Application Process FAQs

When is the application deadline?

The online application, all supporting documents, and the processing fee must be submitted no later than December 10. The Office of Admissions processes only those applications for which payment has been made and for which supplementary materials have been received. Please refer to the online application for instructions. Incomplete applications are reviewed but may be severely disadvantaged. Late material is reviewed only at the discretion of the faculty admissions committees.

How do I obtain an application?

Applications are available online at starting in September for the following academic year. Paper applications are not available.

How much does it cost to apply

The application processing fee for the 2017–18 admission year was $90. 

What are the requirements for admission?

Requirements for admission are the degree of bachelor of arts or its equivalent, a distinguished academic record, and high competence in the foreign language(s) relevant for the particular field. (If you will do language study between the time of the application and the start of the PhD program, please note this in your statement.) We do not have a minimum required GPA, but a strong GPA is helpful in our competitive admissions process. GRE scores are required. We do not have a minimum or recommended GRE score, but our accepted students generally score well on all sections. Every application is read in its entirety by at least two faculty members. 

All applications must be submitted online and include:

  • Online application
  • Application fee 
  • Transcript from each institution you attended - most up-to-date available. Unofficial transcripts are acceptable.
  • Three confidential letters of recommendation (instructions available in the application)
  • Writing Sample. Please upload your best complete writing sample, regardless of length. (It is helpful if you flag up to 25 pages within longer samples.) See the application instructions on writing samples.
  • Candidate Statement, discussing academic and career objectives
  • GRE score report (please self-report scores even if they are being sent directly from ETS; test should be taken by October for scores to be received in time) Follow the admissions office requirements for valid GRE scores. 
  • TOEFL/IELTS score report for international applicants (please self-report if scores being sent directly from ETS; test should be taken by October for scores to be received in time)

Is the GRE required?/ Can I waive the GRE requirement?

The GRE is required for ALL applicants. (The History subject test is not required.)  It is advisable to take the GRE no later than October to ensure that scores will arrive on time. Please self-report your GRE scores with your application. 

For more information on the GRE, visit their website at You may also call ETS at 609-771-7670.

What is the GRE code for the History Department?

Use the following codes to send your report to the Division of Social Sciences:
Institution: 1832
Department: not needed; we will receive all sent to the institution code.

What are typical GRE scores of admitted students?

While the GRE scores are required, they are not the most important part of your application. An otherwise strong application can overcome weak GRE scores; although, strong GRE scores can certainly help in our competitive admissions process. The average GRE verbal scores are in the 90th percentile range.

Verbal scores are most likely to be considered on the application. A weak analytic writing score may raise red flags, but the primary evaulation for writing skills is through the writing sample and statement of purpose. The quantative section is the least applicable to the history degree, but our applicants generally do well on all sections.

Is the TOEFL required for foreign students?/ Can I have the requirement waived?

Please see the requirements from the Admissions Office on English Language. Contact admissions for confirmation that you qualify. The department cannot grant waivers.

My TOEFL or IELTS score is below the required score. Will my application be considered?

Applications with low TOEFL or IELTS scores will be considered, but it will significantly reduce your likihood of admission. It is suggested that you retake the test and meet the required scores before applying.

Do I need to have a degree in History/the field I plan to study?

A previous degree in history is not required to apply to the program. Successful applicants have BAs in a vareity of fields—history, area/regional studies, anthropology, international relations, political science,  English, and other language degrees are popular fields. Most applicants have had formal training in historical methods even if their degree is not in history. For applicants who don't have history degrees, a writing sample that showcases historical research and a letter from a historian or someone who can speak to the applicant's ability to conduct historical research are helpful. Experience in a specific field is not necessary, but previous language training may be required for some fields. The applicant should be ready to conduct research using at least one primary language in the field during the first year in the program.

May I apply for an MA degree or only for a PhD? Will a previous MA help or hurt my admission chances?

The Department of History only admits students to the PhD program. Although we do award master of arts degrees to students studying for the PhD, we do not have a stand-alone MA program. If you are interested in studying for the MA degree, please consider the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS). The MAPSS program will allow you to take history coursework and work with history faculty.

An MA in history is not required for admission to our program. Students who do not have a previous MA can earn the MA while studying for the PhD. A previous MA may not significantly help or hurt your chances of admission. However, if your BA is not in history, or if your undergraduate academic record is weak, you might want to consider studying for an MA in history and then applying for the PhD program. A proven track record in a history graduate program can demonstrate that you are a strong applicant, despite weaknesses in your undergraduate record.

Students who enter our PhD program with a previous MA (or other previous graduate degree) can petition to waive some or all of their second-year coursework in our program. The petition for a waiver is submitted at the end of winter quarter of the first year, and previous work is considered in conjuction with current first-year work. 

What is the most important part of the application?

Four parts of the application are critically important: (1) your academic record; (2) letters of recommendation submitted by persons able to describe your achievements and promise; (3) a significant example of your work (BA essay, MA thesis, research or course paper); and (4) the candidate statement, which describes the intellectual issues and historical subjects to be explored at the University of Chicago. The Department of History considers the writing sample to be the most important part of your application.

When composing the candidate statement, it is important to be as specific as possible in describing research interests, including area, period, and topic or approach and faculty members with whom you might wish to work. Although many graduate students change their focus in the course of their studies, it is helpful to have the clearest possible idea of your interests and any research experience to date. This will help ensure that your application is read by faculty members with whom you wish to pursue graduate studies. 

What sort of writing sample should I send?

The Department of History considers the writing sample the most important part of your application. Please select a sample that you consider to be your best work. It should be self-contained, that is, includes a beginning, a middle and an end of an argument. Generally, 25 double-spaced pages (including footnotes) is sufficient, but do not feel bound by length should your best paper is longer. Ideally, the work should be a piece of original research and in the specific field of history you hope to study at Chicago. The writing sample must include your name and the class/publication for which it was created and should be written in English.

We do not accept faxed copies or e-mail attachments of writing samples. All writing samples should be uploaded through the online application. 

How will I know that my supplemental materials have arrived?

Most materials are uploaded directly to the online application. Materials that are submitted by others (letters of recommendation, test scores, transcripts) will be tracked in the online application manager.

Do I need to interview? May I visit campus?

We do not require that prospective students interview or visit campus prior to admission. All admitted students will be invited to visit campus in early March for "History Day." If you wish to visit campus before applying, we suggest October or November as ideal months to meet with faculty and students. Please notify the department at least two weeks before your visit. Before setting up your visit, we suggest you read through the informaiton on campus visits

How difficult is it to get in?/ What is my likihood for admission?

The Department of History is highly selective. Every year, we decline more qualified applicants each year than we have the resources to accept. We received approximately 360 applications for admission in 2016 and expect  an incoming class of 19, all of whom receive full financial aid. The number of applications and acceptance rate has been roughly the same for the past five years. 

The Department is unable to predict how likely it is that any potential applicant might be admitted to the program. Applications are reviewed in conjunction with all other applications in the year and the department has limited spots, so the likilhood of any particular application being accepted can change from year to year.

When will I hear if I have been accepted?

Final decisions are sent by the Admissions Office during the first two weeks of March to the e-mail address you provide on your application. If you are accepted, your letter will include a detailed description of your financial award. Please do not call or write regarding the status of your application. We are not able to release information regarding acceptance or aid by telephone or email.

What is my response deadline to an offer of admission?

You have until April 15 to decide whether to accept or decline our offer of admission; this date accords with a resolution of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States to decide whether to accept any financial aid award by any institution. You may also decline an offer that you have previously accepted anytime until April 15 without penalty. This resolution protects your right to choose the best offer. We do ask that you reply as soon as your decision is final. If you decline our offer, we may be able to extend an offer to another candidate.

May I defer admission?

Admission is granted only for the year specified in the application and may not be deferred to another year, although applications may be reactivated without charge by writing to the Dean of Students of Social Sciences. Reactivated applications are judged in competition with new applications for admission, and any offer of financial aid is not held in reserve from year to year.