Frequently Asked Questions for Doctoral Students

Prospective Students

Q: Does the Department of History offer a free-standing Master’s degree in History?
A: No. Our program is designed for students who seek the Ph.D.

There are two M.A. programs associated with the department which are administered independently: a dual MA/MSc degree in International and Global History, offered in partnership with the London School of Economics. The second is an M.A. in History and Literature, which is based at Reid Hall, Columbia's campus in Paris.

Q: Does the Department of History offer rolling admission?
A: No. Ph.D. decisions are not made on a rolling basis.

Q: Is it possible to waive my application fee?
A: You may request a waiver of your application fee if you are a currently enrolled student at a U.S. college or university and your financial aid office certifies your need for a fee waiver. The online fee waiver form must be submitted with any request.

Q: Does the department conduct admissions interviews? Can I visit campus, visit the department, speak with someone about admissions?
A: Because we receive about 600 applications per year, we cannot conduct admissions interviews, and we lack the person power to provide general briefings to visitors. The department organizes a yearly admissions event in March called History Day. All admitted and waitlisted students are invited to the campus for a day long inforamtion and excahge session with students and faculty. This is meant to help prospective students determine if Columbia is the right school for them.

In the event that you cannot attend History Day, the Graduate Administrator will be happy to try to answer any specific questions you have via email or phone call. You can also contact specific professors whom you intend to work with to see if they are available to meet with you or whether you can attend a session of their class.

Feel free to take a self-guided tour of campus. Or you may take a campus tour through the Visitors Center. Please call (212) 854-4902 to make arrangements or see The Visitor's Center Web page for more details.

Q: I have previously applied to the Graduate School. Do I need to resubmit all the application material, such as transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, etc.?
A: Yes. If you are reapplying for the next academic year you do need to submit all new materials such as a new application and all new supporting documents. The one exception is GRE scores. GRE scores need not be resent if ETS has already reported the scores to GSAS.

Q: Do you require a writing sample or other supplementary material?
A: Yes, a writing sample is required for the GSAS application. The online application allows students applying to the Political Science Department to upload other supplementary materials. Please limit all submissions to 20 pages.

Q: What is the minimum GPA that you require?
A: We have no set minimum. Our applicants come from all over the world. Not every institution uses a 4 point grade scale and actual GPA’s vary quite a bit. In general, persons offered admission to the program have GPA’s that are high for the institutions they come from -- top 5-10% of their class and 3.6 and above at U.S. institutions.

Q: Are GRE Subject Tests required?
A: No. Only the GRE General Test is required for consideration.

Q: What is the minimum level you require on the GRE exam?
A: The Graduate School does not have a minimum requirement for the GRE or GMAT. The selection process considers all components of the application package, including application information, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, academic record (i.e., transcripts, diploma), test scores, resume/curriculum vitae (CV), and other information a graduate program requires.

Q: If I take the GRE multiple times, which score will be used for my application evaluation?
A: All scores will be reviewed. Only the most recent score will be used for admission consideration.

Q: What is the minimum TOEFL that you require?
A: We require a minimum of 600 on the paper-based exam and 100 on the internet-based test. Applicants whose scores are below these levels should not apply.

Q: Am I exempt from taking the TOEFL if I have a Master’s degree from an American university?
A: No, you must take the TOEFL. Only students who have a bachelor’s degree from the United States (not including Puerto Rico) or an equivalent degree from an institution in a country whose official language is English are exempt from taking the TOEFL exam.

Q: Who is eligible to receive a FLAS fellowship (Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship?
A: Undergraduate and graduate students who are US citizens, permanent residents or nationals and who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a program that combines modern foreign language training with international or area studies or with the international aspects of professional or other fields.

Q: What are my funding opportunities?
A: All Ph.D. program applicants, including international applicants, are eligible for fellowship support. Except in very rare cases, students admitted to the program are admitted with an offer of multi-year fellowship support guaranteed for up to five years.

The fellowship covers tuition, the health services fee and medical insurance, and a stipend. Several fees are not covered. These include the university transcript fee, which is charged to you only once, and the other fees which recur every term. These are the international student fee, where applicable; the student activities fee; and the university facilities fee. See the relevant GSAS page for fee schedules.

Q: Are there fellowships and teaching assistantships available?
A: The graduate school's current practice is to only admit those students who are funded completely, and to make a guaranteed multi-year commitment of 4 or 5 years to each admitted student. In other words, an admission offer is a fellowship offer. Additionally, all students in years two through five of the program have a teaching obligation. Therefore, there are no separate teaching assistantships as they are part of the fellowship and doctoral program.

Q: Are international applicants treated the same as American applicants in consideration for admission and financial support?
A: Yes. The only difference is that international students on student visas have registration and residency requirements that must be met in order to remain active in the program.

Q: What are the main criteria that determine the likelihood of being accepted into the program?
A: We have about 600 applicants and we have an entering class of around 22. So it is difficult to answer this question. The main thing we are looking for is evidence that the person will make an excellent professional historian. There are no weights assigned to the separate components of the application and the faculty members of the admissions committee will review each component carefully.

Q: If I’m admitted, can I defer my admission?
A: No. The Graduate School does not grant deferrals of admission; you must reapply.

Q: What are the field requirements specific to the Ph.D. program in history?
A: There are 13 fields. Information may be found here.

Q: Where is the History Department Office located and what are its hours?
A: 413 Fayerweather Hall (on the 2nd floor above entrance level). Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Q: Where can I find a list of faculty office hours, telephone numbers, an other information about the history department faculty?
A: A list of office hours is posted outside the History Department (413 Fayerweather Hall) and on the Faculty pages of the website.

Q: I was admitted to the PhD program in History. Can I take language classes the summer prior to fall matriculation?
A: Yes, you may. Please visit this page for more information: http://gsas.columbia.edu/content/summer-tuition-credit.

Q: Where is the History Department Office located and what are its hours?
A: 413 Fayerweather Hall (on the 2nd floor above entrance level). Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Current Students

Q: What are the field requirements specific to the Ph.D. program in history?
A: There are 13 fields. Information may be found here.

Q: Where do I find information on time to degree and other degree requirements and expectations?
A: The Graduate Student Handbook has answers to all of your pressing questions, including the steps students must follow to fulfill all academic and administrative requirements and expectations.

Q: I received the M.Phil. What do I need to do to defend the dissertation?
A: The steps are as follows: prepare a brief dissertation prospectus, fill out a dissertation proposal committee form, write the dissertation, apply for the defense, defend the dissertation, format the approved dissertation, and finally deposit it wth GSAS. A detailed list of steps and forms can be found in the relevant section of the Graduate Student Handbook.

Q: I am on a student visa, who can I contact if I have questions?
A: if you encounter an issue or if you have questions about your visa or status, please see the Department Administrator for advice. You may also contact the Office of International Students and Scholars directly.

Q: Who is eligible to receive a FLAS fellowship (Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship?
A: Undergraduate and graduate students who are US citizens, permanent residents or nationals and who are enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a program that combines modern foreign language training with international or area studies or with the international aspects of professional or other fields.

Q: Where can I find a list of faculty office hours, telephone numbers, an other information about the history department faculty?
A: A list of office hours is posted outside the History Department (413 Fayerweather Hall) and online.

Q: Who do I turn to if I have an issue or grievance?
A: In the normal course of events, students should seek guidance from the DGS. It is also appropriate to contact the Chair of the department.

Outside of the department, students may contact GSAS or the Office of the University Ombudsman.