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Application Information for Graduate Students

Thank you for your interest in graduate study in history. Before you apply to our programs, please read the information below.

Application Deadlines 

All application items must be received by the dates below, not just started.

  • January 15 - For M.A. and Ph.D. applicants also applying for departmental funding (graduate assistantships)
  • March 1 - For M.A. and Ph.D. applicants not seeking funding
  • October 1 - M.A. applicants only for spring semester admission (international applicants)
  • November 1 - M.A. applicants only for spring semester admission (domestic applicants)

Application Materials

The Graduate School collects your entire application online. It will consist of several parts, and it must be completed by the deadline to be included in the history graduate committee review process. 

  • Application
    • To be considered for admission to the graduate program in history, you must submit a formal application to the graduate school.
    • You application will be reviewed by both the Graduate School and the Department of History. The department makes decisions about admission and assistantships.
    • In considering admission, we look at all available evidence about your ability to do graduate-level work in history. Your grades in relevant subjects, scores on the General Test of the Graduate Record Exam, letters of recommendation from faculty in history, language skills, application essay and writing sample will be carefully reviewed.
    • For Ph.D. applicants, we also consider your proposed fields of study and the probable area of your dissertation. A crucial consideration will be whether a faculty member in history has the expertise in the proposed field of study. 
    • Students who have completed the bachelors degree will be considered for admission to the master’s program. students who have completed a master's degree in history will be considered for admission to the doctoral program. 
    • The department's principal form of financial aid consists of graduate teaching assistantships. Since there are more applicants than can be accommodated with available funds, financial aid applications are more competitive than are applications for admission into the program without aid.
      • Decisions on admission and assistantships are made separately, with the decision on admission coming first.
      • Funding decisions are made once a year, during the spring semester preceding the coming academic year.
      • To be considered for a graduate assistantship, submit the appropriate form.
  • GRE scores
    • All applicants to history graduate degree programs must take the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination.
    • In reviewing applicants’ files, the department looks most closely at the verbal and analytical writing scores. The department looks for verbal scores above the 60th percentile and a score of 4.5  or higher in analytical writing.
    • You should take the GRE well in advance of application deadlines so that missing scores do not delay the reaching of a timely decision. For more information on the GRE, see www.ets.org. NIU also offers on-campus test preparation.
  • Transcripts (undergraduate and, if appropriate, graduate)
    • Since grades are often a better predictor of academic success than GRE scores, we attach substantial importance to grade point averages. We expect an undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or better (based on a scale where 4.0 represents an A) and a GPA in undergraduate history courses of 3.25 or better.
    • For applicants with modest undergraduate GPAs, we will take into consideration evidence of substantial improvement in the last two years of undergraduate work. Strong grades in courses taken as a NIU graduate student-at-large can also help counterbalance a disappointing undergraduate GPA.
  • Letters of recommendation
    • Letters of recommendation are a very important part of an application for graduate study. Two are required for the M.A. program, and three for the Ph.D. program.
    • Letters should be requested from tenured or tenure-track history professors who can comment substantively on your previous academic work in history.
    • We realize that obtaining such letters can be difficult for individuals whose undergraduate work was completed some years ago. In cases such as these, we ask that you request a letter from someone who is in a position to comment on your academic abilities, accomplishments or potential in the field of history.
  • Application essay/career goal statement
    • This statement should be about two pages in length. We are interested in your preparation to undertake graduate work in history, your particular historical interests and your reasons for wanting to do graduate work in history.  
    • It is especially important to mention what field of history you want to study and what preparation you have for that field.
    • Make clear in your application essay whether you have language training.  List the languages and indicate your degree of fluency in reading, writing, and speaking. Note: In order to be considered for the M.A. program in Ancient or Medieval history, you must, at a minimum, have some formal coursework in Latin and/or Greek as well as one modern European language other than English (preferably French, German, or Italian).
  •  Writing sample
    • Applicants to both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs must provide writing samples.
    • Ideally, this would be a research paper from an upper-level undergraduate or graduate history course. If that is not possible, please submit a paper that you feel best represents your intellectual and analytical abilities.
    • It would be helpful if you would include a copy or description of the assignment to which this written work is a response.