Graduate Frequently Asked Questions
What fields of study do you accept students for the graduate program?
We currently are accepting applications for the following fields only:
United State 19th century
Early Modern Global (Europe & South Asia)
China (Qing and 20th Century)
When is the application deadline?
How many get accepted to your program?
We receive approximately 180 applications and accept 6-8 students per year (spread across all fields).
Do you accept terminal MA students?
No, although we accept students who only have a BA (and thus will receive an MA as part of their doctoral studies at Penn State) we only admit those students whose ultimate goal is getting their PhD at Penn State.
My recommenders haven't received a form to submit their letter of recommendation?
An email does not get sent out from the application system until you complete and submit your application. Only at that point will your recommenders receive their instructions for uploading their letters of recommendation.
Can I have a fourth person submit a letter of recommendation?
The application allows only three letters of recommendations to be uploaded and we advise you to stay within this limit.
How do I apply for an assistantship?
The department only admits those students we can fund so there is no need to apply for an assistantship. If you receive an offer of admission, a funding package will be included.
How do I apply for a dual-title degree with History and another program?
There is no need for a special application if you are interested in applying for a dual-title degree (Asian Studies and Women's Studies). You should, however, indicate your interest at the appropriate place on the application. Only after you are accepted by the Department of History for admission will your application be forwarded (internally) to the dual-title degree partner department.
What are the school codes for the GRE?
School Code: 2660; Dept Code 2799
Where do I mail my official transcripts ?
Penn State University
Department of History
Attn: Director of Graduate Studies
108 Weaver Building
University Park, PA 16802
Must I list which faculty member's research is of interest to me?
Yes. We admit new students into the history program and not into the direct sponsorship of individual faculty. Nevertheless, we ask that applicants indicate on the application the faculty with whom they anticipate collaborating. Typically by the end of the first year, students will make the decision about whom they should select as their advisor.
Do I have to introduce myself to faculty before my file is reviewed?
No, you are not required to contact faculty before the review. However, e-mailing, calling, and otherwise contacting the professor(s) you hope to work with is heavily encouraged.
How does the admissions process work?
The Department has a recruitment and admissions committee that evaluates applications. This committee consists of representatives from each of the major fields of study offered by the department, plus the Director of Graduate Studies. In addition, an individual student's file will be passed on for comment to specific faculty members with whom the applicant is likely to study.
How important is my Statement of Intent?
In a word: very. The detail with which you describe your background, your plan of graduate coursework and research, and the faculty you intend to work with at Penn State all are taken extremely seriously and can make or break an application.
What is the purpose of the writing sample?
The writing sample should not only offer the admissions committee a sense of how well one writes, but also one's level of sophistication and familiarity with the specific historiographical trends.
What does the committee look for?
The committee, of course, takes test scores, recommendations, and GPA into account. In addition, in the past five years, most successful applicants score above 600 on the verbal (or 1300 combined), and have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher. But outstanding numbers do not necessarily guarantee admission, and lower ones do not inevitably mean rejection.
The committee scrutinizes the Statement of Intent and the writing sample with special care. We are looking for evidence of intellectual engagement, openness to new ideas and methods, capacity for originality, and the ability to think critically and to write clearly. "Fit" with our areas of strength is important, too.
Where relevant, appropriate language preparation must be demonstrated.
Is the study of a previous foreign language necessary?
Language preparation sufficient to be able to pass a language proficiency exam relevant to one’s primary field of study by the fourth semester is required. Additional languages depending upon one’s area (particularly for those interested in specializing in European or Asian history) are also extremely beneficial.