Applying to Study History at USC
Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in History at the University of Southern California. Our deadline for submission of application materials is 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:
Applying to the History Program
An Application to the program, in brief, consists of:
- Application for admission
- Letters of Recommendation (at least 3)
- Statement of Purpose
- Writing Sample
- GRE General Aptitude Scores
- Official Transcript
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:
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.
7. Unofficial transcripts. 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, USC
3520 Trousdale Parkway,
Los Angeles, CA, 90089-0034
Although these directly-sent transcripts are unofficial, they will facilitate timely review of your application.
For further information, please feel free to contact the individual faculty with whom you might like to study.
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.
We are proud of our track record in funding graduate students. In most years, every entering student is funded by a combination of fellowships and graduate assistantships for a minimum of five years, contingent, of course, 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.
If you are interested in need-based aid such as government loans and grants, however, you must make separate application through the University's Financial Aid Office.
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.
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.