General Guidelines for Admission

The following is a set of general guidelines for the admissions process. It should be noted that while several areas are emphasized here, the Admissions Committee will carefully examine the overall profile of each applicant, taking these and other aspects of the candidate’s application into consideration.

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose should give the admissions committee a clear sense of one’s individual interests and strengths. Applicants need not indicate at the time of application precisely what their field of specialization will be, but it is helpful to know something about a candidate’s aspirations, and how Film and Visual Studies at Harvard might help in attaining these goals.

Creative Practice

Applicants who also have a creative practice in the audio-visual arts who wish to continue making art during their time at Harvard should also include links to their work (and, where relevant, its documentation), as well as descriptions of their roles in each work, and a brief paragraph outlining the directions they imagine their artistic practice evolving while at Harvard. Admitted students who have a creative practice in the screen and sonic arts may also apply to pursue a secondary PhD field in Critical Media Practice.

The Writing Sample

The writing sample is one of the most important materials in the application. Candidates should submit only one 15–20 page paper, in 12-point type, double-spaced throughout, and with normal margins. The writing sample must be an example of critical writing (rather than creative writing) on a subject directly related to film, performance and/or visual studies. Applicants should not send longer papers with instructions to read an excerpt or excerpts, but should themselves edit the sample so that they submit only up to 20 pages.


While the overall GPA is important, it is more important to have an average of no lower than A- in courses related to film and visual studies or related fields. In addition, if a candidate has not majored in film studies or a related field, it is important to have sufficient background to enter the graduate program— a matter perhaps best determined by speaking with one’s undergraduate advisor.

Letters of Recommendation

It is important to have three strong letters of recommendation from professors who are familiar with the candidate’s academic work. An applicant who has been out of school for several years should try to reestablish contact with former professors. Additional letters from employers may also be included.


The GRE General and Subject Tests are not required as part of the Film and Visual Studies PhD application process. Students wishing to send in scores may do so.


Strong language background helps to strengthen the application, and students who lack it should be aware that they will need to repair these gaps during their first two years of graduate study.