Apply to Study History at USC

Applications for the Doctoral Program in History at the University of Southern California are due by December 1 prior to the fall term in which you wish to enter the program. There is no spring admission.

What you will find on this page:

→ Admissions Checklist
→ Helpful Advice About Applying
→ Financial Aid Information


Your application to the History Program must include:

  • Application for Admission
  • Letters of Recommendation (at least 3)
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Writing Sample
  • GRE General Aptitude Scores
  • Official Transcript
  • [in the case of non-native speakers of English] TOEFL scores or other evidence of English proficiency



Detailed Admissions Checklist

1. Completed application for admission. This must be completed online and submitted by December 1. The application is available through the Graduate Admission Office. This application requires a non-refundable application fee, unless the applicant is a current USC student or a graduate of USC. Students on full financial aid may also request a 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. The letters can be requested through USC’s online system. If your recommendors prefer, they can send their letters directly to the History Department at:

Graduate Admissions,
Department of History, USC
3520 Trousdale Parkway,
Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0034

No forms need to accompany your letters if they are mailed, but please be sure that all letters arrive by December 1 if at all possible. If necessary to meet this deadline, please fax letters to (213)740-6999.

3. Statement of purpose. In a 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 with your application by December 1.

4. A Writing Sample of one or two examples of your best written work, preferably in history. 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). Please note that the upload accepts most files but 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 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. 


Advice for Applicants

If you have questions about the History Graduate Program or need additional informaiton, please feel free to contact individual History faculty members with whom you might like to study.

You may also direct specific questions to Professor Paul Lerner, Director of Graduate Studies and Melissa Borek, Graduate Advisor.

In addition to the information provided below, the USC Office of Graduate Admissions offers useful information for applicants.


Financial Aid:

Every entering student is funded for a minimum of five years of study through a combination of fellowships and graduate assistantships, contingent on satisfactory progress toward degree.

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.

For more information about financial aid, as well as about research funding, summer funding, and employment opportunities, check our Financial Aid and Funding Resources page.


International Students:

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.

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. It has many resources designed specifically for international students, including 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.


  • Department of History
  • 3502 Trousdale Parkway
  • Social Sciences Building (SOS) 153
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 90089-0034