The Department of History welcomes your application for graduate studies. Before applying, be sure to read the Guidelines section of this website, which covers the structure and requirements of the Graduate Program in History,
In a typical year, we welcome a small class of highly qualified students into our doctoral program. (Separately, we may admit a select number of self-funded students to the terminal M.A. program.) Admission to the doctoral program is highly competitive. Five to ten percent of applicants are chosen.
The Department offers joint PhDs through two of the professional schools: Penn Law and the Graduate School of Education.
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 a generous program of financial aid to the great majority of its graduate students. Nearly all History Ph.D. students are recipients of five-year fellowships awarded by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences upon admission. These fellowships include tuition, fees, health insurance, and an annual stipend (currently $32,255 per academic year).
Except where otherwise specified, application for Ph.D. fellowship monies is made simply by clicking the appropriate box in the online application.
Students in the terminal M.A. program are ineligible for departmental fellowships; they may fund their studies through a combination of loans, work-study, and/or outside funding.
All applications and all supporting materials must be submitted online between October 1 and December 15 for admission into the M.A. or 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.
As of 2021, the Department does not require the GRE.
A complete application consists of the following:
• Information in all the required fields in Penn's application portal.
• A personal statement (no more than 3 pages): 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?
• 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.