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Prospective Students

Applying to the Ph.D. Program in Art History


Advice for prospective students

Frequently asked questions

Open Day for Prospective Students

Applying to the Ph.D. Program in Art History

Admission to the Ph.D Program in Art History is competitive. We receive around 150 applications each year, and accept only 10 students.

Students applying must submit:

  1. A completed application form
  2. Three letters of recommendation, preferably from a professor of art history or related fields, rather than from employers (even if these are museum curators or magazine editors, and more recent)
  3. Transcripts from previous colleges or universities
  4. Scores from the Graduate Record Examination General Test (taken no more than 5 years ago)
  5. A writing sample, not more than 15 pages in length

Please do not send these items to the Ph.D Program in Art History directly. They are processed by the Office of Admissions.


The Program reviews completed applications beginning in January. The Office of Admissions notifies students when the Committee reaches a decision. These notifications begin in February and continue through May.

Advice for Prospective Students

All applications are reviewed by a committee comprising a cross-section of faculty members plus one graduate student. Each application is considered in its entirety, and the committee pays attention—in no particular order—to the following:

  • the student’s record of academic achievement as reflected in the transcripts

  • the student’s potential for graduate work as demonstrated by recommendations

  • the quality of the writing sample

  • the GRE scores

  • the student's background and reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. at The Graduate Center, as expressed in the personal statement.

All applicants to the Ph.D. Program in Art History should also familiarize themselves with our faculty members and recent course offerings.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you have an Open Day when I can visit the Ph.D Program?

The Ph.D. Program in Art History currently holds three Open Days. In the fall semester, prospective students interested in applying to study Modern and Contemporary are invited to one Open Day, and students applying to study Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, African, Pre-Columbian, Native North American, Oceanic, Islamic, or Asian to the other (For further information on these days, see below.)
The final Open Day, in the spring semester, is only for students who have been made the offer of a place, and for those on the waiting list.

If you have specific questions about the program beyond the information available on the Graduate Center's website (e.g. about funding, time to degree, language requirements, etc), please contact the Art History office, who will be happy to make an appointment for you to talk to a relevant member of faculty. While you are also in the building, we also recommend that you speak to current students, as they are in the best position to tell you what it is like to study here.

  • Do you offer funding for students, and how much is it?

The Ph.D. Program in Art History currently offers seven Graduate Center Fellowships (GCFs) and three Tuition Fellowships.
The GCFs are a five-year package of $25,000 per year. In the first year, students work in the department. In years two to five, students teach one course per semester in one of the CUNY colleges.
Tuition Fellowships cover tuition at in-state rates only, for five years.
Provost’s Enhancement fellowships are available to students from underrepresented minorities who are US citizens or permanent residents. These comprise a five-year package of $35,000.
Graduate Center and Provost’s Enhancement Fellowships include eligibility for low-cost individual or family NYSHIP health insurance. See the Graduate Center's main admissions pages for further information about current tuition fees and other forms of fellowships and funding.

  • How do I choose an advisor to work with?

The Ph.D. Program in Art History is unique in that students are not expected to pair up with an advisor immediately upon entering the program. This is primarily because we have a large faculty drawn from the CUNY colleges, which makes the process of pairing up with an advisor a more organic process, allowing you to respond to input from a wide range of seminars and coursework.

The application form nevertheless invites you to specify members of faculty with whom you envisage working, and this is useful information for the Admissions Committee. Please bear in mind that Professors Emerita are not able to take on doctoral students.

  • Do you prefer students to have a Master’s degree?

We admit students with or without Master’s degrees. The timeline for completion is slightly faster if you have a Master's degree - see the 'Timeline to Degree' charts here.

  • I have an undergraduate degree in studio practice. Am I eligible?

Most applicants have majored in art history as undergraduates. If you have not majored in art history, then we need to see at least 12 credits in art history on your transcript(s), and with excellent grades.

  • I don’t have an art history degree, but I have been working in a museum or gallery since I graduated. Am I eligible?

One of the strengths of the Ph.D Program in Art History is that it attracts curators, and we welcome applicants who have practical experience in museums and galleries. However, this is not always equivalent to academic qualifications. Even if you have many years of experience within a museum or gallery, we still look for evidence of academic ability in art history (12 credits, either as an undergraduate, graduate, or non-matriculated student) in order to assess your potential for doctoral research. This is why we always prefer to see letters of recommendation from academics rather than from a professional work context (museums, editorial, etc).

  • Can you give me an idea of the range of subjects that current dissertation students are working on at the Graduate Center?

Each year we prepare a list for the College Art Association. The 2013 list can be downloaded here.

  • I am a practicing artist. Is it possible for me to do a Ph.D at the Graduate Center?

The Ph.D Program in Art History is a fully academic degree; there is no studio or practice-based component. We do not accept practicing artists looking to pursue their own work in tandem with doctoral research.

  • I am looking at several Ph.D. Programs in Art History in New York. What makes the Graduate Center unique?

Around eighty percent of students in the Ph.D Program in Art History are working within modern and contemporary art. We offer broad range of faculty who can be called upon as potential advisors.

Students have first-hand teaching experience. Rather than being a Teaching Assistant (TA) to a professor, you will have your own course and students at one of the colleges. 
Current students tell us that they appreciate the friendly and collaborative atmosphere of the Graduate Center. Students are all working in the city—either as teachers or as professionals—and there is a strong spirit of mutual support, rather than of competition.

Open Day for Prospective Students

The Ph.D. Program in Art History invites everyone, especially African-American and Latino/Latina students, to come to the Graduate Center to find out more about studying art history here. Join us for an informational meeting workshop for prospective students on Tuesday 10 November, 4-6pm (for Modern and Contemporary), or Friday, 4 December, 2-4 (for Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, African, Pre-Columbian, Native North American, Oceanic, Islamic, or Asian). This 'open day' will provide an opportunity to meet current students and faculty specializing in these fields and ask questions about the program.