Applications for admission to the department’s graduate program are reviewed by a faculty committee chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). This committee makes recommendations about admission to the University Graduate School on the basis of perceived merit and fit with the current configuration of faculty and students; it does not take into account information concerning financial circumstances. In light of the department’s recommendations, the Dean of the Graduate School gives the final approval to the admissions decisions.
The number of admissions that may be offered is determined by the department’s facilities and the Graduate School’s resources. The number of applications has risen in recent years, and admission is offered only to about ten percent of applicants. Many well-qualified applicants may not receive admission, but are certainly welcome to reapply.
Applicants are required to submit a term paper or other writing sample. This should not exceed 20 pages and should demonstrate the applicant’s capacity for scholarly research in his or her main area of interest. It may include a few photos or brief bibliography, if necessary, but the true purpose of the paper is to showcase the student’s writing skills. The committee weighs the application materials with various points in mind. The statement of purpose (500-1000 words) is an especially weighty component, serving as a concise introduction to the applicant’s major area(s) of interest, academic (or other relevant) experience, aims for future research and professional life, and vision of how he or she will mesh with the program. GRE scores are no longer necessary for the application process. In the transcript, attention is given mainly to the art history courses, noting their number, variety, and grades. It is not a prerequisite for this program that the applicant has been a formal art history major in college.
Yale has a number of interdisciplinary graduate programs in which the art history department plays an important role, including African and African-American Studies, American Studies, East Asian Studies, Film and Media Studies, Medieval and Renaissance Studies. When the History of Art admissions committee has finished its work, applications not included in the accepted group may be reviewed by appropriate faculty members and transferred to the application pool of one of the above programs. If the admissions committee in that program agrees, the student is then asked whether he or she would like such a transfer to take place. As a result, a number of students in recent years have been pleased to accept offers of admission to these Yale programs. Some of these programs are for the MA only, and their graduates may then apply to continue to the Ph.D. in art history; others are for the doctorate itself.
If you are interested in applying to Yale, you may wish to visit our campus to meet with faculty members, attend classes, and/or speak with current students. If so, please contact individual professors and graduate students directly via e-mail to arrange your own schedule. Because the application deadline is December 1st, such visits should take place in the fall semester. There is of course no requirement that applicants visit campus in advance. Even complex questions can be answered via e-mail, and you might also ask faculty members if they are willing to meet virtually, via Zoom or telephone. Once the department has extended its offers to successful applicants, a visiting day is arranged for the new cohort, so that they can get to know the faculty, students, and resources in greater depth.
In choosing where to apply (or where to go, when accepted by several schools), students rightly put stress on the fields of art history covered and on the known quality of the faculty in a given program. You can get a sense of what we teach and publish by reviewing our faculty web pages, and reading some of the materials your prospective teachers and advisors have written. You are welcome to contact them with questions about their teaching plans in the coming years, and to contact the DGS with any additional questions about the application process.
All questions regarding the general completion or submission of the application should be directed to the Yale GSAS Admissions.