Department ofHistory


How to Apply

How to Apply

Annual deadline for the receipt of complete applications: December 1.

Applications will be accepted beginning  August 1, 2024 for Fall 2025.

The history graduate program at Penn State is not comprehensive. We admit students to pursue PhDs in five primary fields of study:

  1. United States (19th and 20th centuries)
  2. Latin America
  3. East Asia
  4. Early modern global (15th-19th centuries; transnational or transregional)
  5. Middle East

We admit students into our program whose highest degree earned is a BA or whose highest degree is an MA. Within our program we refer to students “entering with a BA” and those “entering with an MA.” Students entering our program with a BA typically spend three years in coursework, followed by two years of dissertation research and writing. Those entering with an MA typically spend two years in coursework, followed by two years of dissertation research and writing. Comprehensive exams take place during the final semester of coursework.

If your highest degree is a BA, then you will take three years of coursework upon entering the program. However, if your highest degree is an MA, you have the choice of entering with a BA or entering with an MA. If your MA is an academically-oriented degree from a history program then you should enter with an MA. If your MA is pedagogically oriented or in a field other than history, we recommend that you enter with a BA.

The distinction between entering with a BA and entering with an MA is important for our program, but everyone is expected to work toward the PhD. Therefore, when applying through the Graduate School, everyone should apply to the PhD program. Please do not apply to the MA program. Doing so will cause administrative difficulties. Those entering with a BA will be able to earn an MA along the way toward the PhD, but that will be done in the context of formal enrollment in the PhD program.

Before proceeding to the application, we recommend the following preliminary activities:

  1. Read the Graduate School requirements.
  2. Read Graduate Frequently Asked Questions, especially those relating to admissions.
  3. Think about your main research topic and write a draft of your Statement of Intent. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more details about the Statement of Intent.
  4. Consider the members of our faculty in your field of study and identify one or more of them who would be able to direct your research.
  5. Finally, remember to apply for the PhD program (not the MA program).

Please note: The History Department does not require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test, nor any subject GRE tests. Even if you have taken the GRE, please do not submit your scores, as we will not consider them during the admission process.

Step 1:  Please complete the online Graduate School Application:

  • Statement of Intent outlining in 1-3 pages the proposed fields of study and research.
  • Writing sample of at least 10 pages demonstrating competence in historical research, analysis and writing.
  • Three letters of recommendation from qualified persons (preferably faculty) familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and potential for graduate studies in history. No special form is required but please be sure to provide the correct e-mail for your reference to prevent delays.

Step 2:  International applicants must submit the following additional items with their application:

  • Results from a recent TOEFL examination or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The department recommends a TOEFL of 80 or higher.
  • International applicants who have received a baccalaureate or a master’s degree from a college/university/institution in any of the following countries are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement: Australia, Belize, British Caribbean and British West Indies, Canada (except Quebec), Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Liberia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States.

If you would have difficulty paying the application fee required for application to the History PhD program, please contact Graduate Staff Coordinator Kristi Brinker at with an explanation of your situation. A limited number of fee waivers are available for qualified students.