Admissions Overview

Should you pursue History graduate school?  What are the components of a strong application dossier?  This page outlines some of the basics for interested applicants.  For more information, see our page on Preparing for Graduate School and our FAQs.

Basic Criteria

  • Completion of a strong undergraduate program in History, ordinarily as a History Major.
  • Completion of a strong Masters program in History for those students applying to the PhD program
  • Usually a GPA of 3.5 (A-) or above, particularly in History and related subjects, and especially in the final two years of work, and in graduate work if any graduate studies have been completed prior to application.
  • Evidence of genuine intellectual ability and interest beyond the routine performance of academic tasks.
  • Reading knowledge of at least one language in addition to English is required for all graduate degrees. It is not a requirement for admission to the graduate program, but qualified applicants with knowledge of at least one foreign language may be favored over those who lack such knowledge. Moreover, an applicant who proposes to work for a degree in Greek, Roman, European, Russian, Medieval, Eastern European, Latin American, Middle Eastern, or Asian history is expected to have begun to acquire a working knowledge in the foreign languages essential to research in the field.
  • Ordinarily a score in the 80th percentile or higher on the verbal portion of the General Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and a score of 5 or higher on the analytical portion.

Components of the Application

The following materials are required for application to the Graduate Program in History:

Curriculum Vitae: A Curriculum Vitae is an academic resume. It should summarize your educational background, including institutions attended and degrees earned. Additionally, it should include a summary of academic positions held (e.g. Teaching Assistantships), awards and fellowships, and academic publications.

Statement of Purpose:  The Statement of Purpose should explain your purposes for undertaking graduate study in history. Normally the statement should be 700-1,000 words.  The Statement of Purpose should give an impression of purpose and self-awareness.  Be specific about the intellectual experiences that led you to your proposed areas of study; include courses you have taken, research you have done, books read, methodologies discovered, etc.  Link these to some reasonably specific statement of your research interests and ultimate career goals; discuss how these interests can be advanced through pursuing graduate work in our program by working with specific professors or by utilizing particular resources of our institution.  Note any relevant skills that you possess.

Writing Sample: A writing sample, such as the Master’s thesis, a seminar paper, or course paper of at least 15 pages, should show your mind at work.  The most impressive writing samples demonstrate an ability to conduct research in a variety of sources, to write analytical prose, to construct a reasoned argument based on evidence, and to create a context for assessing the significance of what has been presented.  Preferably, the writing sample should be on a historical topic related to your primary area of interest and should include bibliography and footnotes. Writing samples should normally not exceed 50 pages in length; writing samples of 20-30 pages are most common.

Unofficial Transcripts: We require a transcript from each institution from which you have obtained a degree. In addition, you should submit transcripts from any non-degree institutions at which you completed coursework relevant to your proposed course of study. This might include foreign language coursework in addition to work in History or allied fields. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable during the application process. Applicants who are admitted to the program will be required to submit official transcripts prior to matriculation.

Three letters of recommendation:  Each letter of recommendation should be written by a professor who is able to comment on your qualifications for graduate study in History.  If you have been out of college or university for some time, the letter may be written by some other person who is able to comment on your academic qualifications. The letters will be held in confidence from the public.  As part of the application process you will be given the opportunity to voluntarily waive your right to inspect the completed letters.

Summary of Language Preparation: We request a summary of your language preparation in order to assess your readiness to undertake research in your chosen field of study. There are some fields of study--ancient, medieval, European, Russian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Asian--where a high degree of competency in one or more foreign languages is essential for the completion of a graduate degree. The applicant must list of the languages other than English you know or have studied, along with an assessment of your level of proficiency in each language and a brief summary of your formal training in the language. We ask that you rate your proficiency according to a ranked scale: 1--Read fluently; 2--Read with occasional aid of a dictionary; 3--Read with difficulty; 4--Elementary training. Note that if you rate your proficiency as a level 1 or a 2, we would expect you to be able to take and pass a written translation exam from a scholarly source in that language within your first quarter of graduate study.

Official Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test: We require that all applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and have ETS report their official scores to the University of Washington. We must receive the official scores by our graduate application deadline. Further information regarding the GRE is available from Educational Testing Services.

Summary of Schools Attended and Degrees Earned: Provide information about each institution from which you have obtained or will obtain a degree prior to matriculation in our program. For each institution listed you will also need to provide an unofficial transcript.

International applicants must submit official TOEFL scores (if required) directly to the University of Washington: Every applicant with a native language other than English must have official TOEFL scores sent to the University of Washington before the application deadline. Applicants with a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States or from an institution in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Singapore, Trinidad and Tobago, or the United Kingdom are exempt from this requirement. For more information, please see the following University of Washington Graduate School memo: http://www.grad.washington.edu/policies/memoranda/memo08.shtml. Additional information regarding the TOEFL can be obtained from Educational Testing Services, which administers the exam.

Proposed Areas of Study for MA Applicants: MA students specialize in two fields of history. For guidelines on the selection of fields, a list of our graduate divisions, and descriptions of the areas of study available through individual faculty members, please refer to the "Areas of Study" page on the menu to your left.

  • For each of the two fields, please indicate the division, the supervising faculty member, a proposed title for the field, and a 25-word or less description of the parameters of the field.  Be certain to address the chronological, thematic, and/or geographic limits of the field as appropriate. The information provided in this section of the application will serve to match your strengths as a candidate with ours as a department.  This is not a formal commitment on your part, but it will provide a sense of your interests.
  • In making your selections of divisions, fields, and faculty, please keep the following in mind:
    • Applicants must propose two fields of specialization. Both of these fields can be selected from the same division, or each field can be drawn from a different division.
    • Both fields must be History fields, and both fields must be supervised by History faculty (regular or adjunct).
    • Each field proposed must be unique, possessing a different title, description, and faculty supervisor (one faculty member cannot supervise both fields).
    • Fields within the Comparative History division (Historiography, Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism, Comparative Gender, and Comparative Colonialisms) may not be selected as a primary (first) field.
    • Adjunct faculty may not supervise a primary (first) field.
  • The two proposed fields should be presented in rank order.  The first field is the applicant’s primary area of specialization in graduate study, and the faculty supervisor of the first field would serve as the Chair of the student’s masters committee.  The second field is of secondary significance to the student’s course of study.

Proposed Areas of Study for PhD Applicants: PhD students specialize in four fields of history. For guidelines on the selection of fields, a list of our graduate divisions, and descriptions of the areas of study available through individual faculty members, please refer to the "Areas of Study" page on the menu to your left.

  • For each of the four fields, please indicate the division, the supervising faculty member, a proposed title for the field, and a 25-word or less description of the parameters of the field.  Be certain to address the chronological, thematic, and/or geographic limits of the field as appropriate. The information provided in this section of the application will serve to match your strengths as a candidate with ours as a department.  This is not a formal commitment on your part, but it will provide a sense of your interests.
  • In making your selections of divisions, fields, and faculty, please keep the following in mind:
    • At the time of application, all four fields must be History fields, and all four fields must be supervised by History faculty (regular or adjunct).  Once admitted, students may propose one field outside history.
    • Each field proposed must be unique, possessing a different title, description, and faculty supervisor.
    • An individual faculty member cannot supervise more than one field.
    • Adjunct faculty may not supervise a primary (first) field.
    • Fields within the Comparative History division (Historiography, Comparative Ethnicity and Nationalism, Comparative Gender, and Comparative Colonialisms) may not be selected as a primary (first) field.  Only one of the four fields may be in Comparative History.
    • At least one of the four fields must be outside the student’s main division of specialization (in other words, all four fields cannot be drawn from the same division of history).  If three fields are drawn from one division, a fourth field selected from the Comparative History division must be supervised by a faculty member whose area is clearly outside the division from which the other three fields are drawn. (For example, if you select three fields from the Europe since 1789 division, do not select a modern European faculty member to supervise a fourth field in Comparative Colonialisms.)
    • Students specializing in US History must propose at least one chronological field:  Early America, 19th century, or 20th century.
  • The four proposed fields should be presented in rank order.  The first field is the applicant's primary area of specialization in graduate study, and the faculty supervisor of the first field would serve as the Chair of the student's doctoral committee.  The second, third, and fourth fields are listed in descending order of significance to the student's course of study.

Optional Personal Statement: Applicants may include an optional Personal Statement describing your personal background and history. The Department of History welcomes students who have varied cultural experiences or educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and will therefore contribute to the intellectual and social enrichment of the program. If you wish to have these factors included in the review of your application, please provide a 300-850 word Personal Statement concerning your personal history, family background, and influences on your intellectual development.

This statement should include cultural and educational opportunities (or lack thereof), social and economic disadvantages which you may have had to overcome, and the ways in which these experiences have affected you. Domestic applicants who have achieved academic merit despite severe economic, social, or educational disadvantages will be considered for any University of Washington Diversity Awards that may be available. Individuals who have overcome economic barriers, are the first generation in their family to pursue college or graduate school, or whose educational background did not expose them to a wide array of resources are examples of eligible candidates. Race, color, ethnicity, national origin, and gender are not used as factors in determining recipients.