples, FL. I saw the notification but decided to wait until my students were dismissed to read the decision. I literally fell to the ground, threw my phone, hyperventilated for almost 15 minutes, read Congratulations again, and took a few laps around my class. While I was overjoyed, I couldn’t help but feel sad that I couldn’t share this great news with my dad who God called home. However, seeing the excitement from my mom as she screamed and danced, masked some of the pain. The day is forever etched in my heart! Glory be to God” -Diana, EPM

“I was teaching preschool and happened to get a quick break toward the end of the school day. I checked my email, found out, and then went back into my classroom and started a dance party. So, I celebrated my HGSE acceptance by jamming out to Party Rock Anthem with a bunch of five year olds. It was perfect.” -Sara, EPM

Delhi, India: “It was Saturday morning for me. I was at home in Delhi, India, and had just woken up. Out of habit, checked my phone first thing in the morning, loaded my email and saw ‘Your HGSE application’. Jumped out of bed, opened my laptop, waited for the page to load (which obviously takes longer in times like this), while telling myself ‘Be calm, it’s okay, you do have two other acceptances’. I started crying as soon as I read ‘Congratulations!’ as it was my dream for many years. Hearing me, my mom walked in thinking I hadn’t got in, but I had!” -Mahima, TIE

Washington DC: “I was in Washington, DC with my sister after just finishing a visit at George Washington (and thinking I was FOR SURE going there). I waited until we were at the Lincoln Memorial to actually open the decision, but when I went to do it, my phone was dead from the cold! I was finally able to open it and do a quick happy dance with my sister, but wasn’t able to tell anyone else until later that night because my phone died shortly after.” -Jessica, IEP

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Jessica (IEP ’18) with her sister in Washington, DC moments after finding out she was accepted to HGSE!

Gastonia, NC: “I was leaving my dad’s rehearsal dinner the night before his wedding!” -Laura, EPM

Cambridge, UK: “I had just got home from visiting a school which I had decided I wanted to work in, it was midnight and I checked my email before going to bed. When I saw the admissions email I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I opened it or if I didn’t open it so I opened it. It took so long and then when I found out I had got in I was like, ‘Oh no I didn’t actually think it was going to happen!!!’ and was just like ‘Ahhhh I’m moving to America,’ and had to go wake up one of my roommates to tell her. Then I called my parents and told them and they went quiet and said, ‘Really?’…it took them a few minutes before they actually reacted! I was living in Cambridge, England I told no one else for 10 days because I was so overwhelmed!” -Amelia, HDP

Los Angeles, CA: “I had just finished up a meeting at work when I got the email. I ran to the nearest computer at the office, afraid to tell anyone out loud what I was doing because I didn’t think I had been accepted. As soon as I read the first line that said ‘Congratulations’ I jumped out of my seat, did a little happy dance, and ran to tell everyone in the office. The rest of the day I had the biggest the biggest smile on my face, and as soon as I got home from work I spent hours looking over the admitted student website.” -Julia, TEP

Stay tuned for more acceptance letter stories later this week…








Déjà Vu

I distinctly remembered being on the other side of that room.

Just one year before, I drove an hour and a half to an event in Raleigh, NC to find out about the Technology, Innovation and Education program. The drive was exhilarating. It was the closest I had ever gotten to anything related to Harvard.

When I arrived, I spent 20 minutes nervously figuring out where to park and how to get to the room where the event was taking place. I arrived a few minutes late, panting from the jog, and was greeted by a friendly smile worn by a friendly gentleman. I was soon to find out that he was from the office of admissions and would be our guide into the inner workings of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

We got to hear about all the different Masters, and Doctoral programs, program requirements, and application tips/deadlines. Then came my favorite part – hearing from the students. After I hearing them speak of their diverse experiences so passionately, I could, honestly, see myself doing nothing else other than being at HGSE that following year. Because of how approachable they seemed, I tried to speak with a few of them after. A conversation with a TIE alum sparked a friendship and mentorship that is largely the reason why I’m even able to write this blog today.

And now, here I was, on the other side of a similar room. I was honored to be one of the students on a panel speaking about my application experience to the HGSE. It was a surreal moment – a strange twist in déjà vu. We spoke about the GRE, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and our general experiences in course work and extracurricular activities at HGSE. I was glad to see that I hadn’t changed much because, similar to the prior year, my favorite moment was getting a chance to speak with prospective students and hearing what got them excited about HGSE.


Fellow HGSE student panelists at a recruitment event. Left to right: Brandan Fereday, Beth McReynolds, Me, Asuka Ichikawa

There was a strong sense of nostalgia as I recognized the same spark in their eyes that I had felt in mine just a few months ago. I look forward to potentially reading a blog from one of them as an alumnus. And so the cycle of reciprocity within the warm community of HUGSE continues.

Written by Joshua Onyango, photo provided by Joshua Onyango

Josh Onyango headshotBorn in Arusha, Tanzania, Josh has spent most of his life in the mid-west and southern US. He studied Biomedical Science in college and went to medical school in North Carolina. He’s still a medical student there, but decided to take a year to learn more about the role of technology in educating patients and training young physicians through the TIE program at HGSE. Outside of school he enjoys playing video games, basketball, and pondering the meaning of life.



Admissions Advice: What I Wish I Had Known a Year Ago

This is the last week of fall semester classes at HGSE; the libraries are packed, coffee sales are up, and faculty and students are concentrating on the final projects that stand between them and the holiday break. As I attend final classes this week, I am struck by how much has changed in such a short time. A mere 12 months ago, I was knee-deep in the application process, unsure if I would get in and juggling the many pieces of the Ed.M. application.

Here are a few tidbits of advice that I wish I had known last year:

  • Applications are reviewed holistically

This means that all pieces of your application are important and there is no one part that is more important than others. I didn’t know this and wasted a lot of time worrying about my GRE scores. I took the GRE twice last fall and fell short of my target GRE math score both times. The second time I wrote the GRE was in early December so I knew I didn’t have time to take it again. I actually considered holding my application and waiting to apply because I was convinced that I wouldn’t get in with my math score. I wish I had funneled all the energy I wasted worrying into concentrating on other parts of my application like my recommendation letters and Statement of Purpose.

  • Reach out to your recommenders (today!)

I reached out to 3 recommenders in November and heard back from 2 right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from my 3rd recommender, even after a follow-up email. It turned out that he had a new email address and it took months to hear back from him…long after my grad school applications were due. I wish someone had told me a year ago: if you don’t hear back within a week (especially if time is getting tight), move on!

  • …and don’t forget to give your recommenders background information

I had an application savvy friend who encouraged me to put together background sheets for my recommenders—I’m not sure I would have thought of it without her advice. After recommenders confirmed they would be willing to write a letter for me, I sent them a PDF document that clearly outlined the different programs I was applying for, logistical information like due date and who to address each letter to, a link to the program, and a brief summary of my motivations for applying to each program. I also included an overview of some of the work that I had done for each recommender and some of the strengths I brought to each role. Providing background information is a way of respecting letter writers and getting a better outcome; you are showing them that you value their time and you care enough about your application to make sure it’s tailored for each school and program.

  • Finish a draft of your Statement of Purpose before the holidays

It’s so helpful to have family members and friends read your Statement of Purpose and give you feedback! And the holidays are a perfect time to solicit feedback and make final edits. Just remember to maintain your own authentic voice and perspective; don’t listen to any suggestions that don’t resonate with you. At the end of the day, the Statement of Purpose should be a genuine representation of your motivations and goals. 


As the application date approaches, I hope you will lean into the application process; don’t second-guess yourself or self-sabotage your application by procrastinating. This is an amazing opportunity to reflect on your reasons for applying to HGSE and present them in a heartfelt way.

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Written by Cecelia DeKorne

Cecelia DeKorne is an Ed.M. candidate in the Human Development and Psychology program and is interested in how adult development principles can be used to improve organizational culture. Cecelia is loving her year at HGSE and has tried every type of cookie at The Commons! 

Cecelia is a Graduate Assistant at the HGSE Admissions office and will be posting throughout the 2017-2018 school year. 




We are pleased to announce that our online application is live! You can access the form, requirements, and instructions on our website. The application deadline for the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) is December 15, 2017, while the Master of Education (Ed.M.) deadline is January 5, 2018. HGSE and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) additionally offer the interfaculty Ph.D. in Education. Applications for this research-based doctorate must be submitted to GSAS by December 1, 2017.

Also, we have posted many of our fall recruitment events on our website and we encourage you to check our website for details. If you are able to visit the Cambridge area this fall, we will be hosting the following on campus events:

For prospective students with limited financial resources, we are pleased to announce the DRP Travel Fellowship which provides students with transportation and lodging to attend the Diversity Recruitment Program. The application is available now and the deadline is September 12, 2017.

Please do not hesitate to engage with us via email at or on Twitter (@hgse_admissions).



It was on a Friday, March 4th, 2016, when I received an email on my phone regarding an admissions decision from Harvard Graduate School of Education. I was sitting at home, watching Parks and Recreation after a long day of reading applications (I worked in Admissions for Lafayette College). I made a delicious burger and french fries and was mid-bite when I saw my phone light up. I dropped the burger. Grabbed the phone with my less-greasy hand and used my knuckle to open the email while moving towards the kitchen to wash my hands.

Even more tantalizing was the fact that I needed to pop into ANOTHER webpage to actually see my decision–how CRUEL! But I did. And watched the pixels congratulate me. I cried. You may have as well. Or maybe you screamed? Or maybe you didn’t drop the burger and made that email wait until you consumed all of the calories in front of you. But I cried.

I cried not because I was simply admitted to a wonderful institution with human capital and a reverberating signal–I cried because I thought about my statement of purpose. I ask you to think about the same. You are in the midst of making your decision of where to enroll, which can be a heartwarming challenge to have, but I challenge you to take a moment and read your statement of purpose once more. Remember the hours you spent diving into why you want to make this career move? Think about the personal narrative you let bleed into those 1500 words. That story is who you are. And who you are, down to your core, is what HGSE wants.

You are welcomed into a community who plan to serve the scholars across the world. Of course, HGSE is not the only community that plans accordingly. So explore your options, friend! What I can say from personal experience is that your cognitive and emotional intelligence matters here. Education is the intersection of both, and we look forward to sharing validation and growth to promote our collective social change. Join us at HGSE or join the larger movement–regardless, we are happy to have you in the field.

Taaha Mohamedali is a Master’s of Education candidate in Higher Education. Prior to enrolling at Harvard, Taaha was an admissions officer coordinating efforts to improve access for marginalized groups at Lafayette College.  He hopes to improve transitional support structures for these groups in the years to come. His passions include spoken word, comedy, and rock, paper, scissors.


Looking back at a Semester of belonging.

I remember this time last year, being still unsure of the exact route I wanted my career to take and of my shortlisted colleges that somehow seemed to lead up to that. A compulsive curiosity to know everything I can so I can get a “feel” of it, I had just spent 7 hours straight watching videos from HGSE, trying to see if I could picture myself there. I was far from convinced. Until I came across a goofy “Stories from Appian Way” video about a man in search of a Harvard bag. In that video-marathon-induced delirium, I thought that was the most hilarious thing I had seen in a while. More importantly though, something about that told me, I would fit in. From then on, in the admissions process, it was mostly just trying to put into words why as I completed my application essays, knowing in my gut that this was the only place I wanted to really go.

A year later, after having gotten 7 hours of sleep for the first time after 3 weeks of finals, that gut feeling is probably what has still stayed with me. It’s been a semester of moments like that. That warmth in the belly that comes from knowing I belong. I don’t know how else to describe the roller-coaster of a semester it’s been – unlearning and relearning everything I have known about the world, learning about all the possibilities of the people I could be, and finding out that each one of those seems to find comfortable belonging here.

It’s a montage of moments like these that I would send to the me a year ago to ease all that anxiety: Sitting by the mound outside Gutman Library in the first month here, basking in the sun, discussing the belief systems we brought here, and watching them unfold as we added layers from each others’ experiences. Sitting in the massive T-550 class, rediscovering everything I have known about learning, and arranging these aha-moments collectively on post-its. Hearing 140 students stand up in the Public Narratives class, describe their stories and hope in 10 seconds one after the other. Reflecting on my “researcher” identity at the end of “Interviewing for Qualitative research” class, and hearing back from the professor with personalized comments in response. Coming clean to my statistics professor about my fear for stats, and have him respond most reassuringly, putting my learning at the center of the conversation. “I want you to walk away comfortable with stats”, as he always said. Sharing lessons and ideas from a semester with my cohort in a formal event, and having them write back with suggestions, feedback, links and resources, as well as wise words of encouragement; and learning things as varied as race theory to blacksmithing at the event. Coffee dates with classmates as we mutually reflect on the questions we picked up from our classes, and finding their connections for further exploration in the answers we also found there. Specialized Studies Fridays, where we have strung together our thoughts from the week as a cohort over a few beers. Beverages and “everything-you-know”-altering conversations in general. Having a panic attack in the middle of the library the week before finals, only to be hugged until I was calm again (and fed cookies) by a fellow classmate I have barely spoken to before, who turned out to be a secret ninja in the subject I was panicking about, willing to tutor me even in the middle of all her own madness. Finding words to my feelings and getting over my fear of the camera at the same time as I recorded my story for “Double Take”, and then ugly crying after being immensely moved by the stories others shared at the school-wide Double-Take event. Making sense of the elections through origami and art as much as through informed conversations and community meetings. Dancing to Bollywood music in the library the week before finals. The Dean serving us Thanksgiving lunch. Meeting the “bag-guy” from the aforementioned video, telling him how that video changed my decision, which led to a conversation brainstorming ways to take ahead the project I worked on over the summer.


The first thing we were told in our cohort orientation was, “Everything here is for the asking, all you have to do is ask”. A semester later, I see what that means. It’s been a semester of being exposed to just an unbelievable wealth of wisdom. It has been enriching in ways that has expanded my brain in directions I didn’t previously know existed.  Of having access to the people I had been studying for so long (and I am not talking only about “I almost dropped coffee on them on my way to school” kind of access); access that is comfortable enough to go in with my unformed questions and coming out with multiple pathways of discovery opened up before me. Of meeting people, who, along with having the wisest wisdom and a whole range of stories to share, are also people who you can count on to genuinely care. People filled with a certain kind of optimism, the kind which draws them to think of changing the world through education, and have them actively engage with me with that in tow. And of finding my place within it, a place that’s evolving, with a kind of faith that no matter the expansion or shape-shifting, there will still be room for it. Of learning about “asking” as an act of belonging within it.

As one of my professors once said in class, “Be a wedge in the door. And then find the community of such wedges in the doors to help open them for you”. What that girl watching those 7 hours of video didn’t know last year, is that this is what perhaps makes this place what it is, that warmth of belonging from cultivating relationships that are as much about laughter as about learning. That community of wedges in the doors, helping each other grow and evolve as they figure out their place in the world they want to create.

Jayati Doshi is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Specialized Studies Program. She is currently exploring what happens when we look at living as an act of learning, and what educating for that would look like. 

My Diversity Recruitment Program Experience

Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of being part of the festivities surrounding HGSE’s Diversity Recruitment Program (DRP). Over the two days of DRP, prospective applicants from all over and with diverse backgrounds visit Appian Way for the weekend to learn more about their programs of interest, interact with professors and current students, and start to wrap their heads around the many details involved in applying to HGSE.

On Friday, I participated in DRP as a student attendee at the HGSE Community Reception. While there, I and other students got to meet the ones whose shoes we were in last year to talk (informally and over food) about our memories of the admissions process and our experiences at HGSE thus far. It was really fun to share my story and especially meaningful to me to help ease the minds of amazing individuals who may have felt that they didn’t fit the mold of what a “Harvard” student should be.

In addition to the reception, I had been asked to lead a session on Saturday to help applicants brainstorm about their Statements of Purpose and to provide some insight into my own writing process. This would require me to allow a room full of prospective applicants to read copies of the very Statement that I had submitted to the Office of Admissions one year prior (they, for one reason or another, seemed to not think it was horrible). My personal goal for the year is to say “yes” more, so I agreed, but not without a fair amount of anxiety.

You see, I had been extremely secretive about and protective of my application to HGSE. The only people who knew about my decision to apply were the individuals who wrote my letters of recommendation; my own family had no idea I had even been considering Harvard until the day I received my acceptance letter. To say that they were pleasantly surprised when they heard the news is an understatement. I allowed exactly zero people to view my Statement of Purpose before I submitted it way too close to the deadline—about two minutes before 11:59pm—and hoped for the best.

The thought of having prospective students read and potentially critique my Statement, which no other eyes had ever seen, was utterly daunting, but my desire to help out and pay it forward outweighed my fear. When the time came for my session to begin and the copies of my Statement were handed out, I felt strangely calm. Ultimately, everything went well and the session turned out to be a great ending to DRP. Some of the attendees even stayed afterward to thank me for sharing my Statement and said they felt less nervous about writing their own, which was so relieving to hear.

I’m extremely grateful to have been able to contribute to making DRP the wonderful weekend it was and I hope that the many prospective applicants I met will have the opportunity to join the HGSE family. 

Monique Hall is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Technology, Innovation, and Education program. She is passionate about children’s media, ice cream, and educational equity.


Graduate School Application Advice: My Journey to Getting Over the Sticker Shock

Ah, yes. This time last year I was gathering up all of the bits and pieces of my many graduate school applications. I have serious “fear of missing out,” so I had a hard time deciding what schools I wanted to apply to, terrified I’d miss a great opportunity if I narrowed my list. If you’re anything like me, I highly suggest that you first do a self-audit—where are you right now, where do you want to be, and what do you need in order to get from point A to point B. Additionally, keep in mind that when you’re applying to schools you want to show them that you’re a good fit for the program, so if you’re not even sure what you want from a graduate program, that can come through in your materials. This auditing process helped me sort out what I truly needed and wanted in a program rather than getting caught up in all these programs that sounded cool.

After I decided what I wanted my academic experience to look like, I started thinking about other factors that were important to me. For example, as you’re making your own decisions, think about how important geography, financial aid, internships, faculty, etc. are to you. Make sure you do your research on the institutions you’re applying to so that you don’t spend hours and an application fee on a program that doesn’t attend to what’s most important to you outside of the classroom and program title.

For me, I knew I really cared about networks and cost. I wanted to go to an institution that had strong connections with the community, the alumni, and research in the field. I found that network at Harvard, which is one of the reasons I chose this program. Flash forward to half way through my first semester here and I’m already pleasantly overwhelmed with the many opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of as an HGSE student. The connections, relationships, and multiplicity of outlets for practice and new experiences in the field are beyond what I expected.

Cost, on the other hand, was trickier to work out for me, even in deciding to apply to HGSE. In all honesty, I applied to HGSE on a whim—I loved the programs and the school, but the sticker shock was so real. I remember the day I told my mom I was applying to HGSE (her face could’ve been a meme); I assured her I wouldn’t actually go and that it was just to see if it was even a possibility for me. I’m a first generation college student, and as far as I knew, families like mine didn’t go to Harvard and could never pay for it. Additionally, I was already in student loan debt up to my eyeballs from my state-school undergraduate experience. When I was accepted I had already made up my mind to attend elsewhere, but every time I went to decline my admission, I just couldn’t shake that I would regret not taking the leap.

Not to downplay the cost of living here or the tuition (it definitely costs), but it isn’t as impossible as that initial sticker shock makes you believe. First, there are so many options for funding, including HGSE financial aid, outside scholarships, loans, on and off campus jobs, and paid internships. After exploring my options, I was able to engineer a financial situation that was doable for me, which included a myriad of these resources. Moreover, although cost is critical, examine the return on your investment for each of your options.

What I’ve gotten out of this program already is well worth the cost and the sacrifices I’ve made. While HGSE and the Boston area may look impossibly expensive on paper, it is possible to navigate. I took a financial leap of faith in this decision despite the chagrin of well-meaning family, and although money is tight sometimes, it is so worth it. All in all, stay within your means, but don’t count yourself out of something beautiful before you begin to reach for it.

Kaci McClure is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. Her primary passions are increasing literacy skills among high school students; addressing inequity in low-income, largely minority schools; and culturally responsive teaching. A transplant out of Louisiana who originally hails from Texas, Kaci has an affinity for sweet tea, spicy food, and the word “y’all.” She’s also an avid supporter of conscious rap and frybread, neither correlated to the other but both very powerful.