FAQs for Applicants

What kind of program does Harvard offer?

The Harvard Psychology Department offers Ph.D. degrees in several specialty areas. It is strictly a research-oriented program. Graduates of the program usually seek positions as research psychologists, typically in an academic setting. A smaller number of graduates get positions in government, consulting firms, hospitals, or social service agencies.

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Can I get training in clinical psychology at Harvard?

The Department offers a research oriented  program in Clinical Science.  Both the Clinical Science and Experimental Psychopathology programs are geared to training people primarily for research careers rather than psychotherapy careers. Applicants seeking professional training for the purposes of clinical practice are advised to apply elsewhere. 

The Clinical Program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS).

Where can I find out about graduate school admission in general?

There is lots of information out there. Speak to psychology professors in your college and get their recommendations. If you have a well-focused research interest, read lots of current literature in the area. This will not only inform you about your field, but will give you an idea of who the principle researchers are in that field. It makes sense to apply to schools where those researchers are on the faculty. 

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How long does the program take?

Some students find four years is sufficient to complete the program, although many take five and a few take six years.  Financial aid is generally given for up to six years.

Can I go part time? Is there a correspondence program?

This is a full-time program, and we do not admit applicants who want a part-time program. In unusual circumstances, the Department may grant permission for an enrolled student to temporarily register for a part-time schedule. It is required that students be in residence for at least two years in the program, and the vast majority of students are in residence for the entire program.

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What if I want to take some courses, but don't want a degree?

The only way to take Harvard Arts and Sciences courses, unless you are enrolled in another Harvard graduate program or MIT, is to be admitted as a Special Student, which allows you to take between one and four courses a semester. Foreign nationals have to take a full-time load in order to get a student visa. Students are issued a transcript, but no degree or certificate, for their work in the Special Student program.

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What if I already have a master's degree?

Some of our applicants are admitted with a master's degree from another institution. These students can petition, after a semester of satisfactory work in the Department, to receive credit for up to eight relevant half-courses, the equivalent of a year's worth of work. However, many students in the program don't bother to apply for this credit, for the following reasons: it is exceedingly rare for a student to be exempted, by virtue of prior work, from any courses required by the department.

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How difficult is it to get into Harvard's doctoral program?

Admission to this department is quite selective; we receive many more applications than we have places. To be competitive, applicants should have excellent grades, GRE scores, recommendations, and must have research interests that are compatible with those of faculty members. While we do not require an undergraduate concentration in psychology, some social science coursework is helpful. Because the program is heavily quantitatively oriented, college-level math and statistics are helpful.

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How can I maximize my chances of being admitted?

In addition to demanding excellent grades, GRE scores, and recommendations, the Admissions Committee will assess whether applicants have other qualities: 1) does the applicant seem to be suited for a research career and know what s/he's getting into; 2) are the candidate's interests are sufficiently focused, and suitable for this department; and 3) is an applicant is a good fit for our program in terms of having interests that are compatible with a potential mentor or mentors.  These characteristics are determined mainly from the candidate's application essay, the Statement of …

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