Graduate Admissions: Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Graduate Record Examination scores (GRE) required?
The department does not require GRE scores for admission to the doctoral program, MA in American Studies, or MA in Public Humanities.

How many applications do you receive? How many students do you accept?
We usually receive about 180 applications. We accept enough students to have an entering class of 6-8 MA students, 10 Public Humanities MA students, and 4-6 Ph.D. students.

What percentage of your graduate students receive financial aid?
We have no financial aid available for one-year MA in American Studies. Loans may be available for these students.

Public Humanities MA students are eligible for partial or full tuition support. In recent years, all eligible students have received financial aid covering of about 40 percent of tuition costs. University jobs relevant to the public humanities are available to many students, and the program funds some summer internships. There are no Teaching Assistantships available for MA students.

Beginning in 2008, a fully funded scholarship for students interested in the public history of slavery is available. Students may apply for this scholarship by explaining their interests as part of their Personal Statement.

All PhD students receive five years of guaranteed support in the form of tuition, stipend, and health insurance fees, in addition to stipends during three summers. Some sixth year funding is also available if needed.

What is the application deadline?
PhD:  December 1;  Masters Program: International students - February 1, Domestic students - February 1.

Should I apply to both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs?
No, the programs serve students with different interests. The M.A. program in public humanities is aimed at students interested in working for cultural organizations. The Ph.D. program in American Studies is aimed at students interested in careers in college and university teaching, though it also provides excellent training for jobs in cultural or non-profit institutions that require a doctorate.

I'm applying for the PhD but want to get the MA in Public Humanities on my way to the doctorate. How do I indicate that on the application?
Do not apply to both programs. Apply for the PhD and indicate in your personal statement that you are interested in the M.A. in public humanities." .

What are you looking for in a Personal Statement?
Your personal statement should be a short description of what you want to study in graduate school. MA students should discuss the kind of work they are interested in after graduation. PhD students do not need to have a dissertation topic, but you probably should have an area of interest and a time frame ("I want to look at Latinos and African Americans in the twentieth century"). For all students, we'd like to know how you came to this area of interest and what reading has influenced you.

What kind of writing sample should I send?
Please send a writing sample of between ten and twenty pages in your area of interest. We'd be most interested in a short academic essay but something written for a wider audience would also be fine, even if contained in fewer than ten pages.

Who should write my letters of recommendation?
For MA in Public Humanities Students: You should try to present a mix of recommendations from both faculty who have had you as a student in a class and employers or supervisors who have observed you in a public humanities or other work setting.

For PhD Students: Recommendations from faculty who have had you as a student in a class are the most useful. We find that employers and friends don't really understand how graduate school works and so are less able to predict your strengths as an applicant.

Can I make an appointment for a campus interview? Can I meet faculty or graduate students as I prepare my application?
For MA in Public Humanities Applicants: The Director of Graduate Studies for the Public Humanities may be able to meet with you and arrange to have you visit classes. In addition, the DGS will be glad to answer questions as you prepare your application. Email: [email protected]

For PhD Applicants: We get too many applications to meet with each applicant so we meet with no one. Please do not plan a visit to campus before you apply. If you are admitted, we will invite you to come to campus and meet faculty and current students. If you have questions as you prepare your application, you can email the Director of Graduate Studies at:

Can I take courses outside of the Department of American Studies?
Students are encouraged to take courses throughout the University and most take advantage of courses in the English, History, Modern Culture and Media, Theater Arts and Performnance Studies, Africana Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Ethnic Studies and Political Science Departments. Most of our PhD students include faculty from outside the department on their preliminary exam committees and on their dissertation committees.

How do I get an application?
You can access an application at:

What kind of jobs do your students get after graduation?
Our Ph.D. students have done well in a tight job market by being flexible and broadly prepared. Some go into museum work, but most take teaching jobs. In the last five years, people have taken jobs at UC San Diego, Scripps College, University of Louisville, Wake Forest University, and various post-doctoral fellowships. The MA in Public Humanities prepares students to work in museums, historical societies, state and federal humanities and cultural resource agencies, and community cultural development organizations.