PhD Art History Admission

The Department welcomes graduate applications from individuals with a broad range of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds who would contribute to our community of scholars. Review of applications is holistic and individualized, considering each applicant’s academic record and accomplishments, letters of recommendation, and admissions essays in order to understand how an applicant’s life experiences have shaped their past and potential contributions to their field.

University Application Materials

The application for admission as well as general information about applying is available from the Graduate Admissions website; please visit Graduate Admissions to apply. Prior to applying you must first determine if you are eligible - application eligibility (undergraduate degree requirements). International applicants, please also see Bechtel International Center and Graduate Admissions International Applicants for more information and any additional application requirements.

Prospective students may apply beginning in late September (please verify the precise date on the Graduate Admissions website). The following documents are required by the university and can not be waived; please click on the links for more detailed information about each:

  • Letters of Recommendation: Three letters of recommendation are required. The department does not accept applicant recommendation via a letter service (i.e. Interfolio or other service). It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that letters are submitted to the electronic application by the published deadline. Please only submit three letters.

  • Transcripts: Upload a scanned copy of your official transcript(s) with the online application. Applicants must upload transcripts from every post-secondary institution attended as a full-time student and for at least one academic year. Transcripts from current degree programs also need to be submitted.

  • Statement of Purpose: You must indicate in the first sentence of your SOP the name of the program to which you are applying and the area you wish to study (e.g. PhD in Art History – Modern). The Statement of Purpose should describe succinctly your reasons for applying to the proposed program at Stanford, your preparation for this field of study, research interests, future career plans, and other aspects of your background and interests which may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your aptitude and motivation for graduate study. Applicants can include and mention faculty members, with overlapping research interests whom they would like to work with and why, in their statement of purpose. The Statement of Purpose must be: 1,000 words or less; single-spaced; formatted with 1-inch margins and 12-point, Times New Roman font.

  • Application Fee: The application fee $125, is non-refundable, and must be received by the application deadline (fee waivers are available to eligible students. Please see Graduate Fee Waivers for more information). The Department does not offer fee waivers outside of the process at the Graduate Fee Waivers page. Please do not contact the department requesting to waive the application fee.

  • GRE Scores: Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test is no longer required for admission to the Department of Art & Art History.

  • TOEFL Scores: Required when first language is not English; IELTS is not accepted. Please note that the department can NOT waive the TOEFL requirement. If you wish to submit a request for TOEFL waiver, please see GRE and TOEFL Requirements. It is the applicant's responsibility to ensure that the scores are submitted to the electronic application by the published deadline. (Note: To bypass the entry of TOEFL scores in the application, enter a future test date. You can add in the additional information section of the application that you have received a waiver from Graduate Admissions.)

  • Online Application

* Please note all application materials, once submitted as part of your application, become the property of Stanford University. Materials will not be returned and copies will not be provided for applicants nor released to other institutions. Please keep a copy for your records. Re-applicants must submit new supporting documents and complete the online graduate application.

Writing Sample Requirement

In addition to the University application materials listed above, applicants in Art History are required to submit a writing sample.  You should upload your writing sample along with your online application (only one writing sample will be accepted). It should be 20 pages maximum, including illustrations and bibliography – neither papers over this limit nor entire Master’s theses will be accepted.

Start Your Application


For admission in Autumn Quarter of the next academic year, all required application materials, including your test scores and recommendation letters, must be received on-line by no later than December 1 at 9:00 pm (PT).

Note: The Graduate Admissions period opens in late September each year for applications to be submitted by the published deadline in December (for matriculation beginning in the following academic year). After April 15th each year, the Graduate Admissions period is closed, and the online application will reopen during the following September.

Selection Process

Application review takes place between mid-February and mid-March; applicants are notified by e-mail of their status around March 15th. Accepted students are admitted for the following Autumn Quarter; no applicants for mid-year entrance will be considered.  You will be contacted via e-mail regarding your application status after the deadline; please do not contact the Department in this regard.

Applicants who are chosen as finalists for admissions are asked to make themselves available for an individual interview by faculty via Skype.  Admitted prospective students are invited for a campus visit intended to introduce them to faculty, current graduate students, and to members of the larger Stanford community involved in the arts.  Library, museum and other facilities are part of this introduction to the PhD program in Art History at Stanford.

The Art and Art History Department recognizes that the Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2023 about the consideration of certain types of demographic information as part of an admission review. All applications submitted during upcoming application cycles will be reviewed in conformance with that decision.

Knight-Hennessy Scholars

Join dozens of Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences students who gain valuable leadership skills in a multidisciplinary, multicultural community as Knight-Hennessy Scholars(KHS).

KHS admits up to 100 select applicants each year from across Stanford’s seven graduate schools, and delivers engaging experiences that prepare them to be visionary, courageous, and collaborative leaders ready to address complex global challenges. As a scholar, you join a distinguished cohort, participate in up to three years of leadership programming, and receive full funding for up to three years of your PhD studies at Stanford.

Candidates of any country may apply. KHS applicants must have earned their first undergraduate degree within the last seven years, and must apply to both a Stanford graduate program and to KHS. Stanford PhD students may also apply to KHS during their first year of PhD enrollment.

If you aspire to be a leader in your field, we invite you to apply. The KHS application deadline is October 11, 2023. Learn more about KHS admission.