Jump to content
Rubab Zahra

MTS Harvard Divinity School

Recommended Posts

Hi all, i am from Pakistan, belong to a financially struggling household and persecuted minority group, attended a prestigious liberal arts college here and graduated with undergrad degree in English Lit, and MPhil in International relations.Now i intend to apply for MTS program at Harvard Divinity School in coming session, but i have really average gpa in my undergrad which is 3.07 only. Even though i started and finished that degree under intense pressures, and weirdest circumstances that caused me severe depression. Not to forget, i was working even before starting my degree, due to challenging situations couldn't start my university degree till 24 years of age. Do i stand a chance? Is there someone accepted with similar gpa? I want to specialize in Islamic studies and have intensive research on the subject. Also, i don't need to submit GRE score as i already hold a masters degree and eligible for GRE waiver, even though grad degree is with similar gpa, as the situation wasn't altered much. Shall be grateful for any kind of guidance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In short, yes - you stand a chance. In reality, probably a very good one.

The situation you find yourself (life events, political culture around you, etc) will all be evaluated by HDS'  Admission Committee when you apply. In your actual Personal Statement, I'd mention just enough to wet their appetite and then have a separate document where you go into more detail, so that they may have a fuller view of what you've gone through. I don't recall HDS' application process on their website so you may need to email this document to have it attached. Odds are there's an additional information section on the actual application though.

The reason I suggest this is that the MTS is an academic degree, so you need to place most of your emphasis there. Simply, you don't want to take up critical space if it's not directly relevant to research interests. You won't be given the same freedom to speak to life events like a MDiv applicant, unfortunately.

Was your MPhil from a university in Pakistan? I only ask because the primary Admissions section says that applicants with an advanced degree can waive the GRE without filling out a waiver form. However, under the international section it says to contact the Admissions office if you're an international student with an advanced degree, to discuss your options about waiving the GRE. This tells me that their waiver process is only automatic for American students, maybe UK/European and Canadians too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, xypathos said:

In short, yes - you stand a chance. In reality, probably a very good one.

The situation you find yourself (life events, political culture around you, etc) will all be evaluated by HDS'  Admission Committee when you apply. In your actual Personal Statement, I'd mention just enough to wet their appetite and then have a separate document where you go into more detail, so that they may have a fuller view of what you've gone through. I don't recall HDS' application process on their website so you may need to email this document to have it attached. Odds are there's an additional information section on the actual application though.

The reason I suggest this is that the MTS is an academic degree, so you need to place most of your emphasis there. Simply, you don't want to take up critical space if it's not directly relevant to research interests. You won't be given the same freedom to speak to life events like a MDiv applicant, unfortunately.

Was your MPhil from a university in Pakistan? I only ask because the primary Admissions section says that applicants with an advanced degree can waive the GRE without filling out a waiver form. However, under the international section it says to contact the Admissions office if you're an international student with an advanced degree, to discuss your options about waiving the GRE. This tells me that their waiver process is only automatic for American students, maybe UK/European and Canadians too.

Thanks a lot for your insightful response.

Will they agree to attach an additional document into application?

How else can i prove my academic potential through my Personal Statement other than grades, i mean i am fully confident that i can handle the rigorous coursework there only if i get out of the suffocating predicament i find myself trapped here. So in what other ways i can prove i have that academic potential? Other than GRE ofcourse :)) Maths is the actual thing i am not good at, and yes i did my MPhil here, but i heard they waive off GRE requirement for international applicants quite easily too so it won't be an issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Rubab Zahra said:

Thanks a lot for your insightful response.

Will they agree to attach an additional document into application?

How else can i prove my academic potential through my Personal Statement other than grades, i mean i am fully confident that i can handle the rigorous coursework there only if i get out of the suffocating predicament i find myself trapped here. So in what other ways i can prove i have that academic potential? Other than GRE ofcourse :)) Maths is the actual thing i am not good at, and yes i did my MPhil here, but i heard they waive off GRE requirement for international applicants quite easily too so it won't be an issue.

You can demonstrate your potential by talking about your research interests and plans in the Personal Statement. You don't have to be as focused as you would be for a Ph.D. application, but you can still say what interests you about Islamic studies more specifically--i.e. what aspect of Islam you want to study. Again, don't talk about why you're interested in Islamic Studies. Talk about what you want to research. If that's written well and comes across as interesting and promising to the admissions committee, they'll be much more likely to overlook the GPAs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to be pessimistic, but schools like Harvard care a lot about things like GPA and GRE scores.  I would say that you have an extremely slim shot at getting into Harvard with a GPA of 3.07, especially if your master's GPA was similar, regardless of any extenuating circumstances.  The average GPA of admitted students to Harvard's graduate programs is likely close to 3.90, and they rarely admit students with GPAs lower than 3.5.  If you choose to waive the GRE requirement, the school will only be able to evaluate you numerically based on your GPA score.

If I were you, I would not count on admission to Harvard, and you should apply to other programs as well if you wish to pursue graduate studies in religion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, benmaterials said:

Not to be pessimistic, but schools like Harvard care a lot about things like GPA and GRE scores.  I would say that you have an extremely slim shot at getting into Harvard with a GPA of 3.07, especially if your master's GPA was similar, regardless of any extenuating circumstances.  The average GPA of admitted students to Harvard's graduate programs is likely close to 3.90, and they rarely admit students with GPAs lower than 3.5.  If you choose to waive the GRE requirement, the school will only be able to evaluate you numerically based on your GPA score.

If I were you, I would not count on admission to Harvard, and you should apply to other programs as well if you wish to pursue graduate studies in religion.

While true in most fields, Harvard Divinity is a whole different beast. Their 3.0 GPA was, it seems, under conditions that most of us would drop out and merely fight for survival, let alone graduating from college.

Edited by xypathos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@marXian Thanks for guidance, they don't ask for writing sample otherwise i would have attached it from my MPhil thesis to demonstrate i have research potential. And it was about Iran since i am more interested in Middle eastern history and politics so somehow it was relevant to the Islamic world. I want to research about persecuted minorities in Muslim majority countries, not only minorities but also of those who don't identify themselves with any religion, or atheists, i believe Islamic world need to recognize them as human as anyone else, rather than adopting strict laws like capital punishment and depriving someone from right to life if they give up religion, in addition to that, status of women and other singled out and oppressed communities like transgenders and their rights in Islam, who are being deprived from even basic human rights here, not to forget draconian blasphemy law in Pakistan that is being used as tool to target others i.e. became a mean to murder legally,  these are the things close to my heart. Precisely the reasons why i want to study Religion.

@benmaterials I do realize that but then admission rate at HDS is significantly higher than rest of the Harvard grad schools, so  the average gpa for rest of them can't be linked to HDS as they don't even publish stats. Besides, for me going, and attending university was no less than miracle, i was first woman in my entire maternal and paternal family to graduate, excluding distant cousins. With extremely abusive father, and brother, being brutally tortured by them since the age of six, i dropped out of my school at age of 12 and managed to complete it on my own when i was 24. I grew up in the days when people of my community were regularly targeted and killed, and no accomplished person from them was being left in our city that led other kids to bully me at school for belonging to that minority group. As a result, I spent most of my life in severe depression, when others dream of grades and colleges, i was working. My mother sell her gold to send me to one of the most prestigious institution here, where luckily entry test was all that mattered not grades alone, and i got in.But going to college didn't set me free from my ordeals, infact they increased,i had to work even double to meet the expense at the college and when i return home i would receive death threats, face violent brother who himself was living with a woman married to another person but would allege me that i want to study so i can see men, and he would inquire it from college guards and stuff. These aren't details but mere glimpse of much more horrible circumstances, where i couldn't go to washroom without brother threatening to break the door. What i meant by highlighting it all was, in oppressive societies we aren't even protected by law and order, studying in developing world is wayyyy different than being here. Its not that women here aren't able to study and excel they do shine in every field, in fact leading in many areas but their families are supportive not wild and violent like mine, and if that would be the case, law won't protect. It wasn't only home that was trouble, i faced misery at work places as well, i was being discriminated for my sectarian identity, at one place nobody would eat a thing that i touched presuming that i am impure ! First of all, i didn't have time to study by taking work responsibilities and even when i could like weekends etc there used to be mayhem at home, or else my mental health won't allow me to do anything. I wasn't allowed to like and marry someone, my phone would be regularly checked, even though other girls freely did so, the reason why i am single at 30. There are more terrible things that i skipped and can't be narrated in public forums, so for me even that was a feat to complete my education, stellar grades weren't a possibility, even my teachers can vouch for it all in my LORs, they have witnessed me suffering. If i don't get into HDS,i am applying to some European countries as well for another undergrad so i will perform better there and reapply, what else can i do, other US grad schools for program in religion don't offer that generous funding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Boolakanaka said:

@benmaterials Hmmmn, albeit anecdotal, and just my own personal experience, accepted accepted at HDS, with an undergraduate gpa of about 2.6, subsequently also a JD and LLM, but it is possible....

Did you know others at HDS who were accepted with lower gpa as well, without advanced degrees? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, xypathos said:

While true in most fields, Harvard Divinity is a whole different beast. Their 3.0 GPA was, it seems, under conditions that most of us would drop out and merely fight for survival, let alone graduating from college.

Spot on, i appreciate your empathy, and understanding my situation without me delving into details.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Rubab Zahra said:

Did you know others at HDS who were accepted with lower gpa as well, without advanced degrees? 

My net GPA when I was accepted to the MTS with a 4/5ths scholarship was 3.06. I had only got a 0.86 from my first undergraduate institution, then a 3.8 from the second one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, telkanuru said:

My net GPA when I was accepted to the MTS with a 4/5ths scholarship was 3.06. I had only got a 0.86 from my first undergraduate institution, then a 3.8 from the second one.

Ohhh ! What a relief to know, that i am not an anomaly. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With a crappy GPA like that, the last thing you want to do is waive the GRE. You should take the GRE, and get a very high score, ideally close to perfect (except for the math). You would then explain your circumstance regarding your poor GPA, and say, "look, I am actually very bright, as you can see by how well I did on the GRE." I'd say that's your best chance for success.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Honestly, masters level HDS admissions seem to be a crap-shoot. A fair number of folks seem to get in with a 3.0 and an interesting story. Others have been dinged with decent numbers (3.7/4, 166/162/4.5... not bitter 🤣).

I speculate that they evaluate applicants based on intent. For example if someone applies saying they want to get a doctorate in biblical studies, normal metrics such as GPA probably carry more weight. But if you have some sort of ministry/social justice bent it's probably more case by case. Unlike the rest of the graduate school world, rankings dont matter much in divinity school, so they are not beholden to a strict admissions formula like law and business.

That said, I second that you should take the GRE if you can do well. It would help negate your low GPA.

Edited by ChristoWitch87

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.