Application Process

How to Apply

To apply for admission to our graduate program, you will need to complete the Graduate School’s online application. This application includes the History Department’s Supplemental Application, which provides us with more detailed information about your research interests. Below you will find guidance for completing the application and a description of the materials you will be asked to submit. Once you have read carefully the following information, go to the Graduate School’s Apply Now page.

In the online application, you will be asked to submit or declare the following:

Degree Options: The Department of History offers separate graduate degrees in History and in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology. Your first step will be to choose the graduate degree program to which you wish to apply.

  • You will need to select one of four possibilities from the list of UW degree options:
    • History, M.A. *
    • History, Ph.D. *
    • History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, M.A.
    • History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Ph.D.

*DO NOT select both M.A. and Ph.D. Most applicants are advised to select the Ph.D., unless they have discussed the terminal M.A. with a prospective faculty advisor (the M.A. is typically conferred at the end of year 2 in the Ph.D. program).

  • If you intend to pursue the Ph.D., you should select either the History or HSMT Ph.D. option. (If you enter without an M.A., you will receive an M.A. in the course of your studies before advancing to the doctoral program.)  We offer multi-year financial support packages only to students who will pursue the Ph.D.

History or HSMT Supplemental Application

Before completing the first sections of the application, be sure to review the Degree Options page.

  • Primary Field of Study (for the History Graduate Degree Program only):
    • Admission to a primary field of study commits you to work toward your degree in that area, so you should select your primary field with care.
    • If you would like to pursue training balanced equally between two fields of study, you may enter “Individual Plan” followed by the two fields in which you would like to work (e.g., Individual Plan: European – modern/East Asian).
  • Information About Your Research Interests: This section asks for details about your research interests. If you are planning to concentrate your studies a formal thematic program (i.e., Program in Gender and Women’s History, Program in Jewish History, or War in Society and Culture Program), you may indicate so here. You will also be able to tell us about any specific topical, chronological, or geographic interests you may have, including any interest in our  Bridge Program with African American Studies or a Joint PhD with another degree program at UW-Madison.
  • Preferred Faculty Advisors: Provide the names of the faculty members with whom you would like to work (up to four). We encourage you to explore the research specializations of individual faculty members.
  • Further information about Your Background and Experience:
    • Language Preparation. Tell us about your language preparation, if any.
      • We have no formal requirements that students must meet in order to qualify for admission to our graduate programs. However, applicants should bear in mind the requirements that they will need to meet during their graduate studies. In some fields, e.g., medieval European history and East Asian history, prior language preparation is expected. We encourage you to discuss expectations with the faculty members with whom you would like to work.
    • Writing Sample (PDF format only). Provide a sample that best illustrates the quality of your written work (optimally no more than 50 pages, double-spaced; max. file size 6 MB).
  • Outside Sources of Support: If you are planning to self-fund your graduate studies, this section asks you to describe in detail any funding sources to which you have applied (or will apply).

Transcripts: Upload an unofficial copy of your transcript from all institutions attended, showing any undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded. If accepted, the Graduate School will ask for official transcripts from each institution.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores: Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are not required for admission to our program.

English proficiency requirement: English proficiency is required for all international degree-seeking applicants. See the Graduate School requirements page for more information.

Statement of purpose (PDF format only): The Statement of Purpose (2-3 pages, double-spaced) explains your reasons for graduate study. It may be the hardest part of the application to write, but it is also the most important. While you will likely include some autobiographical information, its primary purpose is to acquaint us with how your mind works. We want to know, for example, what kinds of intellectual problems and issues interest you, whose stories intrigue you, what sorts of analytical or narrative approaches you like to pursue, which historical writings you admire—and your reasons for these various preferences. Please help us understand your decision to enter the historical profession and how you see your own role in it. You can feel free to explain how your background and life experiences, including cultural, geographical, financial, educational, or other opportunities or challenges have motivated your decision to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Wisconsin.  There is no single right way to approach this part of the application, but we suggest that you bear in mind the usual cautions for personal writing: speak straightforwardly, in your own voice, and write as well as you know how.

CV or Resumé: This should highlight your accomplishments and qualifications including academic honors or distinctions; professional, research, and/or teaching experience; and any publications.

Letters of recommendation: Provide contact information for the three individuals who will furnish recommendations on your behalf. (They will receive an upload link by email.)

Application fee waivers: The Graduate School offers a limited number of application fee waivers to make sure the application fee ($75) is not a barrier for students. Criteria for granting the waiver can be found at https://grad.wisc.edu/apply/ . For those not meeting the Graduate School’s criteria, the Department of History offers a limited number of fee waivers. These are granted on an individual basis by contacting the Director of Graduate Studies.

Tracking the Status of Your Application

Once you have submitted the Graduate School’s online application, you will receive an email from the Office of Graduate Admissions that contains important information about how to track the status of your application.

Follow the instructions in this email so that you can regularly check for messages from our department and UW-Madison’s Graduate School, which will alert you if any materials are needed to complete your application.

If you have questions about the admissions process, please read through the Frequently Asked Questions below. You are welcome to contact our Graduate Admissions Advisor with any unanswered questions about the process or about your application materials.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What if I have problems attaching the supporting documents to the online application?

Try refreshing the page in your browser. Try using a different browser. If you are still unsuccessful, please send the documents in an email attachment to the Graduate Admissions Advisor.

How will I know if my application is complete?

After you submit your application, follow the instructions provided in the email sent to you from the Office of Graduate Admissions to check your application status. It will take us some time to process your materials, so please be patient!

When are applications reviewed?

Faculty members will begin reviewing files after the December 1st deadline and the department will send letters of admission or refusal by mid-February.

What if my letters of recommendation or test scores aren’t received by December 1?

As long as you have paid the application fee and submitted your application by December 1, your submission will be considered for admission. We do understand that some of these items may trickle in after the application deadline; however, please note that incomplete application materials make faculty consideration of applications difficult.

How many applications do you receive each year and how many students do you admit?

We receive 250-350 applications each year. We generally admit only students to whom we can offer a multi-year funding guarantee. In recent years, offers of admission have been extended to anywhere from 25-35 students.

What is the average GPA for an admitted student?

The Graduate School requires a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Most students admitted to the Department of History have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or higher in history-related courses.

If I’m interested in a terminal Master’s degree, what are my chances for admission?

Our program is designed to meet the needs of the PhD candidate. Before applying for a terminal M.A., you are strongly encouraged to contact potential advisors from our faculty prior to completing an application. We admit terminal M.A. applicants on a very limited basis and the probability of admission is low. In addition, there is no funding guarantee for terminal M.A. students and applicants must have external funding or be self-funded.

If I already have an MA from another institution, will I have to do an M.A. at UW-Madison?

Maybe. If you have written an M.A. thesis or a longer research paper, our faculty will determine whether it satisfies our M.A. research seminar requirement. For specifics regarding your individual case, contact the Graduate Program Manager.