Student Grants FAQ

Q: If my faculty adviser is on leave, who should write one of my recommendations?

You should think about another professor who would be able to provide a strong account of your ability to perform the tasks that will be required of you during your proposed program. You may include references from former professors, work supervisors, TF’s, academic advisors, etc. If you are applying for an internship grant, you should also anticipate including a letter of support from the organization you have been coordinating with for your expected position.

Q: What should I write about in my proposal?

What you write about in your proposal will depend, in part, on what you are applying to do for the summer. In most cases you should write about why your proposed program/activity will further your career or academic goals. You should also wish to include background information on your prior experience and/or coursework related to Africa.

Q: What counts as an African Studies-related course?

The African Studies-related course requirement is interpreted broadly. These can be courses that are international in scope, but touch on Africa/African themes at some point. In addition, these can be courses taken in previous academic programs, including as an undergraduate student. Overall, the purpose of this requirement is for applicant to demonstrate a true interest and intent of their work’s applicability in the African context.

Q: What qualifies as “research” for my J-Term grant application?

Research opportunities will only be considered if they meet the following criteria:

  • Your research is supported by a Harvard faculty member. (For example, a Harvard junior/senior working on a Senior Thesis Project would have their faculty adviser sign off on the research proposal in the recommendation letter.)
  • Your research is related to an academic requirement for a registered Harvard course and/or requirement for graduation.

Q: What does it mean if the country I am planning to travel to has a ‘High-Risk Rating’ as determined by the Global Support Services Office?

For Undergraduate students: Harvard-sponsored travel to High-Risk Countries and Regions is prohibited. The sole exception to this prohibition is for students (or fellows) visiting their parents or legal guardians, but only if: the parents or legal guardians reside in the High-Risk Country or Region and will monitor the student’s well-being throughout his or her time there. This means that in most circumstances CAS grants cannot be used for travel to any High-Risk region/country.

For Graduate students: The University has begun to develop graduate student policies with varied restrictions on the travel of graduate students, though CAS may also ask you to follow a number of steps before offering funding to students traveling to high-risk regions. You should be prepared to offer your exit plan should conditions in the country get worse while you are there, and you should be willing to meet with the Global Support Services office to ensure that you are aware of all issues in the region.

Travel risk ratings and Graduate Student Travel Policies can be found on the Harvard Global Support Services website.

Q: Does CAS only provide grants to Sub-Saharan African countries?

No! CAS is willing to consider applications from any country within the African continent.

Q: Should I include my references in my application copies that I bring directly to your office, or who should they send the reference to?

Students may bring recommendations in paper copy to the CAS office (which should be in a sealed envelope, signed on the flap). Recommenders should also feel free to email references directly to Nthatisi Quella.

Q: I am working on a project with a partner. Should we submit one application together, or do we each submit separate applications?

Each student needs to submit their own application materials individually. Students will not be reviewed together. Some parts of your application may be the same: budget and itinerary, for example. Your proposal and letters of reference should be written specifically for you and about your own academic/professional interests.

Q: How do I send my recommendation letters to you?

Your recommenders can email their letters of reference directly to Nthatisi Quella (, or they can submit a signed/sealed envelope to you to drop off or in campus mail to:

c/o Nthatisi Quella, CGIS South 4th Floor, 1730 Cambridge Street

Q: My professors are very busy and I don’t want to burden them — can I have a few extra days for them to get their letters of recommendation in?

Unfortunately professors are under the same deadlines as students. All application materials must be submitted by the grant application deadline according to individual grant deadlines. This is to ensure that the faculty review committee has all application materials to review in a timely fashion following the grant deadline.

Q: Why don’t you want me to staple my application materials?

All application materials will eventually be scanned in to create an electronic copy of your application. In order to do this we scan the materials in and the copier will not process papers with staples in them, which means that we have to take each individual staple out. PLEASE do not staple your materials!

Q: Do I have to be an African Studies Concentrator to receive funding from CAS?

No! Each year, CAS grantees are from a range of concentrations: from Social Studies to Human Evolutionary Biology, from Biomedical Engineering to History and Literature. Please note, however, that preference will go to students who have taken coursework in African Studies, have experience in the region and/or have language experience related to Africa. With research applications, preference will be given to graduate students and senior-level undergraduates working on thesis preparation.