Prospective Graduate Student Information

How to Apply: Admissions Requirements and FAQs

For an overview of our program, please read our Program Overview and Prospective Student Brochure (PDF).

What is the deadline for applications to your PhD and MA program?

December 15. No late applications are accepted.

How do I apply?

Applicants complete three sets of materials:

  1. Graduate Division application form
  2. Supporting documents required by Grad Division
  3. Supporting materials required by the History Department

In addition, all applicants must complete our express information form.

Where can I find the application form?

Applicants apply through the University of Hawai’i Graduate Division. Please visit the Graduate Division Admissions page to get started.

For the link to the Online Application and Supplemental Documents Upload Website, go to:

What supporting documents are required?

Graduate Division requires the following:

  • Application fee
  • One copy each of your academic transcripts
  • TOEFL Scores (for international applicants) [See below for more on the TOEFL requirement]
  • Other documentation stipulated by Graduate Division (see here)

In addition, the History Department requires the following:

  • Statement of Objectives
  • Writing Sample
  • Letters of Recommendation* (2 for M.A. Program; 3 for Ph.D. Program)

[NOTE: Applicants to the M.A. Program must submit an additional letter of recommendation, for a total of three (3) letters of recommendation, if they are applying for a History Graduate Assistantship.]

The items above are submitted via the Grad Division supplemental documents site
In addition, please complete the Express Information Form

Do you require the GRE?

No. The History Department no longer requires GRE scores.

Can you waive the application fee?

No, unfortunately, we cannot waive the application fee for any applicant. This is a policy of the university, not of the History Department. The fee is required by UH Manoa Graduate Division. For requests for a fee waiver due to financial hardship, you can inquire with UH Manoa Grad Division at, but your request is not likely to be granted.

Are materials accepted after the deadline?

Letters of recommendation sent directly by letter writers may be accepted, but the applicant must ensure that all materials within their control are submitted by the deadline.

Do you offer Spring admissions?

No, we do not read applications in the Fall for admission in the Spring.  M.A. and PhD applicants submit their applications by December 15 for matriculation in the Fall semester of the following year.

How do I submit letters of reference?

Since letters of reference are supposed to be confidential, we ask that your referees upload their letters directly to the Grad Division supplemental documents site. You will be able to list your referees’ names and contact information and have a direct link sent to letter writers when you complete and submit your application via the Grad Division website.

For PhD program applicants, three letters are required.

For M.A. program applicants, two letters are required, unless you are applying for a Graduate Assistantship, in which case, you will need a third letter.

Your referees should specifically address your preparedness and suitability for advanced study and research in the field of History.

What is the Statement of Objectives? How long should it be?

The admissions committee reads your statement of objectives very closely. Among other things, it helps us determine if your research interests are a good fit for the program, and whether our faculty and their areas of expertise can offer sufficient guidance for your graduate studies. To this end, your statement of objectives should be well constructed and specific.

Our prospective student brochure (PDF) provides a summary on page 6 of the points you should cover in your statement — essentially, 1) why you wish to pursue graduate study in history, 2) why our department and with whom you wish to work, 3) what field and/or topic you wish to study, and 4) your preparation for such study.

The History Department does not stipulate a word limit, but we normally recommend something on the order of one to three pages double-spaced (300 – 750 words) for M.A. applicants and three to five pages double-spaced (750- 1250 words) for PhD applicants. The ideal statement will be as long as necessary to make a persuasive case, while also demonstrating your ability to be concise.

For tips on writing a Statement of Objectives, see “Helpful guidance from the American Historical Association,” below.

What are you looking for in the Writing Sample?

The writing sample is a very important part of your application. It demonstrates to the admission committee that you are a capable writer, and that you have sufficient background in historical analysis and research, including using original historical sources. Typically students will send a writing sample that shows their most accomplished or well-developed writing, for example an undergraduate capstone research project, a graduate seminar paper, or a chapter from an MA thesis. For students who were not History majors or who have an MA in a non-History field, if possible we recommend selecting a writing sample that showcases your preparedness to conduct historical research and writing in the future. We do not specify length, but 20-35 pages is typical.

What are the minimum requirements for admission?

  1. Applicants seeking admission to a graduate program at UH Mānoa must have earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program at an accredited U.S. college or university, or must have earned the equivalent of a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree at a reputable foreign institution.
  2. Applicants must provide evidence of a strong academic record, including a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better or the equivalent in other grading systems during the last four semesters or six quarters of their undergraduate work and in all post-baccalaureate work. Students with a slightly lower undergraduate grade point average may on rare occasions be approved for admission to the M.A. program, but those with a GPA below 2.7 will be rejected. No such marginal applicants will be admitted to the Ph.D. program.

Do I need to demonstrate English-language proficiency?

Yes. Graduate Division requires most applicants whose native language is not English to demonstrate English language proficiency through the TOEFL (including TOEFL iBT Home Edition exams), IELTS (including IELTS Online), and IELTS Indicator. (NOTE: the IELTS Indicator will NOT be accepted beyond Spring 2023 semester of admissions).

Visit this Grad Division webpage regarding required minimum scores

For further questions regarding English language proficiency requirements, please contact Graduate Division directly at

Should I contact UH Mānoa History faculty prior to applying?

YES. It is always a good idea to contact the faculty with whom you plan to work to confirm that they have the expertise and willingness to supervise your program of study and research. For contact information, please see our faculty list.

Do you require training in a research or reading language?

Students seeking the M.A. degree must demonstrate research-level competency in one (1) language (other than English) that is relevant to their field of study.

PhD students must demonstrate research-level competency in two (2) languages other than English that are relevant to their field of study.

Competency in this context means at least an intermediate reading-level, demonstrated by or equivalent to four semesters of university-level language instruction at a grade of B or better, sufficient to permit graduate seminar-level reading and research. Language competence can also be demonstrated via exam.

Students who enter the graduate program without having already completed sufficient language training must take coursework to meet this requirement. This may extend the time needed to complete the degree. However, there are funding sources available for students to conduct language training, particularly if students are US citizens or permanent residents. Some students opt to learn additional languages as it may increase research scope as well as funding options.

Do you offer dual degrees?

History offers dual degrees with the Library and Information Science Program and with the William S. Richardson School of Law. For more information, please visit the Grad Division Dual Degree webpage.

Prospective students are advised to seek funding assistance from both programs.

History does not offer joint degrees with other UH Mānoa programs, but some students choose to pursue overlapping or concomitant M.A. programs with other departments. Funding-wise, you may wish to make the program that can offer more financial support your “home” program.

Do you offer a M.A. en route to PhD option?

No. Applicants to the PhD program in History must have an M.A. in hand at the time of matriculation.

How do I pay for my graduate degree?

The cost of graduate study can be daunting. For estimated costs of attendance, see:

Applicants are invited to apply for a History Department Graduate Assistantship at the time of application for admission to the M.A. or PhD program.  

Please see our Financial Assistance page for information and application requirements for Graduate Assistantship in History. The GAship application deadline is the same as our admission deadline: December 15.

For other forms of funding at UH Mānoa, including fellowships, grants, campus employment, and Graduate Assistantships in other departments, see Graduate Division’s Financial Support page.

How long does the program take to complete?

Students in the M.A. program should aim to complete their coursework and thesis (M.A. Plan A) or exams (M.A. Plan B) within two years (four semesters). The Preliminary Conference is held in the first semester to lay out the required coursework specific to the student’s objectives. M.A. Plan A students should form a thesis committee and prepare their thesis proposal for approval by the end of their second semester.

PhD students should complete their coursework within the first two years. In the third year, they are expected to prepare their dissertation prospectus for approval by their committee and study for and successfully complete their comprehensive exams. Once students advance to candidacy (ABD), they often leave for fieldwork or archival research and should aim to complete their research and writing within the following three to four years.

NOTE that if you need to complete further coursework to complete the non-English / second-language requirement(s), the program may take more time.

For time to degree limits in the M.A. and PhD programs, see the Grad Division website:

Helpful guidance from the American Historical Association

If you have not already done so, we highly recommend that you consult the American Historical Association’s guide to applying to History graduate programs, which explains the application process from beginning to end as well as other aspects of graduate study and academic life that you will find illuminating.

The American Historical Association is the premier professional association for historians in the United States and around the world. The organization encompasses research and careers in every historical era and geographical area. Membership is not required to access AHA resources.