Student Status


The department judges satisfactory progress based on coursework, languages, and the general exam in the first two years; completing an approved dissertation prospectus, forming a dissertation committee and performance as a Teaching Fellow in years three and four; then completing research and annual chapters of the dissertation in the fifth year and beyond. Advisors' reports are used to discuss each case, in the sixth year and above, with the Dean of the Graduate School (GSAS) in February, and as the basis of the Department's Graduate Student Review meeting in May.


Academic Residence

The minimum academic residence requirement of graduate study in history at Harvard is two years of full-time study.


Time to Degree

The Registrar’s Office calculates a student’s Graduate Year (G-year) based on total time enrolled at the Graduate School (GSAS); it does not stop while a student is on non-resident status. The Department’s “dissertation clock” (departmental calculation of number of years a student has devoted to dissertation completion) only stops when a student is on a leave of absence for documented medical or maternity reasons, active service in the U.S. military, or participation in a Harvard coordinated degree program.


Enrollment Time Limit

G8+ students are highly scrutinized for dissertation progress and success in obtaining funding.  Students will be withdrawn or will be asked to withdraw if insufficient progress has been made on the dissertation by this time.  

The Department expects students to finish their Ph.D. in the year of the dissertation completion funding.  After that year, you will be withdrawn from the program and further registration will not be allowed.   Upon completion of your dissertation, a letter from your adviser suggesting readmission to the department is necessary; it should be sent to Patrick O’Brien (496.5275) at GSAS, Holyoke 350 who will process the reapplication for admission.

Withdrawn candidates should note that Harvard alumni are eligible for both borrowing and stack access privileges at Widener (arrangements can be made with the library privileges desk at Widener for a nominal fee) and several other Harvard libraries. Also, if covered by student health insurance, Blue Cross / Blue Shield will send a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) letter indicating the termination date of group coverage. The letter may be used to obtain non-group coverage in Massachusetts or other states.


Withdrawal from the Program

Students contemplating withdrawal from the program should speak first with their academic advisors and other readers about such plans. Following these discussions, the Graduate Coordinator can provide the appropriate form to fill out and send to GSAS. It constitutes the formal notification to the School of withdrawal. For more information, visit GSAS.


Summary: Types of Non-Resident

Traveling Scholar:

    • Full/Reduced Tuition or Facilities Fee or Active File Fee
    • Health Insurance automatic - must be waived   
    • After two years as traveling scholar, adviser must write to GSAS to verify progress to degree  

Leave of Absence:

    • Full/Reduced Tuition or Facilities Fee or Active File Fee
    • Health Insurance not automatic - must be requested        

Another Harvard School:

    • GSAS tuition delayed


Non-Resident Application

Students going away for one term or longer must file an online application. Deadlines are July 1 for the fall term or the full academic year, and December 1 for the spring term. Afterwards, there is a late fee of $50, plus $5 for each subsequent week.

Each application must be signed by the student's advisor; international students must also obtain a signature from an advisor in the Harvard International Office. Third- and fourth-year students declaring non-resident status will forfeit their teaching guarantee in the Department, except for maternity, medical or U.S. military leaves of absence or participation in a coordinated Harvard degree program. A completed application will not be approved if the student has an outstanding term bill. A current mailing address outside of the Department must be included.

This status provides official student status for loans and tuition assistance from outside funding bodies. Massachusetts state law requires health insurance coverage through the University, unless students can prove coverage by another source. By default, a Traveling Scholar’s term bill will be charged for both University Health Services (UHS) and Blue Cross/Blue Shield (emergency coverage) insurance (regardless of whether the Facilities or Active File Fee is selected). Those who qualify and wish to waive the UHS fee and BCBS insurance plan must submit an online waiver application at the link below. Students with questions should contact UHS Member Services directly (phone: 617.495.2008 or email: Students should be aware that all waivers are time-sensitive: those who fail to meet the appropriate deadlines will be obliged to pay term bill charges. The Time to Degree calculation “dissertation clock” does not stop for students on a Leave of Absence except for the following documented circumstances: medical leave, active U.S. military service, and enrollment in one of Harvard's coordinated degree program.


Registration at Another Harvard School

Students pursuing coordinated degrees may be permitted to register at another Harvard school for a maximum of two consecutive years. Students must consult their advisors and the Graduate Coordinator to determine the best program to complete the dissertation. A student registered at another school should obtain deferment forms from the Harvard Student Loan Office (phone: 617.495.3782) in Holyoke Center. The “dissertation clock” does stop for students pursuing coordinated degrees.


Health Insurance

The Harvard University Health Services has complete student health and insurance coverage information. Their offices are located at 75 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge , MA 02138 (phone: 617.495.2008; email


Library Privileges

After two years of residence, students count as University alumni and can receive library privileges even when out of residence. Widener Library defines alumni as those who have finished two terms of work at any of the constituent schools or faculties. Alumni are eligible for a Widener Stacks Access Card without fee, which will permit them to borrow six Widener Library books without payment per year (even if only paying an active file fee).

The Special Borrower Card, for an annual cost of $200 and a summer fee is $75, provides alumni with stack access and borrowing privileges at most Harvard libraries. Applications for either card should be made in person at the Library Privileges Office, Widener Library, Room 130 (phone: 617.495.4166).


International Students

Immigration regulations require F-1 or J-1 visa holders to maintain full-time registered student status while in the United States. Students holding F-1 or J-1 visas who are considering applying for non-resident status should consult Ivana Hrga-Griggs (617.495.2789) in the Harvard International Office in Holyoke Center, Room 864, before applying.



Ordinarily, the Director of Graduate Studies is a student's primary adviser for the first two years of graduate study. Should additional advising be desired, it should be sought in consultation and agreement with the Director of Graduate Studies. At the end of the second year, a primary adviser is determined by the faculty in consultation with the student.