To apply

Now inviting applications for 2016-2017 academic year

This year's application deadline has now passed, but check back for next year's application in March 2017.

The program is open to Harvard Ph.D. students throughout the social sciences who may apply at the end of their G-1 or G-2 year (1st or 2nd year) of doctoral study . Those selected as doctoral fellows begin the proseminar sequence and other program activities in the following September.

Application deadline. Thursday, May 26, 2016.

Eligibility and instructions

Harvard Ph.D. students may apply at the end of their G-1 or G-2 year of graduate study for entry into the program in the upcoming academic year. That is, students who will be G-2s or G-3s in September 2016 are eligible to apply in spring 2016.

The Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy is designed for Harvard Ph.D. students in the social sciences, including African and African American StudiesEconomicsEducationGovernmentHealth PolicyPolitical Economy and GovernmentPsychologyPublic PolicySociology, and Social Policy. The curriculum focuses primarily on research from the disciplines of economics, political science, sociology, and social policy. Students with an appropriate social science background from these or other Harvard doctoral programs are eligible to apply.

Both US and international students are fully eligible for Inequality fellowship awards. Although the program began as a National Science Foundation initiative, it is now supported from non-governmental sources, enabling US and international students to participate equally.

When to apply

Although applicants may apply at the end of their G-1 or G-2 years, students are generally urged to apply at the end of their first year. The additional coursework and research activities are generally best fulfilled at an early stage in students' graduate careers.

The proseminar sequence requires some facility with quantitative research methods. It is strongly recommended that all applicants will have taken two graduate-level courses in quantitative empirical research methods before joining the program.

Applicants selected for the program will be notified by June 30 and begin the proseminar sequence and other training activities in the coming September. Once selected for the program, Doctoral Fellows maintain an affiliation with the program through the dissertation stage of their work.

Application instructions

Students are encouraged to submit their application via email. The application form and recommendation form are writable PDF forms that may be downloaded, completed, and then saved for submission as email attachments. Applicants are urged to save the documents to their computer before beginning any edits and then to test the save process before completing the application form in its entirety. (Mac-users: See additional troubleshooting notes below). 

JFK walkwayThe completed application for electronic submission will thus consist of the following six items, with items 1-4 collated in a single PDF document and sent to (The two recommendation waiver forms can be sent as separate attachments to the same address). 

  • Application form
  • Research statement
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Unofficial transcript 

  • Recommendation #1 waiver form 
  • Recommendation #2 waiver form

PLUS two recommendation letters to be sent separately: 

  • Two recommendation letters (to be submitted directly by faculty members).

    Applicants should highlight for their recommenders that email submission is encouraged, and that those writing on behalf of multiple students may opt to submit a single letter that briefly evaluates each student in turn. The program aims to select approximately 8-12 fellows. Please see the brochure for details about the fellowship awards.

Troubleshooting for Mac users: Writable PDF application forms work best when completed with the free Adobe Reader for Macintosh, which may be downloaded from the Adobe site. The Apple Preview app does not fully support forms, meaning that your saved pdf form data may not be visible on a Windows computer and may not print correctly from Windows. This does not generally pose a major problem at this end—i.e., we can generally see the data and have found a fix for the printing issues. But it would be helpful and save time if applicants could verify that their application data can be viewed on a Windows computer before submitting.

Tips for the statement of purpose

In the application itself, much weight is placed on the statement of purpose. In general, the strongest applications will outline a compelling research agenda, with a clear question or set of questions that might form the basis for the student's empirical research in the Inequality program. While the selection committee recognizes that most applicants are still at an early stage, applicants are advised to approach the statement much like a research proposal, outlining with as much specificity as possible why this is an important question or area of inquiry, what preliminary ideas or hypotheses they have, and how they might go about investigating them. 

A final note: relationship to departmental degree programs 

The Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy is a graduate training program developed by the National Science Foundation, an initiative designed to enrich and extend the work of Harvard Ph.D. students in their disciplinary fields. It is open to Harvard Ph.D. students who apply at the end of their first or second year of doctoral study at Harvard. It is not itself a degree-granting program. Doctoral Fellows in the Multidisciplinary Program remain doctoral candidates in their home departments, firmly grounded in their home discipline and subject to all the usual requirements of their home Ph.D. program. 

Note: Prospective applicants to Harvard who are seeking admission to a Ph.D. program in this area may wish to investigate instead the Harvard joint Ph.D. Programs in Social Policy, which confers a Ph.D. in Government and Social Policy or the Ph.D. Sociology and Social Policy. These degrees are designed for students who seek to combine deep scholarship in the discipline of  political science or sociology, respectively, with a multidisciplinary complement in social policy. 

What the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy does provide is an extra-disciplinary complement to the traditional program of study. It aims to enrich students' understanding of the complexities of inequality and social policy and to strengthen their capacities to carry out sophisticated research in this domain.

Doctoral students drawn from different disciplines gain opportunities they might not otherwise have to interact and learn from each other, from Harvard faculty across the University, and from the program's network of national and international scholars.