At the Circus: The Spanish Walk by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Art History PhD Admissions

Operations and teaching are online. Current and prospective students: please visit our COVID-19 Updates pages. Faculty and staff are available via email.

Each year, the Division of Art History receives more than 60 applications for their graduate programs. Applications are reviewed by a committee of Art History faculty members.

The selection process aims to identify qualified students who are prepared to succeed in the program, but who also have interests and goals well-matched to the strengths of the faculty and resources of the program.

It is the School’s policy not to comment on specific admissions decisions.

Prerequisites for Admission

Before beginning work toward the PhD degree, students must have an MA in art history or related field, combined with coursework in art history. Applicants must also meet the Graduate School general admission requirements.

 New graduate students should be prepared to take intermediate-level language proficiency exam during their first quarter in the program. (“Intermediate level” means able to score 3.2 or better at the end of a second-year university-level language course.) Degree candidates specializing in Native American art may substitute Spanish for one of the three. If you do not pass a language exam your first quarter, you will be asked to make verifiable progress toward this goal and pass an exam as soon as possible. You may be asked to curtail art history coursework if satisfactory progress toward satisfying language requirements is not made. Evidence of ability to pass language exams will be a major consideration in your application.

Please note that the UW Art History program does not include coursework in art conservation or restoration. For information about museum studies, see the UW Museum Studies website. For information about the UW Museology Program see their website


  • 3.0 or B average in art history courses
  • The GRE is required

The Graduate Application Process

Application to the School of Art + Art History + Design graduate programs is completed online through the University of Washington Graduate School website. The online application cycle opens October 1. Deadline for application is 11:50pm (PST) January 15. If you have any questions while submitting your material for review, please email


The Graduate School application website will request the following documents: 

  • Application for Graduate Study at the University of Washington (online). To finalize your application, please submit the $85 application fee. Once finalized, you will no longer be able to update your online app, however the department can then view your complete application and answer questions.  You will be able to log into your application to view your status in the process. Please contact if you have to make any changes to your application once it has been finalized.
  • Transcripts: Applicants are required to submit an unofficial transcript from each institution from which they have obtained a degree as part of the online application. Applicants who are admitted to the program will be required to submit official transcripts prior to matriculation. Please ensure that the student name and school name appear and that the scan is legible. If you are scanning original transcripts, make sure the pages are oriented upright for screen viewing (vertical or landscape).
  • Letters of recommendation: Applicants will be prompted to provide the name and email address of 3 (max. 4) recommenders. The recommenders will be sent a link to the online evaluation form via email. Each letter of recommendation should be written by someone who is able to comment on your qualifications for graduate study. As part of the application process you will be given the opportunity to voluntarily waive your right to inspect the completed letters.
  • English Proficiency test scores (for international students): Proficiency in English is required for graduate study at the University of Washington. Therefore, every applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency. Graduate School Memo #8 and English Proficiency Tests comparison tables for information on the University’s policy. When requesting official TOEFL scores from ETS use institution code 4854 for the University of Washington. TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the test date. The University of Washington only accepts scores submitted electronically directly from the testing center. The application will also prompt you to self-report your test scores. If you have not yet taken the test, please enter the test date on the form. Official scores must be received by the application deadline. Note: The University of Washington Graduate School no longer accepts IELTS test scores unless the test was taken before June 2017.
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae: Your resume/CV should summarize your educational background, including institutions and degrees earned. It should also include a summary of academic positions held (e.g. Teaching Assistantships), awards and fellowships, academic publications, and any shows of your work.
  • GRE (Graduate Record Exam): GRE exam scores, which in and of themselves will not make or break an application, are an important factor in your application evaluation. Applicants to the Art History graduate programs are required to report official scores using the UW Institution Code: 4854; Department Code 5199. The application will also prompt you to self-report your test scores. If you have not yet taken the test, please enter the test date on the form. See the GRE website for more details. GRE scores must arrive in Art History by January 15.
  • Personal Statement: This statement should clearly articulate your goals and the extent to which the program to which you are applying can be expected to prepare you for those objectives. The statement should also describe your background and experience in Art History or an allied discipline as well as preparation for advanced work in the field to which you are applying.
  • Writing Sample: Papers produced for art history classes are generally the most useful evidence for reviewers of your written work. Other helpful submissions include art-history-related articles, catalog essays, museum publications or other writing dealing with art-historical topics. If none of the above are available, submit samples of writing you feel would be most useful for those evaluating (a) your ability to express yourself clearly in writing, and (b) your ability to deal with subject matter relevant to art history. Writing samples should not exceed 50 pages in length; writing samples of 20-30 pages are most common.