The Graduate Program
Admission to the Doctoral Program
Our entering class of 20-25 students is drawn from a pool that typically contains over 600 applications. Only candidates with outstanding qualifications are likely to be admitted.
Our program is designed for students who seek the Ph.D. Although students entering without a Master’s degree earn an M.A. in History in the course of their study here, we do not admit full-time students who wish only to earn a Master’s degree.
We attract students from all parts of the country and from many parts of the world. Some students enter our program immediately after graduating from college. Others come to us after several, sometimes many, years doing other things, including in some cases earning a Master’s degree at another university. Most entering students have done previous work in history, either as undergraduates or in a master’s program; but many enter our program having specialized in other academic fields.
Applications are submitted online to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by December 19 (or the Friday before if the 19th falls on a weekend.) The Department of History does not consider applications that arrive after that date. Applications must include a personal statement explaining your reasons for wishing to enter graduate school and outlining your scholarly interests; academic transcripts; letters of recommendations, ideally from faculty members with whom you have worked; and a writing sample, an undergraduate essay or thesis, a masters essay, or some other work of scholarship. The writing sample should not be more than 20 pages long. Decisions on admissions are made by the faculty of the History Department, and candidates usually receive notification early in March.
The Graduate School does not automatically grant deferrals; students must register in the term specified for admission. A student unable to register then, but wishing to be admitted in a subsequent year, must make a written request to the Office of Admissions to reactivate their application. Students should communicate with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) if considering requesting a deferral.
We are often asked what we consider important in reviewing applications. First and foremost, we are looking for evidence of scholarly talent and achievement. Grades, are of course, helpful in locating such evidence, but they are not the only things we consider. What you say in your personal statement can be very important; you will find some good advice here. Your writing sample is often the decisive factor in our decision. While many types of samples are effective, the best tend to show your ability to construct historical arguments from primary sources: an excerpt from a research paper, for example, will be more useful than a complete essay based entirely on secondary scholarship.
All applicants should be sure to list faculty they hope to work with in the relevant place on the GSAS application and in the personal statement.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to develop a capacity to read scholarly work in the language or languages required for their proposed field of study before enrolling in the Ph.D. program. This is especially important for applications to the International and Global track (see IGH field description).
For additional information, please visit our graduate FAQs page.