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.



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.


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  Students will be withdrawn or will be asked to withdraw if insufficient progress has been made on the dissertation by this time.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  After that year, you will be withdrawn from the program and further registration will not be allowed.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Withdrawn candidates should note that Harvard alumni are eligible for both borrowing and stack access privileges at Widener (arrangements can be made with the library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.


Types of Non-Resident

There are three statuses to which students may apply to register for an academic term or year with non-resident status: 

1. Traveling Scholar status designates degree candidates outside the Boston area who are engaged primarily in their degree work.
2. Leave of Absence status designates degree candidates whose time will be devoted primarily to activities other than degree work.  Any student who is teaching more then three-fifths over the year must be a teaching assistant instead of a teaching fellow, and must register on leave of absence rather than in residence.
3. Studying at Another Harvard School status designates GSAS degree candidates who are registered and conducting study at a Harvard faculty other than FAS.

For more details, please consult the GSAS hanbook.


Non-Resident Application

Applications are submitted online.

Applications for non-resident status must be submitted online by the student by July 1 for the fall term or academic year, and by December 1 for the spring term. Applications submitted afterward are subject to late registration fees. The student will be charged $50 plus $5 for each week that the application is late. See the Timeline of Non-Resident Process for details.

Students may apply for non-resident status for a term or an academic year. Separate applications must be filed for each academic year. If a student is currently in non-resident status and wants to continue in that status for additional terms, a new non-resident application must be submitted.


Library Privileges

Graduate students with valid IDs have access to most of Harvard’s libraries. However, each library establishes its own access policies, and these may vary significantly from one to the next. All GSAS students, regardless of year, are automatically given extended loan for regular loan items at Widener Library. 

Visit the the Fine Arts Library website for access to special collections.

Graduate students may apply for an assigned carrel in Widener or Pusey Library online


International Students

For information regarding regulations pertaining to international students (visa, employment, etc.), please visit the Harvard International Office website.