Information for Prospective Students

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A diverse graduate student population is important to the UC Berkeley as both a state institution and a land grant school. Diverse graduate students contribute to the introduction of new ideas and approaches to research, expose all students to interaction with people of different backgrounds, and fulfill the state's objective to educate its inhabitants, a population more diverse than ever before. Of the 2,559 graduate students enrolled in L&S in Spring 2016, the following racial/ethnic groups were represented: White/Caucasian 1,459 (57%); Asian 302 (11%); Hispanic 196 (8%); African American/Black 93 (4%); Native American 40 (2%); and international students 469 (18%). The undergraduate population at L&S is represented by an even more diverse student body, with diversity on the rise: White/Caucasian 5,939 (30%); Asian 7,377 (37%); Hispanic 2,980 (15%); African American/Black 753 (4%); Native American 143 (1%); and international students 2,537 (13%).

In addition to the student population, UC Berkeley is also well known for diversity of thought in its curriculum. The depth and breadth of the curricula reflect the variety of perspectives that is encouraged and celebrated at Berkeley. Where else would you find separate programs for East Asian, South East Asian, and Asian Studies, or the possibility of studying Slavic, Scandinavian, or Hebrew languages? Additionally, UC Berkeley students and the Berkeley community have a long tradition of social activism that continues today and is often manifested in the public arena.

Writing Sample

What should I submit for a writing sample?

In the humanities, the writing sample is just as crucial, if not more crucial, than the statement of purpose. Therefore, an applicant should place considerable importance and a great amount of effort into producing a writing sample. In general, admission committees evaluate an applicant's ability to synthesize ideas, concepts, or theories, and logically take a stand and argue them. Faculty would like to admit potential graduate students whose intellectual abilities and curiosity are highly advanced and are evident in the writing sample. They want to see that the student has mastered a...

Statement of Purpose

What should I include in my statement of purpose?

The Statement of Purpose (SOP) is crucial to your application. Some in the arts & humanities consider the SOP the most important component of your admission application.

Points to Consider The audience is department faculty who make admission decisions about each student who applies. Faculty desire to admit bright, intellectually promising students who are a good fit for the department. Begin writing your SOP many months before the deadline. In doing so, you can start over or put it down for days. In other words, give yourself time to be very thoughtful about what you write. Your...

Funding your graduate education

What funding options do I have?

For graduate study, universities support students through fellowships, teaching appointments, research assistant positions, or a combination of these sources. The monies available are often dependent on the size of departments' and schools' endowments and resources that may be available through the Graduate Division. Each school or department has its own methods of distributing fellowship funds. Keep in mind that little funding is usually available for terminal master's degree students.

Inquire about fellowships that are available. Ask about the number that is generally received by...

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

What is the GRE?

Standardized tests such as the GRE are application requirements determined by each department. That is why a prospective applicant should be familiar with the requirements on departmental websites. Also, from year to year a department may change its requirements. If there is one requirement that students dread, it is taking the GRE. For this reason, it is a good idea to get it over with as soon as possible, if it is required. You may also be required to take a subject test: for example, the English subject test. Consider the following suggestions regarding the GRE:

If required, many...

Finding the right program

How do I select the right program?

Identifying the best programs for you to apply to is a formidable task. You should start as soon as you begin to think about graduate school. By learning about graduate programs, you will have a sense of the nature of individual programs (for example, small or large, reputation, specialties, graduation rates). Similarly, if you are familiar with the requirements of a program, you can also align your current coursework to strengthen your preparation for graduate school. Please consider the following activities:

Use your own department, professors, and graduate students as resources...

Letters of recommendation

Who should I ask for a letter of recommendation?

Letters of recommendation are another important component of your application materials. They provide a professional opinion of your intellectual abilities and preparation for graduate school, and are usually written by a professor who not only addresses your specific strengths, but compares you to the many students with whom the professor has worked during his or her career. In other words, the admission committee wants to know how you "stack up" against all the students the recommender has ever had! In general, most programs/universities require three letters of support.


Application Etiquette

How do I approach application needs with faculty?

As you move through your undergraduate years and into graduate school, you will have increasing contact with graduate students and faculty in your discipline. Knowing how to interact with them can be helpful as you begin to negotiate a larger sphere with future colleagues and mentors. Building strong relationships begins with your initial interactions with busy faculty members and graduate students. As you begin to apply to graduate school, please keep the following suggestions in mind:

Try visiting with faculty members during office hours first, unless they are available by...

Academic Preparation

What can I do to prepare myself for graduate school?

As you consider graduate school programs, note the requirements and the backgrounds of competitive students. Keeping this information in mind, review your courses and experiences. Please consider the following as your evaluate your academic preparation:

Identify steps you can take to be more competitive. Have you met the minimum requirements for admission to your graduate programs of choice? Now, what can you do to be more competitive? Strive for a high GPA. Seek to increase or maintain the highest GPA possible. A 3.6 GPA and above is recommended for the most competitive schools...

Additional Resources

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program at UC Berkeley targets students with exceptional academic promise in the humanities or social sciences and potential for academic careers that will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in the academy. The program supports Fellows by providing mentorship and the environment and resources to strive for the highest academic goals. Berkeley’s MMUF program guides the intellectual and professional development of Fellows to realize their greatest potential as graduate students. The MMUF program prepares Fellows to become successful...