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Art History PhD Admissions

We look forward to safely returning to in-person instruction and activities this autumn quarter. Current and prospective students please visit our COVID-19 Updates pages.

Each year, the Division of Art History receives more than 60 applications for its graduate programs. Applications are reviewed by the faculty of the division.

The selection process aims to identify students who are both well-prepared and whose interests and goals are well-matched to faculty strengths and program resources.

It is the School of Art + Art History + Design’s policy not to comment on specific admissions decisions.

Prerequisites for Admission

Before beginning work toward the PhD degree, students must have a master's degree in art history or a related field combined with coursework in art history. A minimum of a 3.0 GPA or B average is expected in art history courses. Applicants must also meet the Graduate School general admission requirements.

During their first year in the program, graduate students should be prepared to take reading exams in two languages relevant to their field of study as determined in consultation with their supervisor. If students do not pass the language exams in their first year, they will be asked to make verifiable progress toward this goal and pass exams as soon as possible. They may be asked to curtail art history coursework if satisfactory progress toward language requirements is not made. Evidence of ability to pass language exams will be a consideration in evaluating applications.

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 Certificate in Museum Studies website. For information about the UW Museology Master of Arts Program, see their website.

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. After you have submitted your application, you will no longer be able to make changes online. Please contact if you have to make any changes to your application once it has been submitted.
  • Transcripts: Applicants are required to submit an unofficial transcript from each institution from which they have obtained a degree. Applicants who are admitted to the program will be required to submit official transcripts prior to matriculation. Please ensure that the student’s 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 (maximum 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, and every applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency. Please see 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, and any academic publications, exhibitions, or other relevant examples of your work.
  • 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 address subject matter relevant to art history. Writing samples should not exceed 50 pages in length; writing samples of 20-30 pages are most common.