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Information for Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in History at UC San Diego!

The Department of History offers graduate work leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), with an MA on the Way. Our program is an excellent choice for students who are interested in pursuing a career in academics, scholarship, or entering a career field where a Ph.D. in History or the humanities is requisite. Given our program’s emphasis, for those interested in pursuing a master’s degree for the sole purpose of career advancement or teaching at the secondary level (middle/high school) a terminal master’s program at another university would likely be a better fit. Additional information about our Ph.D. program can be found on the Ph.D. Program page. Information about applying to this or any other UC San Diego graduate program can be found at Grad Apply.

Ph.D. Concentrations

  • Ancient history
  • East Asian history
  • European history
  • History of Science
  • Latin American history
  • Middle Eastern history
  • United States history

Ph.D. Specializations

  • Science Studies
  • Critical Gender Studies

Basic Admissions Requirements

  •  Bachelor's Degree
  • Admission Tests
    • GRE (Not required, optional for the 2024-25 admissions cycle)
  • English Proficiency Exams (international applicants only whose native language is not English)
    • TOEFL (minimum speaking sub-score: 23)
    • IELTS (minimum speaking sub-score: 7)
  • Letters of Recommendation
    • minimum of 3 letters is required
    • online letters preferred
  • Statement of Purpose (2500 words)
  • Resume/CV
  • Writing Sample (7-30 pages, preferably historical in nature)

Please see the FAQs section below for more information and guidance about these requirements.

About the Admissions Process

The admissions committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations for admission or denial to the graduate dean. Admission decisions are based on the quality of the applicant's materials and the fit between the applicant's research interests and those of the program's faculty. We strongly encourage all applicants to read our faculty pages to find a professor who you'd be interested in working with, one whose research interests you and is similar to your own research interests.

To Apply:

2024-25 Application Opens: September 6th, 2023

Application Deadline: January 3rd, 2024 

Admissions FAQs

What is the minimum GPA requirement for admission?

The University of California minimum GPA average to apply is a B (3.0). The Department of History's graduate student average GPA ranges from 3.7-3.8.

Do I need a BA in History to apply to the Graduate Program?

You do not need a BA in History, but most of our students have a strong background in History, or in a similar discipline. It would be to your advantage to take classes in History before you apply. A Bachelors degree is required to apply to the graduate program. For international applicants, a baccalaureate degree with exceptional scholarship is required.

Do I need an MA in History to apply to the PhD Graduate Program?

You do not need a MA in History. We will award you an MA on the way to your PhD. Preparedness for our PhD program varies field to field but most of our students have a strong background in History, or in a similar discipline. We encourage you to read at our faculty pages to find a professor who you'd be interested in working with, one whose research interests you and is similar to your own research interests, and ask them any field specific questions about what they are looking for in an applicant. It would be to your advantage to take classes in History before you apply. A Bachelors degree is required to apply to the graduate program. For international applicants, a baccalaureate degree with exceptional scholarship is required.

Can I talk to someone about the PhD or MA program?

Should I contact faculty members whose research matches my interest before I apply?
Yes, it is highly recommended that you contact faculty whose research is of interest to you, prior to applying or during the application process, to develop relationships with those faculty and to find out if they are currently accepting students. Please make sure you introduce yourself properly, be specific about what you are interested in, and attach a CV. Please also be respectful of their time.

Can I contact some of your current students? I would like to ask them some questions.
The Graduate Advisor will connect you to a graduate student representative. Email with the following information:

  • your name
  • area of interest (East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, History of Science, U.S.),
  • possible faculty mentor

Please be respectful of the students' time.

How do I arrange to visit the campus to talk to the graduate adviser or a particular professor?
Prospective students who would like to meet with faculty will need to contact the faculty member directly to arrange an appointment. Please keep in mind that there may be times when faculty members are not available to meet with prospective students. Student Affairs advising hours are Monday-Friday 9:30-11:30 am, 1:30-3: 30 pm, and by appointment.

I have questions about the GRE...

Is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required?
The GRE requirement is currently not required, as this component of our application process is under review. There is no minimum GRE score required.

Is the subject Graduate Record Examination (GRE) required?
No, we do not require the subject GRE.

What is a competitive GRE score?
The average scores for the GRE General Test is around 157 Verbal, 151 Quantitative, 4 Analytical. While GRE scores are important, the admissions committee will look at all the documents in the applicant's file.  Your entire file is considered, not just the GRE scores.

What is UCSD's GRE institution code?
UCSD institution code: 4836
History Department code: 2799

When is the last day I can take the GRE?
If you wish to include your GRE scores they should be submitted (self-reported or official) to us by the application deadline. Your application will not be complete if you are missing any of the required basic admission supporting documents listed above, and therefore, will not be considered by the admissions committee. The GRE is no longer considered a required admissions document for your application.

Have my GRE scores expired?
If your GRE scores are more than 5 years old you will need to retake the GRE.

For more information about the GRE.

What are you looking for in the Statement of Purpose?

Focus your Statement of Purpose on the reasons you are interested in attending the Ph.D. program in History at UC San Diego. The statement should be limited to 2500 words, well organized, concise, and completely free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors and must be submitted via the online application. Before submitting the statement, seek constructive comments and criticism from friends and advisors.

Five primary topics to cover in your statement of purpose:

  • How did you become interested in this field? Establish that you have had a long-term interest in the field and that you have taken positive steps in pursuing your interest. Give the committee members a sense of your particular talents and abilities and their relevance to your academic interests.
  • What experiences have contributed toward your preparation for further study in this field? Demonstrate your interest by providing examples of research experiences, internships, work experience, community service, publications, or life experiences. Briefly describe what you did in each experience. Also, make sure to articulate what you have learned about the field and how those lessons stimulated you to pursue an advanced degree.
  • What are your future goals? Specifically, state your degree objective (Master's or Ph.D.) and specify what subdisciplines you are interested in pursuing. The committee needs to know your regional (ie., U.S., Europe, Latin America, East Asia, Africa, etc.) and topical focus (ie., legal history, cultural history, transnational history, gender studies in history, comparative racial and ethnic histories, etc.). Let the reader know that you are planning a future career as a university professor, researcher, consultant...or whatever your goal happens to be.
  • What are your research interests? Within your subdiscipline, you should be able to identify one or two topics that are of interest to you. When possible, be specific about your research agenda. Remember that you will be working with professors in research; therefore, your research interests should parallel those of the faculty. (You will usually not be expected to know exactly what you want to research; faculty know that initial interests often change.)
  • How are you a "match" for the program to which you are applying? Explain what attracts you most to the institution/program to which you are applying. Align your research interests with those of one or more of the affiliated professors. The better the "match" with the program/professors, the better the chance that you will be admitted.

Other factors to weave in (remember these are secondary factors):

  1. Give examples of personal attributes or qualities that would help you complete graduate study successfully.
  2. Describe your determination to achieve your goals, your initiative and ability to develop ideas, and your ability to work independently.
  3. Describe background characteristics that may have placed you at an educational disadvantage (English language learner, family economic history, lack of educational opportunity, disability, etc.).
  4. Leave the reader believing that you are prepared for advanced academic work and will be successful in graduate school.

I have questions about the Language Proficiency Requirement (TOEFL, IELTS, etc)...

What tests do you accept for language proficiency? 
The Department of History accepts the TOEFL and IELTS.

What are the minimum scores the History Department will accept for language proficiency?
The Department of History accepts the minimum scores noted on the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs FAQ page for the TOEFL and IELTS. Further, for the purposes of employment, the Department of History requires minimum speaking sub scores of 23 for theTOEFL and 7 for the IELTS.

Under what circumstances am I exempt from the English Language Proficiency requirement?
Non-native English language speakers may be exempt from this requirement if they have earned or will be earning a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from either:

  • A regionally accredited U.S. college or university where English is the sole language of instruction, or
  • A foreign college or university which provides instruction solely in English. You may verify whether your institution meets this requirement by looking up your institution in the IAU World Higher Education Database (WHED). If English is not the sole language of instruction listed, if no language is listed at all, or if the institution does not appear on the WHED website, you are required to submit English proficiency exam scores. No other documentation (e.g. letters, language certificates, school websites) may be used in place of WHED as a means to obtain an exemption from the English proficiency requirement.
 Will the department waive the English Language Proficiency requirement if I don't meet the criteria above?
The Department of History's PhD funding packages rely on a student's eligibility for Academic Student Employment. International students who are not native English speakers must also meet the English Language Requirement for International Teaching Assistants (TA) prior to working as a TA in their second quarter in the program. We will not admit students whose scores do not meet the speaking sub-score threshold to sit the UC San Diego English Language Certification Exam because there isn't enough time for the student to improve their scores in order to sit the exam.

I have questions about the writing sample...

What spacing should I use for my writing sample?
Our faculty have a preference for double spacing.

What font and size of font should I use for my writing sample?
Standard fonts (Times New Roman, Cambria, Helvetica) in standard sizes (11-12 point).

Should I include footnotes or works cited pages? 
Yes. You should always include footnotes or works cited pages. This helps us assess you as a researcher.

My writing sample is longer than 15 pages--how should I edit it to meet the 7-15 page requirement?
You are welcome to submit a writing sample that is up to 30 pages.


What sort of financial support is available?

What financial support does the department offer MA students?
We do not offer financial support for MA students. However, MA students can apply for Teaching Assistantship positions or for Readerships. If MA students secure a 25% (or greater) Teaching Assistantship, or a 25% (or greater) Readership, they will be eligible for a fee remission for each quarter they work.

What financial support does the department offer Ph.D. students?
Upon the recommendation of the department, several types of financial support are available to graduate students: full or partial remission of fees and tuition, fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, readerships, and travel grants. Graduate students are eligible for one or a combination of these types of financial support. Offers of support are defined in each applicant's departmental offer letter.

For more student financial support visit the Grad Division website.

How do I get a Graduate Application fee waiver?
The fee waiver request is done online with the online graduate application. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents may request a waiver of the application fee. Waivers are provided to applicants who are:

  1. currently receiving need-based financial assistance from an undergraduate or graduate institution; or
  2. claiming financial hardship based on current federal tax return income data; or
  3. participating in selected federal or state-funded graduate school preparation programs.

You must have the name and email of the program director. All fee waivers are granted provisionally and applicants may be required to provide supporting documentation to finalize the waiver.

Additional Resources

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