Applying to the MA Program in History
Click on the links below for answers to specific questions:
To be considered for admission to graduate study an applicant should normally have an undergraduate major in history with a minimum GPA of 3.25 in history courses.
Non-history majors can still be considered if their application provides convincing evidence that they have prepared themselves in some other way for advanced study in history. Non-history majors or applicants with a lower GPA might also consider taking some upper-division or graduate history classes on a “non-program” basis before applying to the program. (With advisor approval, a maximum of 16 graduate history credits taken before entry into the graduate program can be applied towards the eventual MA degree.)
Application to graduate study at Portland State University is a dual process: applicants must apply to the PSU Office of Admissions and also to the History Department.
For the general University application process, see the Admissions website, at www.pdx.edu/admissions/graduate-applicant.
For the departmental application, please submit directly to the History Department the following:
1. The departmental application form. Please use the specific History Department application form, not the generic form included in the Admissions Office materials.
2. A statement of purpose, a page or two in length, that addresses the following questions:
- Why do you want to obtain a Master’s degree in history?
- If admitted, what geographic and/or thematic field(s) would you be most interested in studying and why?
- How have you prepared yourself to undertake advanced study in this field?
- How would the MA Program in History at Portland State serve your interests in terms of curriculum, faculty research areas, or program specialties?
It is not necessary to send a separate resumé or curriculum vitae. If there are relevant aspects of your background that do not appear elsewhere in the application, you may discuss them in your statement of purpose.
3. Two copies (each) of two writing samples, preferably history research papers. In addition to showing good writing skills, your work samples should demonstrate your ability to frame and support a historical argument, to conduct independent resarch, and to think critically about appropriate primary and secondary sources. The work samples should show your best accomplishments in historical research and writing; they are a crucial component of the application.
Please submit two copies of both of the writing samples. If you do not submit two copies, consideration of your application may be delayed. Copies may be double-sided. It is not necessary that these writing samples be graded; in fact, clean copies are preferred (but not required). There is no set minimum or maximum length, or required format.
4. Transcripts from all post-secondary schools (colleges and universities) attended. For the departmental application, copies of official transcripts will suffice. The PSU Office of Admissions requires original, official (sealed) transcripts for their application materials. Neither the Department nor the University will accept unofficial web reports or degree audits as part of your application: we need a term-by-term listing with course numbers, course titles, and grades. A transcript from the original college or university must be provided for any transfer credits.
Students with Portland State University coursework do not need to submit a separate PSU transcript to the Department; however, you must include your PSU ID number on your application form and clearly indicate the years during which you took classes here.
In general, applicants should have a GPA of at least 3.25 in history courses. A discernible trend in grades (either positive or negative) can play a role in the Committee’s evaluation of transcripts. A high GPA is not in itself a guarantee of admission, but it is an important factor in the selection process. In recent years, the mean history GPA among accepted applications has been about 3.70.
We do not require a specific roster of courses for admission; however, applicants expressing an interest in a particular historical field should be able to demonstrate relevant preparation for that field. This may include language study.
5. Official GRE scores (the general test, not the history subject test). The GRE is administered only at authorized testing centers; for information regarding test dates and locations in your area, consult the website for the Educational Testing Service, at www.ets.org. Please compare available testing times with the application deadlines, as timely submission of your scores is required as part of your application.
We do not employ a threshold or cutoff score. In recent years, accepted applications have had a percentile mean (combined from the three portions of the test) of about 72 (or 585 for the older format of the GRE).
6. Two letters of recommendation. These, ideally, should come from individuals who can comment on your academic performance, but professional references may be substituted in some cases, as we realize that some applicants may be several years removed from their undergraduate programs.
We prefer that your recommenders send letters directly to the Department. Letters of recommendation must be accompanied by a waiver signed by you and the recommender; a copy of the waiver form is available by clicking here (.pdf format).
7. Graduate assistantship application (optional). Several different graduate assistantships are available through the Department: History Department teaching/research assistantships; Rose Tucker Fellowships at the Oregon Historical Society; and editorial internships with the Oregon Encyclopedia Project.
Click here for the application form and further information (.pdf format). Check the form carefully for additional materials you may need to provide to apply for some of these assistantships. (If you are a continuing student, please also note the instructions for your case.) In any event, you must submit this form to be considered for these assistantships.
History graduate students are also encouraged to apply for Stoel Editorial Fellowships at the Pacific Historical Review and University Studies graduate mentorships. Both of these have a separate application process; click on the respective links above for more information.
Other assistantships and scholarships may be available through other University offices, such as the Office of Graduate Studies. For other financial aid information, contact the PSU Financial Aid Office.
Please note that the History Department has set Feburary 15 as the deadline for Fall term applications. (As with several PSU departments, our deadline is earlier than the one set by the University.)
The History Department strongly prefers that applications be for Fall term, and reserves the right to defer applications for entry for other terms to the subsequent Fall term entry. Applicants for terms other than Fall should explain in their statement of purpose (see above) the special circumstances requiring entry during that term.
Deadlines for submitting application materials (based on term of intended entry):
Fall Term: February 15 (the Department prefers Fall term admissions)
Winter Term: September 1
Spring Term: November 1
Summer Term: February 1
Applicants may send materials to the Department as soon as they become available. In other words, it is not necessary to send all of your application materials to us in a single packet. Please be certain to send Admissions Office documents and History Department documents to their proper destinations. Address Departmental materials to: Graduate Studies Coordinator, History Department, Portland State University, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207.
Please do not call the department with questions regarding the receipt of your application materials. Instead, please email us, as we may require some time to access and fully review your file. If we have questions regarding your application, we will contact you at the number or address you specify on your application form.
The History Department offers a number of graduate assistantships to incoming and returning graduate students. These financial aid opportunities include both graduate tuition remission and a small monthly stipend, and are all reserved for students who have been formally accepted to the MA Program in History.
We offer a number of departmental teaching assistantships, research assistantships with the Oregon Encyclopedia Project and with the Oregon Historical Society, editorial assistantships through the Pacific Historial Review, and mentorships through the PSU University Studies Program.
For more information on these opportunities, including an application form, please click here. Please note that to apply for some of these opportunities, you may need to submit additional letters of reference and/or a statement of interest and/or undergo an interview process.
The deadline for applying for these opportunities, for both prospective and returning MA students, is February 15.