Admissions Information

Admissions Decisions

Decisions on admission are made by a faculty committee. The graduate admissions committee selects well-qualified applicants who represent a range of interests and backgrounds to form a diverse cohort. The committee reads and evaluates all applications and consults with other departmental faculty on areas of specific theoretical, topical, or regional expertise. There is no automatic allocation of slots in the program for specific areas. The committee also attempts to balance advising loads and priorities across the members of core departmental faculty who are actively engaged in graduate training.

Admissions Numbers 

The Anthropology Ph.D. program receives over 300 applications each year, of which only 1-2% lead to offers of admission. Each year the program receives many more applications than we can possibly accept and with great regret must turn down many very well qualified candidates. The number of students we can admit each year is determined by the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. We do not learn the final number of admissions until March of each year.  

Statement of Purpose

A statement of purpose is not a biographical narrative. A persuasive statement of purpose (1) clearly describes the applicant’s proposed areas of research; (2) justifies the applicant’s research interests in terms of the relevant existing scholarship, the applicant’s personal intellectual motivation, and the applicant’s background and/or training; (3) explains why the Anthropology faculty and curriculum at Harvard are ideal for supporting the applicant’s training and research. We strongly encourage applicants to read the publications of the faculty they are applying to work with. A clear connection with faculty research and teaching is the best gauge of an applicant’s potential “fit” with the Department.

Writing Samples 

The admissions committee pays particularly close attention to the writing samples submitted by applicants. Applicants should carefully select an example of your best academic writing that demonstrates your capacity for rigorous analysis and independent work. It is not essential that the writing sample be directly related to the topics or areas that you are proposing to study in the future.

Letters of Recommendation 

All letters of recommendation are due at the same time as the application. Applicants must provide the email addresses for three recommenders when you apply. GSAS requires your recommenders submit their letters via an online recommendation system. We are unable to accept letters submitted through a recommendation dossier service.  


All students admitted to the PhD programs in Archaeology and Social Anthropology receive five years of full funding which includes four years of summer research funding. Typically, the first two years of graduate study are fully funded (tuition, health insurance and stipend), during the third and fourth years, tuition and health insurance are covered and students receive their stipend via teaching fellowships. Full funding (tuition, health insurance and stipend) is also provided during the dissertation completion year. Students are expected to obtain external funding for their field research. For more information on funding and aid, please refer to the GSAS Funding and Aid webpage.

Language Proficiency 

Prior preparation in languages related to an applicant’s intended area or areas of specialization is advantageous. Current language abilities should be explained in the application essay. Students in the graduate program are required to demonstrate that they have sufficient abilities for research in both a language they will use for conducting fieldwork and in a language in which there is a body of anthropological writing relevant to their proposed research.

Test Scores

  • GRE Scores - Not Accepted  
  • English Proficiency - Required (may not be waived) 

TOEFL or IELTS examinations are required of all applicants whose native language is not English or who have not received a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university where the primary language of instruction is English; a master's degree is not accepted as proof of English proficiency. Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences sets the regulation that "a minimum score of 80 on the Internet based test (IBT) on the TOEFL i or a minimum score of 6.5 on the IELTS is required for consideration by the Graduate School." We will not waive this requirement.  

Applicants who took tests more than two years ago (i.e. before September 1, 2021, for fall 2023 admission) must retake them. No test other than the iBT TOEFL , TOEFL Home Edition, IELTS Academic, or IELTS Indicator will be accepted as proof of English proficiency; a master’s degree is not accepted as proof of English proficiency.  For more information on sending TOEFL/IELTS scores, please refer to the GSAS Admissions Webpage.


Faculty Research Interests

Potential applicants who have substantive questions about the research interests of faculty and/or their own preparation and background for graduate study at Harvard may write directly to faculty members with whom they believe they share interests. 

Please be aware, however, that because of the high volume of inquiries about the program and the large number of applicants, it may not always be possible for faculty to fully answer all inquiries. 


Retired, Affiliated, and Visiting Faculty

Retired faculty (emeritus and emerita professors) do not normally teach courses nor are they involved in training new graduate students. Student should not apply with the intention of studying with retired faculty.  

Although we encourage our students to work and take courses with faculty from across the university, applicants should not list visiting faculty, faculty affiliates, lecturers, or college fellows as faculty of interest in their applications. 


As part of the admissions process, the admissions committee invites semi-finalists for a virtual interview. There is no other interview. 

Visiting the Department 

Potential applicants may visit Harvard prior to submitting an application, but it is not necessary. Applicants considering a visit to campus should make arrangements well in advance. 

Individual faculty members handle their own calendars and appointments, so a visitor should contact faculty members directly to arrange appointments. 

Application Information 


The deadline to apply for Fall 2023 is December 1, 2022. Late applications will not be accepted. 

How to Apply

All application materials and instructions are available on the Gradaute School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) website. Most questions can be answered on the GSAS website or the information below. Additional questions about applying to the Ph.D. program in Anthropology should be sent to  When applying to the Ph.D. program in the Anthropology Department, you must upload all supporting documents to your online application prior to submission - do not send any materials to the Anthropology Department. 

A completed application consists of the following:

  1. Admissions Form (submitted online)
  2. Statement of Purpose (not to exceed 1000 words)
  3. A copy of you transcript from each college/university attended
  4. Writing sample that should not exceed 20 pages (double-spaced), not including bibliography; do not send a longer sample with instructions to read a particular section
  5. Three letters of recommendation (must be submitted via the link provided. Do not send hard copies and we are unable to accept letters via dossier services)
  6. Recent TOEFL and/or IELTS scores  (if required). If you are unsure, please refer to the GSAS Admissions website

A previous background of study in anthropology is not  a prerequistite for admissions. However, successful candidates, whether they have studied anthropology previously or not, must be able to state clearly their interests in anthropology and demonstrate familiarity with intellectual issues in current anthropological theory and method.