Frequently Asked Questions


How do I apply to HILR, and what are the qualifications for membership?

For a membership application and specific deadline information, you may download a Word document version of the application form, or call (617) 495-4072 or e-mail Steven Leon ( Criteria for admission are generally based on an applicant’s education, avocation, or career background. But the Institute does seek candidates who are likely to consider HILR a major commitment of their time and energy, who enjoy and contribute actively to class discussion, and who show willingness to become study group leaders. Once members are accepted by the Admissions Committee, they are required to attend courses in the upcoming semester and may not defer admission, except under extenuating circumstances. They are also required to enroll for a minimum of one and a half semesters each academic year for the first three years of membership.

Do I have to be retired to apply to HILR?

Yes, in the sense of retirement from a full-time career. Because the Institute’s success rests on member participation, applicants who have the time to commit are generally favored over those whose time is limited.

Do I have to be a Harvard alumnus/a?

No. Although almost 30 percent of members are Harvard graduates, membership is open to people from all educational backgrounds with a strong interest in intellectual pursuits.

Can I get a degree from HILR?

No. HILR is a noncredit, nondegree program. Members take courses at HILR for the pure pleasure of learning.

Is membership limited to the Boston area?

No; some members commute from the far reaches of New England. Regular attendance is important, however, and is stressed to foster the sense of collegiality that is central to the program. Therefore, an ability to travel to classes through all normal weather conditions is expected.

If accepted, do I have to lead a course?

Leadership potential is highly valued, although study group leadership is not immediately required. Members often find that, after three semesters of class participation, they are ready to assume the responsibility of leading a study group. Prior teaching experience is not necessary. Anyone at HILR can develop and lead a course on an area of their expertise or interest. Most agree that leading a study group is a very rewarding experience.

How many courses may I take per semester?

Members may take up to three full-semester courses per term, or an equivalent number of half-semester courses.

Must I reapply each year?

No, once accepted, a person remains a member of HILR until such time as his/her ability to participate actively is compromised. The vitality of HILR as a stimulating community of intellectually curious retirees depends on its members being conscientious, disciplined students and leaders, who are prepared to participate actively in their study groups and in the HILR community. Therefore, new members are subject to a three-year review that provides both the Institute and the member the opportunity to assess the mutual benefits of continued participation, based on the member’s contribution in the classroom and as a volunteer in the HILR community.

To maintain membership, members register for classes each semester. Any extended leaves of absence must not exceed two consecutive terms. Following two such terms of absence, a member must reregister or relinquish his/her place in the membership.

Does HILR have a membership fee, and if so, how much is it?

HILR members pay no initiation fee, but they are assessed an annual $900 membership fee (payable in two installments).