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. Admission to the doctoral program is highly competitive. We only accept full-time students for the Ph.D program, and do not offer part-time options. Five to ten percent of applicants are chosen.
The department is NOT accepting applications to the terminal MA program for Fall 2024 admission.
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, and must be arranged within the first semester of matriculation.
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.
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.
All applications to the Ph.D. program are automatically considered for Ph.D. fellowships.
The History Department is NOT accepting applications to the terminal MA program for Fall 2024.
All applications and all supporting materials must be submitted online between October 1 and December 1, 2023 for admission into the Ph.D. program in September 2024. Students are notified of their admission status by late February/early March 2024. There is no spring or summer admission in History.
The online application portal closes December 1, 2023 at 11:59pm PST. 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):
Please describe how your background and academic experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and led you to apply to Penn. Your essay should detail your specific research interests and intellectual goals within your chosen field. Please provide information about your educational trajectory, intellectual curiosity and academic ambitions.
We suggest that you 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 History faculty members with whom you would like to study. (Bear in mind that faculty at the assistant professor level may serve on advisory committees, but they cannot serve as main academic advisors or supervisors of dissertation committees.)
If you have overcome adversity and/or have had limited access to resources or opportunities in your field of study, please feel free to share how that has affected the course of your education.
We are interested in your lived experiences and how your particular perspective might contribute to the inclusive and dynamic learning community that Penn values and strives to create
• A writing sample (approximately 10-20 double-spaced 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 referees. These letters should preferably be 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. 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).
• Proof of English Proficiency: Applicants with citizenship or permanent resident status in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand are not required to provide this, and their applications will automatically waive the requirement. Citizens of other countries may satisfy this requirement by either 1) submitting proof of having graduated from an institution where English is the primary language of instruction (in most cases, your transcripts will suffice) or 2) submitting TOEFL (minimum score 100) or IELTS (minimum score 7).
• The application fee is $90 USD, payable via credit or debit card at the time of submission.
Application FEE WAIVERS are managed entirely by the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences, and individual departments do not have the authority to grant them. To apply for a fee waiver, applicants should send a brief letter to Patricia Rea, Associate Director of Admissions, at email@example.com, stating the reason for the request. This letter should be sent no later than November 15, 2023, and your application should be in process or near completion. Do not request a fee waiver without having started your application. Please be advised that the applicant must demonstrate a clear and compelling case of financial hardship.
When you are ready to apply, use Penn's application portal.