The University of Iowa

How to Apply

Complete an application at the Office of Graduate Admissions for graduate work in History. When the Graduate Admissions office receives your application, they also send your name and address to the History Department. We can send you some additional information at your request; however, much of the information is also available on this web site. Application deadline is January 15, 2014.

For questions regarding the process, please contact Sheri Sojka via email at or by phone to 319/335-2308.

A Guide for Applicants to the History Graduate Program Grad Applicants (revised Guide will be available in September)

Here are two key points.

Specify which program you are applying to:

When filling out the application form sent to you by the Graduate Admissions office, it is very important to specify which degree program in History you are applying for, M.A. Terminal, the M.A./Ph.D., or the Ph.D. There is an additional form available on the Admissions website where you will specify this information.

Send the History Department a sample of your best written work:

In addition to the information that the Graduate College requires (GRE scores, TOEFL scores-if applicable, transcripts, the completed application form, and processing fee), the History Department requires that all applicants upload a sample of their written work, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and an application for Graduate Awards form. The sample of written work should be the best substantial paper you wrote as an undergraduate in an upper division history class. If you have an M.A. in history, it should be your Master's thesis or a major paper that you wrote for a graduate seminar.

Applicants often ask us what to submit if they did not do a research paper in history as an undergraduate, or if they are now considering graduate work several years after getting their B.A. degree and do not have a current essay. The best choice for a writing sample is what you think best displays your ability to write clearly and critically, while using evidence from various credible sources to make a persuasive argument. We sometimes suggest that applicants who have been out of college for awhile take an upper level history course that will provide them with an opportunity to write a substantial paper, if they can find an appropriate class at a nearby college. We have also had some successful applicants who have sent a paper from a course in another discipline (e.g. English, Anthropology or Political Science) that demonstrates their ability to write well and to think historically.

The Admissions Process

The Director of Graduate Studies begins to review completed files in late December and early January. The Department's admissions committee, which consists of the Director of Graduate Studies and two other faculty members, meets as soon as the second semester begins and works rapidly to identify the most promising candidates for our programs. The very best students have their files forwarded to the Graduate College to be considered for the prestigious Iowa Fellows graduate awards. Iowa Fellowships are highly competitive awards, and the History Department usually does well in receiving Fellowships for one or more of our applicants. We also forward the files of our best minority applicants to the Graduate College to be considered for the fellowship support available for recruiting and retaining qualified minority candidates.

Applicants frequently ask what our criteria are for admission to graduate work. First, we do not impose cut off scores for minimum GRE results. The minimum GPA required is the same as the minimums enforced by the Graduate College, which currently stand at 3.0 for applicants to both the M.A. and the Ph.D. degree. We do take GRE scores and GPAs into consideration, of course, but we do so in light of our evaluation of all the application materials. The Department's admissions committee reads the student's writing sample very carefully, and an excellent research paper can offset less than stellar GRE scores. Similarly, "A" work in an applicant's history classes during the last years of college can offset a relatively low GPA resulting from poor performance during the first year as an undergraduate. Lastly, we look closely at the applicant's letters of recommendations, statement of purpose, application form, general course of study pursued, and the quality of undergraduate or graduate institution from which degrees were earned. All of this information informs our assessment of the applicant's potential to become a professional historian.

By the last meeting of the admissions committee in late February or early March, the committee has compiled two short lists of candidates. The lists are presented to the entire faculty at a faculty meeting in early March for the Department's approval. One list names the recommended M.A. terminal students; the other a ranking of all the M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students.

M.A. Terminal applicants:

Because we normally do not offer financial support to M.A. Terminal students, once the faculty admit the students on this list, then the Director of Graduate Studies can contact all of them immediately with the good news.

M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. applicants:

We do not impose quotas on the numbers of students to admit for work in various fields, such as U.S. history or the history of China; nor do we match students to potential dissertation supervisors before allowing admission. We do, however, consider the number of doctoral students whom we can likely support as Graduate Research Assistants and as Graduate Instructors during the time they need to complete the doctoral degree. With this number in mind, the History faculty admit a certain number of M.A./Ph.D. and Ph.D. students and put some others on a waiting list.

The Director of Graduate Studies then immediately contacts the students to whom we can make offers of a Research Assistantship or a Graduate Instructorship. He or she also contacts the students who will be admitted with funding if funding becomes available; such students are admissible, but we usually do not officially admit them until we can offer them financial support. By an agreement signed by most Graduate Colleges in the United States, students admitted with funding have until April 15 to decide whether or not they will accept it. As soon as we know (either before or after April 15) that a student with funding has decided not to attend the University of Iowa, the Director of Graduate Studies contacts the next student on the waiting list and makes an offer of admission with funding if that student is still interested.

Special Note to Foreign Students:

Because our Graduate Instructors are supported primarily by teaching, it is very important that applicants whose first language is not English gain the necessary speaking and writing skills in English to communicate effectively in the classroom. There is an extensive program of courses and examinations for students who do not list English as their native language on their application to improve their English and to be certified when ready to instruct undergraduates. We urge foreign applicants to be aware of our expectation that they be able to teach and come to the University of Iowa prepared to do intensive language work if necessary. Students who list English as their native language on their application are exempt from these requirements.

Additional requirements may be found at the Graduate College website: