Semester Abroad Program Application Instructions

The Semester Abroad program allows Harvard Law School students to receive a semester of ungraded credit towards the Harvard J.D. degree for approved study at a law school overseas. HLS students in their second or third year of study may apply for designated spots at the 11 foreign law schools with which HLS has an exchange agreement:

  • University of Sydney Law School (Sydney, Australia)
  • Fundação Getulio Vargas Schools of Law (Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil)
  • University of Chile School of Law (Santiago, Chile)
  • Renmin University Law School (Beijing, China)
  • Fudan University Law School (Shanghai, China)
  • Sciences Po Law School (Paris, France)
  • University of Tokyo, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics (Tokyo, Japan)
  • University of the Witwatersrand School of Law (Johannesburg, South Africa)
  • Seoul National University School of Law (Seoul, South Korea)
  • University of Geneva Faculty of Law and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Semester Abroad web page (under “Locations”) has more detailed information about each exchange program.

Students may also choose to spend an “independent” semester at any foreign law school that meets the study abroad program requirements.  

Planning for a semester abroad should begin well in advance. Before completing the application, students should carefully review the program’s general parameters and requirements. The Semester Abroad web page and the FAQs and Planning Tips web page offer extensive information on locations, resources, eligibility, credits and course selection, written work, tuition and fees, travel, living expenses, medical insurance, and other details about studying abroad. Students should also review course catalogs and other information provided by the foreign law school at which they propose to study, and choose and consult with faculty advisors (both at HLS and at the foreign school).

Please note that students considering a semester abroad are encouraged to meet with a member of the International Legal Studies staff as needed but all applicants must do so at least once prior to, or shortly following, the submission of an application.

Application Deadlines

Applications for semester abroad must be submitted by:

  • September 15 at 5:00 p.m. for study abroad in the spring
  • February 15 at 5:00 p.m. for study abroad in the fall

Applications should be submitted to Sara Zucker, Director of International Legal Studies Programs, in Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005, or by e-mail to szucker@law.harvard.edu. Transcripts and required documentation may also be mailed to:

International Legal Studies
Harvard Law School
Wasserstein Hall, Suite 5005
1585 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA  02138

Students applying for a semester abroad — either through an exchange program or as an independent semester abroad — must complete the Semester Abroad Application Form and attach the required additional documentation listed on the form and described below.  Please be sure to request the required documentation sufficiently in advance so that it can be submitted by the deadlines indicated above.

The Application Form

The application form has two parts. Part 1 must be completed by all applicants. This section of the application includes basic contact information, and asks the student to:

  • provide the names of two proposed faculty advisors, one at HLS and the other at the foreign school (students accepted  for a semester at Sciences Po will have a foreign advisor assigned to them)
  • describe his/her educational objectives, and how a semester abroad at a foreign law school and the proposed course of study would help the student achieve them
  • provide examples of law courses he/she would like to take at the foreign school, with descriptions and the number of minutes each class meets per week
  • describe his/her proficiency with the usual language of instruction at the foreign school (or, if classes are taught in English, with the local language)

Students who are applying for an Independent Semester Abroad (that is, at schools other than those with which HLS has an exchange program, as listed above) must also complete Part 2 of the application. This section asks for specific information about the foreign law school, including its name and location, the duration of the semester abroad, the average academic load for a regular student, and the school’s grading system and evaluation process. 

In completing Part 2, students applying for an independent semester abroad must supply evidence (in the form of official language or other documentation) of the school’s accreditation. According to ABA Criteria Section I.C.1., the school must be "government sanctioned or recognized, if educational institutions are state regulated within the country; recognized or approved by an evaluation body, if such an agency exists within the country; or chartered to award first degrees in law by the appropriate authority within the country."

In completing the application form, students are asked to be as specific as possible, but to limit each answer to 250-500 words.

Additional Documentation

In addition to the completed application form, students are required to submit:

  1. An official copy of his/her Harvard Law School transcript (from the HLS Registrar’s Office), reflecting grades through the fall or spring semester preceding the application deadline (e.g. spring grades for applications due in September, fall grades for applications due in February). Transfer students must also provide an official transcript from the law school where they completed their first year. (Please note that requests for HLS transcripts may take 3-5 days to process, so applicants should plan accordingly.)
  2. A copy of his/her resume.
  3. A letter (or e-mail) from his/her proposed Harvard faculty supervisor indicating that he/she is willing to act as the student’s supervisor during the proposed time abroad and commenting on the student’s proposed program of study.

To demonstrate language proficiency, students may be asked to provide additional documentation or participate in an interview.

Selection for Designated Places in Exchange Programs / Acceptance by Foreign School

The Study Abroad Committee will select students in accordance with the designated number of HLS places for each exchange program.  If there are more applicants whose proposals are approved than there are designated places, the Study Abroad staff will determine whether the exchange partner school can accommodate additional HLS students.  If not, the approved HLS students may choose to be placed on a waitlist in case a spot becomes available, or to pursue a second choice.

Please note that students applying for designated spots in HLS exchange programs must be recommended by the HLS Study Abroad Committee but ultimately selections are made by the foreign law schools. In some instances, the foreign school may require students to complete additional application forms.  It is not necessary to complete the foreign school’s application before the deadline (September 15 for spring 2015, February 15 for fall 2015) for turning in the HLS semester abroad application.

The Semester Abroad web page (under “Locations”) has more detailed information about each exchange program.

A student applying for the independent semester abroad program must first receive approval from the HLS Study Abroad Committee, then apply directly to the host institution in accordance with the foreign school’s application process and receive an acceptance from the foreign school.

Last modified: September 18, 2014

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