Before You Apply

Be sure to read through the entire application process before you begin. Please see the application process page for more detailed information. Some helpful tips for your statement of purpose and letters of recommendation are provided below.

Director Richard Laub is always available for pre-application consultation either by phone or email, (404) 413-6365.

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is a short essay introducing the applicant and his or her
interests, goals, and reasons for pursuing graduate study in history. Applicants may wish
to share a draft of their statement with the individuals writing their letters of
recommendation. While every statement, like every prospective student, will be different,
applicants should devote special attention to the following items:

• Academic/Professional Background: Please give your academic credentials, with
degrees, dates, and relevant employment experience. You do not need to list every
job you have had, only those that bear directly on your desire to enter graduate
• Motivations and Aims: Explain what motivates you to do graduate work in history
and what your goals are, both within the graduate program and after the
completion of your degree.
• Existing Expertise and Accomplishments in History: Discuss any areas of
expertise you may already have in your proposed area of interest. If you have
experience doing research, please describe the project and your work on it. If you
have any special talents or skills, such as a foreign language, please describe
• Proposed Course of Study: Please identify planned major field and minor fields of
• Likely Faculty Advisor(s): Please specify faculty members with whom you are
interested in working on your major fields. Applicants are invited to contact
potential faculty advisors prior to application to discuss their interests and planned
• Possible Thesis/Dissertation Topic(s): While the department does not expect all
applicants to have identified precise thesis or dissertation topics, you may wish to
include some discussion of possible topics or areas of inquiry.
• Other Relevant Experiences or Personal Qualities: Discuss any experiences or
personal attributes that may illuminate your commitment to the study of history
and to the successful completion of the graduate program.

Format: Your statement of purpose should be limited to no more than 750 words
(between 2 and 3 pages).

For further information on writing the statement of purpose, applicants may wish to
consult the following website:
University of California at Berkley Career Center

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a very important part of the application. The purpose of
the letter is to evaluate the applicant’s potential for success as a graduate student; thus,
the best letter writers are faculty members with whom the applicant has studied. Mature
or returning students may choose to seek letters from employers, ministers, community
leaders, or other such persons who are in a position to assess the applicant’s capacities
and skills. Applicants may wish to share their statement of purpose with their
recommenders. As there are no forms for the letter of recommendation, letters should be
on letterhead. Applicants should ask recommenders to address applicable portions of the
following questions in their letters, giving concrete examples wherever possible.
NOTE: Please submit letters of recommendation via the on-line application process:

• Background: How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity?
• Preparation for Graduate-Level Study in History: What is the applicant’s
background and preparation in historical studies? Does he or she have any
experience in historical research? Does he or she have any specialized skills or
studies, such as a foreign language, that might be an asset to his or her pursuit of
advanced study in history? What are the applicant’s interests in advanced study in
history? Has the applicant’s academic record been affected by special
circumstances such as work, social or academic background?
• Critical Thinking Skills: What kind of a learner is the applicant? What is your
assessment of the applicant’s analytic skills? Does the applicant know how to
interpret both primary and secondary source material and to use them in a
historical argument? Does the applicant show evidence of creativity?
• Communication Skills: Is the applicant an effective writer? Is the applicant’s
written work clear, well-organized and forceful? Does the applicant’s written
work show an ability to organize his or her ideas, shape them into arguments, and
support those arguments with evidence? Is the applicant articulate in classroom
discussion or public speaking?
• Potential for Success in Graduate Study: What is your prediction of the
applicant’s probable performance in graduate school? To what extent is the
applicant persistent, efficient, motivated, and committed to graduate study? Is the
applicant able to work independently? How does this applicant rate with other
candidates you have evaluated for graduate study? Would you choose the
applicant for graduate study under your guidance?

Adapted from