Thank you for your interest in the graduate program at the University of Southern California. You'll find here information about all aspects of our admission procedure. For information about our graduate curriculum, graduate fields and faculty, funding opportunities, and graduate students, please visit other pages on this website.
For helpful advice on preparing your application, we suggest that you consult John King and Andrew McMichael, “Inscribing your Future: The Trials and Tribulations of Applying to Graduate School,” found in the September, 1998 issue of Perspectives (the newsletter of the American Historical Association). Also see Graduate Application Process: From Start to Finish.
In addition to the information provided below, the USC Office of Graduate Admissions offers useful information for applicants. You should complete and submit the online application, as noted below, no later than December 1. Official copies of your transcripts should be submitted directly to the USC Office of Graduate Admissions.
We strongly advise you to submit all materials by December 1. Please emphasize to faculty recommenders that their letters should be received by December 1.
Your application for admission also serves as application for all non-need-based financial aid, including assistantships, fellowships, and merit awards, awarded through the department. However, if you are interested in need-based aid such as government loans and grants, you must make separate application through the University's Financial Aid Office.
Applicants for graduate study in History may only apply to the Ph.D. program, as the M.A. is now only a transitional degree in the process of completing requirements for the Ph.D. We welcome, of course, applications from students who already have the M.A. degree in hand.
Please note that we admit students to start in the fall semester only. The department does not grant mid-year admission to its doctoral program.
We suggest that applicants contact the individual faculty with whom they would like to study. Specific questions about the graduate program or the application process may be directed to both Professor Lisa Bitel, the Director of Graduate Studies and Dr. Joseph Styles, the administrator in charge of advising graduate students.
1. Completed application for admission. This must be completed by December 1, and it must be completed online. Please apply through the Graduate Admission Office. This application will entail a non-refundable application fee which is waived for currently enrolled USC students and for USC graduates. Students in the United States who are on full financial aid may request a fee waiver in collaboration with the financial aid office of their home institution.
2. Letters of recommendation. Please arrange to have letters submitted from at least three college or university instructors who are familiar with your prior work and who have figured prominently in your education. If your evaluators are unwilling to use USC’s online system, please ask them to send their letters directly to the History Department using this address: Graduate Admissions, Department of History, USC, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0034. Please note that we do not supply forms for these letters of recommendation. Be sure that all letters arrive by December 1, if at all possible. If necessary to meet this deadline, please fax letters (213-740-6999).
3. Statement of purpose. In this brief statement (1-3 pages usually suffices) please set out your proposed areas of study and your ultimate professional interests. You should be both specific and detailed about your interests: simply stating “American history,” or even “economic development of the United States in the early national period” is not sufficient. Note the specific time periods, countries, subjects, or topics that interest you, and explain your interest in them. Tell us what historical questions you find most pressing or intriguing, and why. We don’t expect you to know your dissertation topic yet; we do expect you to know how to engage historical questions and how some members of the profession have already engaged them. If you have done prior graduate work—whether in history or some other field—describe your experiences in that program, providing information on your major and minor areas of interest, thesis (if you wrote one), and the like. Provide as well information on your foreign language training and fluency, especially as this might be relevant to your studies. If you have taught or engaged in research, please describe these activities. Please submit this statement online through your application, and please submit it by December 1.
4. One or two examples of your best written work, preferably in history, must be submitted as a writing sample.The admissions committee looks especially for good use of original source material and strong, original historical interpretation. If you have written an honors or M.A. thesis, send us a copy. Other acceptable papers include undergraduate essays, seminar papers, and published work in history or the social sciences and humanities more broadly. The online application allows you to upload files of up to 250KB in size (about 150 pages of text). The upload accepts most files (.doc, .wpt, .rtf, and the like) but it will not accept WordPerfect documents; in such a case, save the document as an .rtf file and upload it. If you are unable to upload your writing sample into the application system, please send this material directly to the History Department address given below, for arrival by December 1.
5. Graduate Record Examination’s General Aptitude Test. If you have taken this test within the past five years, ask the Educational Testing Service to forward your scores directly to the University of Southern California to arrive by December 1. If the GRE general examination you took did not include the new analytical essay section, you do not need to retake it. If your scores are over five years old at the time you apply for admission, however, you must retake the examination. We do not require the advanced test in history.
6. Official transcripts of all prior college and university work. Only one official copy of each is required. Please ask that these transcripts be sent directly to the USC Office of Graduate Admissions to arrive by December 1. Please also send second (unofficial) copies directly to the History Department by either (a) uploading computer scans of your transcripts to the Supporting Documents section of your on-line application, or if you are unable to scan and upload, by sending hard copies directly to us at: Graduate Transcript Review, Department of History, SOS 153, 3520 Trousdale Parkway, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0034. Although these directly-sent transcripts are unofficial, they will facilitate a timely review of your application.
The deadline for us to receive all of this material is December 1 prior to the fall term in which you wish to enter the program - that is December 1, 2012 for entry in Fall 2013.
We are proud of our track record in funding graduate students. In fall 2010, every entering student was funded by a combination of fellowships and graduate assistantships for a minimum of five years, contingent, of course, on satisfactory progress toward degree.
There are three basic sources of financial aid available to graduate students in history who are U.S. citizens:
- The university’s Office of Financial Aid handles all need-based aid such as government-guaranteed student loans and work-study allotments. A separate application for this type of aid is requireed.
- The Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School each offers a few highly competitive fellowships to students entering doctoral study here. Graduate Merit Awards from the College are multi-year packages, with two years of fellowship support in addition to three years or more of graduate assistantship included in each. These carry 24 units of tuition remission per year and an additional stipend of $21,000 or more for the academic year. Graduate School fellowships are one-to-three year awards covering all tuition and mandatory fees, and currently provide a minimum stipend of $21,000 for the academic year. Very strong performance in previous academic work and high scores on the Graduate Record Examination, coupled with the department’s recommendation, are the major criteria for receiving these fellowships. Over the past few years the department has maintained an excellent track record in obtaining these coveted awards for its most highly qualified applicants.
- Teaching Assistants (TAs) help full-time faculty in course instruction, taking responsibility for leading discussion sections which complement lectures, grading student work, helping the professor with class preparation, and advising undergraduate students on both course requirements and their classroom performance. TA stipends are currently (academic year 2010-11) $19,250 per year for a full-time appointment, and all also provide tuition remission for full-time study as well as health insurance and mandatory student health center fees. On rare occasions, editorial or research assistantships are also offered by the department.
Please note that there is no separate application necessary for either fellowship consideration or assistantship consideration: your application for admission is ipso facto an application for fellowship and assistantship aid.
USC has many years of experience with students from overseas seeking graduate degrees; indeed, it now has the largest enrollment of international students of any institution of higher education in the western United States. Its many special programs and services designed specifically for international students include the following: special admissions information on international admissions; an Office of International Services; a variety of university-sponsored international student groups; intensive and specialized English language training courses for international students needing advanced study in English reading, writing, listening, or speaking; and a specialized training program for international teaching assistants. The Department of History has accepted foreign nationals for graduate work since the 1920s, and we recently have included in our graduate program students from Canada, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Australia, and The Netherlands. Though international students are ineligible for need-based financial aid, they are eligible for both competitive fellowships and teaching assistantships.
For further information, please feel free to contact the individual faculty with whom you might like to study.