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The Application Process

Complete an application at the Office of Graduate Admissions for graduate work in History.  

The Application deadline for AY 2023-2024 is January 15, 2023.

For questions regarding the process, please contact Kathleen O'Neill via email at or by phone to 319-335-2308.

Key points to remember in the process:

1.  Specify which program you are applying to:  When filling out the application form, it is very important to specify which degree program in History you are applying for: MA Terminal or PhD ( with or without an MA). There is a form available on the Admissions website where you will specify this information.

2.  Review the requirements:  The Graduate College requires TOEFL scores-if applicable, transcripts, the completed application form, and a processing fee. In addition, the History Department requires all applicants upload a sample of their written work, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Once the application form is complete you will receive an email with instructions on uploading your documents. For the 2022-23 application year, GRE scores are no longer required.

3.  Upload a sample of your best written work:  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 MA degree in history, it should be your master's thesis or a major paper 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 BA 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 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 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 program. During this process, the committee selects qualified applicants to be considered for various fellowships from the Graduate College to include the Iowa Recruitment Fellowship and the Lulu Merle Johnson Fellowship, among others. Applicants who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups may be eligible for additional fellowship support through the Graduate College for the recruitment and retention of qualified candidates from these groups.

Applicants frequently ask what our criteria are for admission to graduate work. The minimum GPA required is the same as the minimums enforced by the Graduate College, which currently stands at 3.0 for applicants to both the MA and the PhD degree. We do take GPA 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 a less than stellar GPA. 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/early March, the committee has compiled two short lists of candidates. The ranked lists of names for MA Terminal students and PhD are presented to the entire faculty at a faculty meeting in early March for the Department's approval. 

MA Terminal applicants:

Because we normally do not offer financial support to MA 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.

PhD applicants (with or without an MA):

We do not impose quotas on the numbers of students we admit for work in various fields, such as US history or the history of China; we do consider the number of doctoral students we can likely support in both their academic endeavors, as well as, financially as Graduate Teaching Assistants. With this number in mind, the History faculty admit a certain number of doctoral students and put some others on a waiting list.

The Director of Graduate Studies then contacts the students to whom we can make offers of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. They also contact 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 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences ESL Website.