Application Information

How to Apply 

All application materials and instructions are available on the Graduate 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 the Anthropology Department 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 complete application consists of the following: 

  1. Admissions Form (submitted online) 
  2. Statement of Purpose (not to exceed 1000 words) 
  3. A copy of your 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 FAQs)  

A previous background of study in anthropology is not a prerequisite 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. 


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

Admissions Decisions

Decisions on admission are made by a faculty committee which reads all applications, and which consults with other members of the faculty on candidates who are applying with specific theoretical, topical, or areal interests that correspond to those of individual faculty members. The aim of the graduate admissions committee is to select very well-qualified applicants who represent a range of interests and backgrounds and who will form a reasonably well-balanced class cohort. An effort is made each year to ensure that the entering class represents a range of interests in the geographical and cultural regions of the world that are covered by current faculty research and teaching, but there is no automatic allocation of slots in the program for specific areas. 

Admissions Numbers 

The Anthropology Ph.D. program receives over 250 applications each year and, in the past few years, has had entering classes of approximately 9-10 students. 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. 


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. 

Personal Statement (Statement of Purpose) 

Generally, successful applicants have a strong background in either a geographic, cultural region and/or a particular topical or theoretical interest in anthropology. This essay is required as part of the application and should make such backgrounds and interests very clear. 

Writing Samples 

The admissions committee pays particularly close attention to the writing samples submitted by applicants. You 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 you submit 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. You 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.  

Test Scores

  • GRE Scores - Not required  
  • 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, 2019, for fall 2021 admission) must retake them. No test other than the iBT TOEFL or the IELTS Academic will be accepted as proof of English proficiency; a master’s degree is not accepted as proof of English proficiency. 

Faculty Research Interests 

Potential applicants who have substantive questions about the research interests of faculty members 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. 

If you are writing to an individual faculty member, she or he will be much better able to offer comments if you include specific information about your own academic background, interests in particular theoretical, topical or cultural areas, prior research experience, language training, experiences living in the culture(s) in which you plan to specialize, and so forth. 

Questions about specific fields or areas of study should go to individual faculty members after a potential applicant has studied faculty teaching and research specialties on the website. 

Retired Faculty 

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


Potential applicants may visit Harvard prior to submitting an application, but it is not necessary. While we do not formally interview candidates as part of the admissions process, finalists may be invited for a virtual interview. Applicants considering a visit to campus should make arrangements well in advance. 

Visiting the Department 

Individual faculty members handle their own calendars and appointments, so a visitor should contact faculty members directly to arrange appointments. Potential applicants who are seriously interested in enrolling in the graduate program should plan a visit to the department before making a final decision.