Admissions

 
Prospective Students

GSAS Admissions website

Applications to doctoral program in the History Department are submitted to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Do not send any materials to the History Department.   A complete application consists of these items:

    • Application online
    • Personal Statement
    • Official Transcripts
    • GRE General Test scores (GSAS code 3451)
    • Writing sample that should not exceed 20 pages; do not send a longer sample with instructions to read a particular section. Make sure that your file is in PDF format and does not exceed 2.5 MB (2,500 kb) in size.
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • TOEFL scores (for students who have received their undergraduate degree at a non-English-speaking institution)

 

Program Overview

After a competitive admissions process, students will complete requirements for a particular art and/or architectural historical field in a highly structured doctoral program (please note that there is no separate master's degree program) through the period of qualification to begin doctoral research and into the initial stages of identifying a viable dissertation topic.

The first two years of the program consist of letter-graded courses, language examinations, and non-graded independent tutorials in preparation for the General Examination. 

 

Program of Study

The doctoral program in History of Art and Architecture, as outlined in this schedule, should require approximately six to seven years to complete and is divided into four stages: course work, Qualifying Paper, General Examination, and dissertation. Ordinarily three to four years are spent in residence in Cambridge prior to beginning work on the dissertation. Dissertation research usually involves a year or more of travel in America or abroad.

 

Model Graduate Program

1st yearFall: 4 half-courses including HAA310
Spring: 4 half-courses
2nd yearFall: 4 half-courses
Spring: 4 half-courses including HAA300 (Qualifying paper by June 1)
3rd yearServe as Teaching Fellow, develop thesis topic (preliminary thesis proposal), prepare grant applications, take general examination and submit preliminary thesis proposal. Participate in fellowship review workshop if applying for funding
4th yearThesis research, often conducted abroad (finalize dissertation prospectus in November)
5th yearThesis research and writing; teaching as available
6th yearCompletion of thesis; some teaching assignments as available
7th yearCompletion of thesis, some teaching assignments as available

 

Fields of Research

The Department currently offers instruction in the following broad fields of the history of art and architecture:

    • African
    • Greek and Roman
    • East Asian
    • Islamic
    • Latin American
    • Medieval/Byzantine
    • Modern (nineteenth and twentieth centuries)
    • Renaissance and Baroque (fifteenth through eighteenth centuries)
    • South Asian

The graduate curriculum is designed to ensure breadth across the discipline, both in terms of field distribution and methodology. Students must take one course in at least three fields of art and/or architectural history other than their own. For students in Western art, one of those courses must be in Asian, African, Native American, or Islamic art. For students in Asian, African, or Islamic art, one of the required courses must be in Western art. Non-field-specific courses such as HAA201, "The Study of Architectural History: Issues and Methodology," or HAA206, "Science and the Practice of Art History," may be taken in place of one of the three field requirements. In non-field-specific courses, a topic should be studied which promotes extra diversification methodologically and geographically.

Students may instead wish to develop a minor field in which a cluster of three courses must be taken. In that case, the regular field distribution requirement is waived, but one course outside the double fields is required to ensure breadth. As above, in non-field-specific courses, a topic should be studied which promotes extra diversification methodologically and geographically.

If a course falls between two fields, it is important to specify the field, and to clarify the arrangement with the DGS during the term the course is taken. In such cases the requirement may be considered as fulfilled if the main paper assignment is in the field of the requirement; individual cases are to be presented to the DGS in consultation with the instructor, and when relevant with the adviser. It is the student's responsibility to clarify such special arrangements with the DGS.

On the basis of course work done at their undergraduate institution, students may petition to have one of the three distribution requirements waived. Following discussion with the Graduate Adviser, and only upon her or his recommendation, the student should submit a petition to the faculty documenting the previous course work in the field. Ordinarily this will be two courses at the undergraduate level. Should a distribution requirement be waived, the total number of courses required for the degree is not altered. This is the only context in which undergraduate courses are considered.

While there are no specific prerequisites for admission, a strong language background helps to strengthen the application, and students who lack it should be aware that they will need to address these gaps during their first two years of graduate study.

 

ESL Language Requirements/Language Requirements

GSAS requires that all incoming PhD students who are non-native English speakers and who have received their undergraduate degrees from non-English speaking institutions meet a minimum level of oral English language proficiency. This proficiency standard must be met before students are permitted to serve as Teaching Fellows.

The policy has three tiers.  International graduate students fitting the above conditions who receive a:

      1. TOEFL iBT speaking score of 28 and above; have met the GSAS oral English language requirement.
      2. TOEFL iBT speaking score between 23 and 27; are required to schedule an oral proficiency interview in their first term of study with language specialists at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning.  The interview will determine the student’s oral proficiency level. If students are not at the required level, they will be required to take either an English course at the Institute for English language (IEL) or the Classroom Communication Skills course at the Bok Center. After taking a course, students will be eligible for re-screening.
      3. TOEFL iBT speaking score of 22 and below; are required to 1) schedule an oral proficiency interview in their first term of study with language specialists at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and learning, and 2) take either an English course at the Institute for English language (IEL) or the Classroom Communication Skills course at the Bok Center. After taking a course, they will be eligible for re-screening.


Re-Screening Policy: After students have taken either an English course at the Institute for English language (IEL) or the Classroom Communication Skills course at the Bok Center, they will be eligible to be re-screened to determine whether they have met the oral English language requirement.  Screenings are offered at the end of each semester in December and May, as well as in August.

Timeline for Meeting the Requirement: Depending on each individual student’s initial level, it may take more than one semester to meet the requirement.  Thus, students are strongly urged, after consultation with their departmental advisor, to take a course either the first or second term of their G1 year to accommodate the time it may take to bring their language skills up to the required level.  Graduate students who have not met the oral English language requirement are not permitted to serve as Teaching Fellows.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make an appointment to speak with a faculty member?
Most faculty keep their own appointment schedules so you should contact the faculty member directly. A list of faculty telephone numbers is available on the website. 

How to I make an appointment for a prospective student interview?
Prospective student interviews are limited and are not procedural. Contact faculty with your specific field of interest directly. General questions may be answered by staff. Prospective student interviews do not take place after the admissions process has begun, generally around January 5.

What is the minimum GRE score or GPA needed to be admitted?
There is no minimum score or grade point average. A candidate's complete background is taken into account in the admissions evaluation.

Which writing sample should I send with my admissions application?
Send only one writing sample and the one that best represents your work of a reasonable length.