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HILT’s Pilot Fund is designed to help students take early-stage ideas off the page and into the real world. Our goal is to give students resources so that they can develop prototypes to test their theories of change. Experiencing and learning from the process of innovation is what matters, much more so than the ultimate success of the idea. We want to learn from you and with you to share insights that we gain from these thoughtful experiments.

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student pathway

Grant proposals should address education-related issues broadly for any community or population globally. Specifically, proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria: 


HILT Student Pilot Funds are open to all Harvard University full-time and part-time students in degree-granting programs. While this does not disqualify other Harvard affiliates from applying, at least one collaborator must meet this criterion in order to be eligible for funding. Students should feel welcome to reapply any and all of our four rounds of Pilot Funding as progress evolves.

Teams must:

  • Include more than one person – use our network to find teammates!
  • Strong priority will be given to cross-functional teams – teams with a range of skills and experiences. We encourage teams to have at least two students across different Harvard schools (i.e. a student from HGSE and HBS) though cross-functionality may be possible to attain and articulate on single-school teams. As in: a team can apply in which all members reside at HGSE if they can articulate how they represent a diverse range of experiences, perspectives, and skills.
  • Be early stage; teams have not received >$7,500 of total funding from all sources


To submit a proposal, please go here to fill out the online application, which will prompt you, as part of the process, to schedule a 30-minute consultation with one of HILT’s Education Innovation Fellows. The Pilot Fund application is purposefully very brief and includes the following questions:

  • Select which problem area you’d like to work on and your target audience. 
  • Which innovation stage do you think you are in right now?
  • How will you differentiate yourself? Who will you compliment?
  • What are three concrete milestones you’d like to hit in three months?
  • What does success look like in three years?
  • Who are your advisors/mentors – or who might they be?
  • Budget form – click to download 


Applicants must meet with one of HILT’s Education Innovation Fellows after submitting the online application. The Education Innovation Fellows will make their recommendations to HILT, who may consult with colleagues from the Harvard Education Innovation ecosystem to determine how best to support teams with their ideas. Applicants are welcome to meet with Fellows in advance of submitting an application, they must, however, also meet with a Fellow once the application has been submitted. 


Teams will create a budget and pay for items out of pocket (please contact HILT if this represents a hardship). Before getting reimbursed, teams must fill out a team report on HILT’s website along with all relevant documentation and receipts.


Teams must submit online applications AND have met with an Education Innovation Fellow by the following dates. Teams are encouraged to apply on a rolling basis and meet with Education Innovation Fellows as soon as they feel ready.

Application and EI Fellow meeting deadline Funding decisions

Reimbursement materials due

Funding round #1 Friday, October 19 Friday, November 2 Friday December 14
Funding round #2 Friday, November 30 Friday, December 14 Friday March 1
Funding round #3 Friday, February 15 Friday, March 1 Friday May 3
Funding round #4 Friday, April 19 Friday, May 3 Friday August 16


While there are a wide range of uses that are acceptable for HILT funding, the following are not permitted: paying team members for their time, living expenses, alcohol, or costs not directly related to the proposed project. We strongly encourage you to use funds for things that you are not capable of doing yourself and, when possible, explore using resources within the Harvard community.