Think of these as “pro tips”—frank, hard-won advice drawn from the experience and expertise of our faculty and staff over the past several decades:

  • Thoroughly research our program, as well as all of the others to which you intend to apply. Familiarize yourself with faculty members and their respective areas of research expertise to determine how their interests align with yours. Remember that “fit” is a critical criterion for graduate admissions. Members of our department, like our colleagues elsewhere, welcome direct communication from prospective applicants. Identify those faculty members who work most closely to your area(s) of academic interest—see our faculty webpage for up-to-date information on who is accepting graduate students, and in what fields. We recommend that you then reach out to one or more of our members who are available to advise graduate students with a short, direct, and courteous email message.
  • Take ample time to reflect on your motivation for pursuing graduate-level training in history. An intellectual interest in the subject is assumed of all applicants. Identify your professional goals and how the degree you seek will help you to achieve them. Then articulate your motivation in your personal statement.
  • Stay focused and concise with your written application material. Avoid hyperbole: let your prior academic achievements and potential for further work speak for themselves.
  • Remember that applying to graduate school is a competitive exercise. Approach it as you would a job interview. Make all the preparations necessary to present the best possible case for admission.
  • Be mindful of all application requirements and deadlines and begin assembling your application materials accordingly. It is particularly important to address those required materials that fall outside of your direct control (for example, GRE/TOEFL test scores and letters of recommendation), leaving sufficient time for them to reach us by the application deadline.
  • Take advantage of any access to academic resources you may have during the application process. If you have recently graduated or are currently in the process of completing a degree program, ask faculty or advisors with whom you have worked to review and offer feedback on your application materials. This can be particularly helpful with your personal statement. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • For Ph.D. applicants, it is especially important that your letters of recommendation come from university faculty members—preferably historians.
  • Writing samples play a central role in our admissions decisions. Try to select a sample that showcases two vital dimensions: a) your writing ability—especially your skill at formulating and supporting an argument; and b) your facility in interpreting primary-source evidence. It’s important to keep your writing sample within the required page length. Writing samples can consist of portions of a larger work (such as an undergraduate or Master’s thesis), in which case you should include headnotes to orient the faculty members who are evaluating your application. Also, please try to send us your best work. We recommend that you subject your writing sample to a further round of editing before submitting it to us as part of your application materials.