The graduate admissions process is like many things in academia: rigorous, but also potentially frightening because it tends to be shrouded in mystery. While some prospective students grew up in academic families, and others have had the good fortune to find mentors willing to show them the ropes, we believe that transparency benefits everyone. We are especially eager to help prospective students from first-generation, non-traditional, and/or underrepresented backgrounds to navigate a process that too often can feel unwelcoming or even unfair.

How Our Admission Process Works

Once the application deadline has passed, our Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Assistant take a quick read through every completed application. We then assign applications to two or three faculty readers, who then evaluate and comment on every application assigned to them. Next, faculty members organized into cohorts (which typically include Modern Europe, Early Modern Europe, Asia, Early U.S., Modern U.S., and U.S. West, environment, and Indigenous) rank the applications they have read; crucially, they also indicate their willingness to serve as primary advisor for each applicant whose file they review.

The faculty members of the Graduate Studies Committee receive each cohort’s rankings and, together with the Director of Graduate Studies, develop an overall ranking of that year’s applications. Finally, we use these rankings and our enrollment targets to determine which applicants we will admit and fund. In some instances, we elect to offer admission to the M.A. program for students who have applied to the Ph.D. program. The Graduate Studies Committee also develops a wait-list. The Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Assistant then inform applicants of our admissions decisions. At that point, we turn to doing our utmost to recruit successful applicants to join our program; in particular, we invite admitted Ph.D. students to visit Boulder so that they can meet prospective mentors, other faculty and staff members, and current graduate students while also getting a better sense of the pluses and minuses of living in the Boulder area.