Students interested in applying to graduate school in history should plan their course of study carefully and consult with faculty members early, particularly with those who share a student’s particular research interest.
All graduate programs in history require evidence of good critical thinking skills and research experience; a writing sample will be an integral part of your application. Students should be able to demonstrate familiarity with their proposed field of study, as well as an awareness of the various different theories and methods that historians bring to bear upon their evidence. Students should think seriously about the advantages of writing an honors thesis, especially in the field they intend to pursue. Finally, most graduate programs require the ability to read and translate at least one foreign language for U.S. fields, and at least two foreign languages for non-U.S. ones.
Applications to graduate school are filed in the fall and winter, with most deadlines between November and January. Applicants usually take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) in the fall of their senior year, so that the results can be sent to the graduate programs. Schools usually require three letters of recommendation, as well as a personal statement. Recommendations are best written by faculty who have taught students in at least one upper-division class and have a good sense of students’ work, abilities, and plans. Students should ask prospective recommenders well in advance of the application deadline, and provide a curriculum vitae and a copy of their personal statement. Students should research thoroughly the literature and web pages of the programs in which they are interested, as requirements and deadlines vary.
For a useful and honest essay on the details of graduate study and the application process, read “Inscribing Your Future: The Trials and Tribulations of Applying to Graduate School” (http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/1998/9809/9809PRO.CFM), which was originally published in the newsletter of the American Historical Association.
- Getting In: An Applicant’s Guide to Graduate School Admissions. Incomplete but useful online version of a popular guide.
- Grad-Link. Useful list of resources on grad school and beyond, provided by H-Grad discussion network.
- Graduate program listings at gradschools.com. Bare bones but useful.
- Graduate program rankings, based on National Research Council survey. Part of excellent site, oriented to sciences, but with much useful information.
- Guide to History Departments Around the World. Excellent database, part of Center for History and New Med