The Department of History welcomes your application for doctoral studies. Before applying, be sure to read the Guidelines section of this website, which covers the structure and requirements of the Ph.D. Program in History.
In a typical year, we welcome a small class of highly qualified students into our doctoral program. (Separately, we may or may not admit one or more self-funded M.A. student(s), but there is not a M.A. program as such.) Admission to the doctoral program is highly competitive. Five to ten percent of applicants are chosen.
The Department offers two kinds of dual doctoral degrees in cooperation with two professional schools: Penn Carey Law and the Graduate School of Education. This requires a second admissions process.
Alternatively, Ph.D. students may choose to pursue a joint doctoral degree with an allied department within the School of Arts & Sciences (e.g., Africana Studies). This requires a simple memorandum of understanding between the two departments.
When reading applications, we consider various things carefully:
• The match between the applicant's intellectual interests and the strengths of our faculty.
• The academic record, with particular attention given to grades in history and related subjects.
• The applicant's ability to write clearly and intelligently.
• Three recommendations, preferably all from professors who have taught you in history or related subjects, who know you well, and who can attest to your intellectual abilities, qualities in the classroom, and writing skills. Recommendations from employers (unless they are in a field related to history) are generally not encouraged.
• TOEFL/TSE scores, if applicable. (If you are a non-U.S. citizen, but your degree is from an English-language university, you do not need to take the TOEFL test).
The University of Pennsylvania offers generous financial aid to doctoral students. Nearly all History Ph.D. students are recipients of standard five-year fellowships awarded by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences upon admission. These fellowships include tuition, fees, health insurance, and an annual stipend (scheduled to increase to $40,500 for the 2023–24 academic year). Factoring in cost of living in Philadelphia, these are among the best packages available to history students anywhere.
Application for Ph.D. fellowship monies is made simply by clicking the appropriate box in the online application.
Students pursuing the terminal M.A. are ineligible for Departmental fellowships; they must be self-funded or be the recipients of external funding.
All applications and all supporting materials must be submitted online between October 1 and December 15 for admission into the Ph.D. program in September of the following year. Students are notified of their admission status by the following late February/early March. There is no spring or summer admission in History.
The online application portal closes December 15 at 11:59pm EST. The application and all supporting documents must be received by this deadline. You will not be able to submit or revise anything afterwards. Please do not mail any paper documents; we will we not accept them.
The Department does not require the GRE.
A complete application to the doctoral program consists of the following:
• Information in all the required fields in Penn's application portal.
• A personal statement (no more than 3 pages, double spaced): Approach this statement as an intellectual autobiography that includes a proposed area of study. Which scholarly questions interest you most? Which books, primary sources, research projects, college courses, work experiences, or life experiences would you single out to explain how you arrived at those questions? In short, what brought you to the discipline of history, and why have you chosen the area you now propose to study? In the last paragraph, please name Penn faculty members with whom you would like to study. (Bear in mind that untenured faculty may serve on advisory committees, but they cannot serve as supervisors.)
• A writing sample (roughly 10–25 pages): Submit a previously completed research essay, preferably but not necessarily one based on primary sources. This could be a course paper, a chapter from a senior thesis, etc. It does not have to match your proposed area of study. We want to see your best academic work, regardless of topic.
• Three letters of recommendation submitted online by your references. Please note: Interfolio packets are not accepted. Your referees must upload their letters of recommendation to Penn's application portal. If a recommender cannot or will not use our online system, we suggest you ask someone else who will. Letters will be read in electronic format only.
• Transcripts from any institution of higher education that has or will grant you a degree. They must be uploaded in PDF format. They can be official or unofficial copies. Should you be admitted, and should you accept, you will then be required to submit official copies from the institution(s).
When you are ready to apply, use Penn's application portal.