Special FAQs for Social Science Applicants


How do I apply if I'm interested in a social science PhD?
Applications are handled somewhat differently than for the basic sciences.  Specifically, students must make simultaneous application both to HMS and to the specific social science doctoral program of interest (e.g., economics, government, health policy, history of science, medical anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, statistics). 

Separate applications to HMS and a Harvard GSAS doctoral program that follow all the specific requirements of each program are necessary. These applications are completely separate, and it will not be possible for the respective admissions offices at HMS and GSAS to share recommendations or other materials.  Whereas it is acceptable to request that the same individuals write letters of recommendation for both programs, separate letters must be sent to each school. Generally GSAS programs have application deadlines in December and January. Details for each department are available at http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/. HMS supplemental applications are due October 22, 2014.

If you intend to apply for the MD-PhD Program at HMS, you must also indicate this on the AMCAS application form by clicking on the box for MD/PhD applicants and responding to the additional questions found there.  In addition to responding to these program specific questions on the AMCAS application, you will be asked to respond to questions concerning your interest in the Program within the materials for the secondary HMS component of the application.

What doctoral programs can be considered in the application for the Social Sciences MD-PhD Program?
Applicants to the Social Sciences MD-PhD Program can choose to apply to any of the social science doctoral programs at Harvard to combine with their medical training. This is straightforward for applications to some of the departments that have hosted Social Science MD-PhD Program students (e.g., economics, government, health policy, history of science, medical anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, statistics). For other departments, we encourage prospective students to inquire as to flexibility in their program to allow for deferment of matriculation as well as a scholarly focus that relates to their medical education. Applicants should clarify through their application materials what their social science disciplinary area will be, what their research interests and experiences are, how they intend to integrate this with their medical education, and how they anticipate developing their career utilizing their joint degree training.

How do I apply to a doctoral program?
We encourage you to visit http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/ for details on the application process to departments within the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Please note that deferment policies vary across departments and applicants who are admitted to the GSAS who plan to matriculate to HMS are required to negotiate deferment terms with their respective departments.

Summary of the Process for MD-PhD Application in Social Sciences:

  • Complete AMCAS application and
    • Click on the MD-PhD box and respond to these additional questions
  • Complete the Harvard Supplemental Application (Deadline: October 22, 2014)
    • In the section on MD-PhD Supplemental Information, indicate that you are applying for the Social Science Program (Question 10) and respond to Questions 11 and 12.
  • Complete the application materials for the relevant social science department at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Deadlines range from December until early January depending on the department)
    • Remember that you must request a separate set of letters to support your GSAS application (persons writing letters may be the same or different from those writing letters for your HMS application)
    • Complete financial aid application materials as directed by the GSAS
  • If you are accepted to both HMS and GSAS, speak to your GSAS department right away about a two-year deferment that would allow you to matriculate at HMS;
    • Contact the MD-PhD Program if you need help in planning this part of trajectory of your graduate studies

Will I have an MD-PhD Interview?
If you are selected for an interview by either Pathways and/or HST offices for your medical school interview(s) and are considered competitive for the graduate school program you may also be invited for a MD-PhD interview.


Is it possible to enter the program after matriculating at HMS?
Yes.  A number of students in the Program began medical school at HMS and only then decided to apply to a doctoral program (usually after their first or second year).  There are no specific restrictions to applying to do a Ph.D. in a social science discipline during one’s studies at HMS. Students applying from HMS may compete for available funding, usually when they reenter HMS in years III and IV.

If you have additional questions, please feel welcome to contact:

Amy Cohen
Director of Administration

Updated: April 16, 2015