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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a B.A. in Visual Studies or Art History to be considered for admission?
No. The admissions committee is interested in a proposed program of study that is supported by your previous coursework and experience, but there is no requirement for a B.A. in a particular field. 

Is financial aid available?
The program provides students with a minimum of five years of financial support in the form of teaching assistantships and/or fellowships. Typically, sixth year students have also received teaching assistantships when requested. Teaching assistant appointments cover tuition, fees and GSHIP health insurance. Additional funding information can be found on the Division of Graduate Studies website.

How long will it take to earn the degree?
The program is designed for completion in six years, though time-to-graduation will necessarily vary. The six-year time period is an estimate of the time it takes to successfully complete all the program requirements and take all courses in sequence. 

Does the program admit students for an M.A. in Visual Studies?
No. While our Ph.D. students earn a non-terminal M.A. in the course of their studies, we only admit students who intend to earn a Ph.D.

Do you offer January Admission?
No. All students begin in the fall quarter.

What are the key admissions criteria?
We look for students who are highly motivated, independent and who articulate in their statements of purpose a coherent and focused course of study that fits with the expertise of our faculty. We expect applicants to have demonstrated skills in research and writing. 

What should my statement of purpose include?
Your statement of purpose should describe your intended course of study at graduate school, explaining what you wish to accomplish and how your prior schooling, work experience or background has prepared you to begin. Include any information that may aid the admissions committee in evaluating your preparation and qualifications for graduate study. The statement of purpose is typically 2-5 pages long, single or double-spaced.

What should my statement of personal history include?
This statement will be used in conjunction with your application for graduate admission and financial support.  In this essay, discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. UC Santa Cruz is interested in serving a diverse and inclusive graduate population. Please include any educational, family, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how you might contribute to social or cultural diversity within your chosen field; and/or how you might serve educationally under-represented segments of society with your degree. Please note that the Personal History Statement should not duplicate the Statement of Purpose. Recommended length is a concise 1-3 pages, single or double-spaced.

What kind of writing sample is required?
The writing sample you send should be the piece of research that best illustrates your scholarly abilities. It would be ideal if it is on a topic related to what you hope to pursue at graduate school. It should not exceed 20 pages, double-spaced, with 12 point font. Images may be included in addition to the twenty pages of text, but you will still need to reduce the overall file size so it can be uploaded (2MB limit). To keep within this size limit, you may want to save your images at a lower resolution.

The online application states that Letters of Recommendation must be submitted online. Can my Letter of Recommendation be sent in a hard copy?
We do not accept hard copies of letters of recommendation. Some schools have letter services, as we do, and we will accept letters sent via a letter service. There are also private letter services, such as Interfolio, that will keep recommendation letters on file and send them out to schools at the applicant's request.

Are there minimum GPA or GRE scores for admission?
We have no published minimum scores. The GRE general test scores are not required to apply to the PhD program.

Can the program be completed online with out-of-state residency or part time?

Who needs to take the TOEFL or IELTS exam?
Applicants from countries where English is not the primary language must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum score of 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, 220 on the computer-based test, or 83 on the internet-based test, is required for admission. Any international students who wish to be considered for Teaching Assistant opportunities must score a 26 or higher on the Spoken Word portion of the internet-based test. 

For those choosing to take the IELTS, a minimum overall score of 7 from the IELTS test is required for admission. A speaking portion score of 8 from the IELTS test is required for all new international students who may serve as a Teaching Assistant at any time during their graduate career. 

Please find information about language waiver requests here.

I am an international student who received a B.A./M.A. degree in the United States. Do I need to take the TOEFL?
For this program, an applicant may be eligible to waive the TOEFL exam if the applicant has a B.A. or an M.A. from an accredited U.S. institution. Preliminary approval for eligibility lies with the graduate committee, and final approval for the waiving procedure lies with the Admissions Committee once an applicant accepts an offer.

Do you accept transfer students?
Everyone must apply via the regular application process. Students previously enrolled in a visual studies graduate program may be able to waive some of the program requirements. 

Where Do Visual Studies graduates find work?
Visual studies graduate programs in the U.S. have historically placed their graduates in museum curatorial departments and in university departments and programs of visual studies, art history, media studies, communications, film and women’s studies. Please visit our Alumni News page for information about our graduates.