Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can I apply to your Graduate Program without having an undergraduate degree in art history?
A: We often have applicants who do not have undergraduate degrees in art history. The success of those applications, however, depends on a variety of factors. One of the things that the Graduate Studies Committee looks at in making admissions decisions is the amount and variety of undergraduate courses in art history. So if you have a degree in studio art, cultural studies, visual communication, or humanities and took several art history courses along the way, your application will be stronger than that of an applicant who had only one or two freshman or sophomore level art history courses as an undergraduate. It is highly unlikely that we would admit a student who has fewer than three art history courses on her transcript or a student who never had an upper division course requiring independent research in the field. In order to admit you to our program, we need to be confident that you have a good understanding of what art history, as an academic discipline, is, and that you are prepared for the kind of work that will be asked of you as a graduate student. If you have questions about your specific academic record, send an email to the Director of Graduate Studies.
Q: Is there a way that I can supplement my undergraduate coursework in art history before I apply to the graduate program?
A: Yes. We often recommend to students with scant background in art history that they take courses as non-degree students. This provides a variety of benefits: it fills out a thin transcript and demonstrates a broader exposure to the field; it familiarizes students with prospective faculty in the department, from whom applicants might later solicit letters of support; it provides an opportunity for potential applicants to produce a more current research paper that they can then use in their applications. If you are interested in taking courses as a non-degree student, information can be found through the registrar's office.
Q: From whom should I solicit letters of recommendation?
A: The recommenders who will be most useful for your application are those who can give specific information about your abilities as a student, your aptitude for research, your skills as a writer, your knowledge of the field of art history, your capacity for critical thinking, your maturity, and the clarity of your goals. As a result, the most convincing letters are usually from scholars, especially those in art history, who understand what is required of graduate students in this discipline, and who can assure the Committee that you are capable of handling the rigors of graduate school. Letters from employers, clergy, family friends, etc. are usually not particularly useful.
Q: What kind of writing sample should I submit? How long should it be?
A: The writing sample should be a recent research paper or article that demonstrates the applicant's ability to conduct research on a given topic, his/her ability to pose a coherent argument and support that argument with visual, textual, or other evidence, and his/her writing skills.
Q: How do I apply for Teaching Assistantships or Fellowships?
A: We tend not to admit students to our Graduate Program unless we can provide them with funding. We assume all applicants will require some kind of financial support. When we send a letter of acceptance to a student, it will specify what kinds of support we can offer and for how long. Most students are assigned teaching assistantships, a few are offered research assistantships working in the Visual Resources Center, and more advanced PhD students are sometimes given non-service awards (funding that does not require teaching duties), that cover their tuition for doctoral thesis credits. If you are sent a letter in which you are assigned a TAship for your first year, we will not be able to tell you for which class you will be serving as a TA until very nearly the beginning of fall semester. This is because of fluctuations in registrations and enrollments by undergraduates, and because our current graduate students often experience changes in their financial aid needs for the fall over the course of the summer.
Q: I eventually want to get a PhD in art history, do I check the MA or the PhD box on the ApplyYourself application?
A: Although it is expected that all students entering into the Art History graduate program have the intention of pursuing the PhD, the Department only admits students into the MA program. You should therefore check the MA box on the ApplyYourself application.
Q: Can I apply directly to the PhD program?
A: The Department of Art History does not accept students directly into the PhD program. However, if you have completed an M.A. degree or graduate work at another institution and are accepted into the MA program, you will be able to transfer some coursework contingent upon the extent to which program requirements are satisfied.
Q: What if there are aspects of my application that aren't as strong as I would like them to be (e.g. low GRE scores, low undergraduate GPA, etc.)?
A: Obviously you want to submit the strongest possible application, but if there are deficiencies, it is best to address them directly in your Statement of Purpose. Help the Graduate Studies Committee see your application in its fullest context. If your overall undergraduate GPA is low because you had difficulty in your first two years, inform the committee that your grades dramatically improved in the second two years, or that your grades in your art history courses were much better than the grades overall. If you have a 4.0 GPA but your GRE scores are low, you might remind the committee of that fact and tell why you think the GPA is a better measure of your abilities.
Q: How do I arrange a visit to the university to see the department?
A: Contact the Graduate Studies Secretary or the Departmental Administrator at 612-624-4500. They can make appointments with faculty and administrators, can advise you about directions and places to stay near the university, and can set up informal meetings with current graduate students.