African Cultural Studies

College of Letters & Science
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Applying for the Graduate Program

Before applying

Prospective graduate students should note that we are in the process of changing the name of all of our degree programs to "African Cultural Studies," to match the name of our department. Admitted students should expect that their degree will be in African Cultural Studies rather than African Languages and Literature.

Please also note that beginning in Fall 2017 until further notice, we will not be accepting applications for the MA with pedagogy focus.


Admission to the graduate program requires a bachelors degree with substantial coursework related to the expressive cultures of Africa. Admitted students with an insufficient background in African cultural studies may be asked to complete additional coursework beyond the regular degree requirements. Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 grading scale or equivalent academic performance on other scales. The Department will consider special cases, however, for probationary admission. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact the chair of the Admissions Committee, Dr. Samuel England <>.

Admission into the Ph.D. program requires an M.A. in a closely related field (with the thesis or another substantive piece of graduate-level writing submitted as a writing sample)

Application Requirements

All applicants to the program must apply online by 15 November.  Please note, the $75 application fee is due at the time of application (an additional $6 will be charged to international students to cover processing).  The Department cannot review an applicant who has not met all Graduate School admissions requirements. Carefully review the instructions and other information the Graduate School provides; most of the admissions questions we receive relate to the Graduate School's requirements and are answered in their documentation.

As part of the online application process, you will be asked supplemental questions regarding your language and teaching experience and expected to upload the information listed below:

  • University Transcripts

You must upload transcripts or academic records from each institution attended.  You may upload unofficial copies for department review.  If you are offered admission to the program, the Graduate School will request that you provide official copies of transcripts or academic records from each institution you have attended. These must be issued directly by the institutions with all official seals, stamps, and signatures. International academic records must be in the original languages and records in languages other than English accompanied by an official English translation. An accepted student may not matriculate or enroll for courses until the Graduate School has documented official transcript(s) matching or updating the application transcript(s).

  • TOEFL or IELTS Scores (international applicants)

If your undergraduate institution did not conduct courses in English, you must complete either the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS). The online application allows you to self-report scores, but we cannot consider your application until the Graduate School receives your official score report directly from the examination organization. Students who do not meet Graduate School guidelines for English proficiency may be considered for admission but will be required to complete assigned English language courses during their first year of study.

  • Purpose Statement

Your statement of purpose should make clear that you understand the kinds of courses we offer and the research interests of our faculty and substantiate how your own interests intersect with our faculty expertise. Give a detailed account of the reasons and circumstances that led to your decision to undertake graduate work in the Department of African Cultural Studies. Include references to your academic work, your short-term and long-term goals, your personal relationship to or interests in the fields we study, and your knowledge of any African languages. If your transcripts reflect any negative episodes in your academic career, e.g., a poor grade or a dropped course, you may explain them here.

If your primary interest is in our pedagogy track, please make that clear in your statement of purpose. Otherwise, we look for evidence of your developing research interests and how they relate to the research interests of our faculty.

The Department will make secondary use of your purpose statement to assess the style and substance of your writing. We recommend a length of 500-1000 words. The scope of your discussion and the level of detail that you choose to provide will be part of our assessment. You may wish to review resources such as the UW-Madison Writer's Handbook and the extensive Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) for writing guidance.

  • CV or Résumé

Curriculum vitae or résumé listing language experience, awards, honors, or publications.  For more information on CV or résumé writing, please consult these resources: 

Writing the Curriculum Vitae (Purdue Online Writing Lab) and Résumé Writing Tips (UW-Madison's Writing Center)

  • Letters of Recommendation (3)

We require three letters of recommendation, submitted directly by the referees. You must submit your requests to all three of your references as part of the online application. Recommenders will receive a notice via email and will submit their letters accordingly.  We do accept letters by post and email (see Application Contacts below). We do not accept letters sent by the candidate unless they are sealed and the seal is proofed in some form (e.g., with the letter writer’s signature over the seal).

Recommendation letters should discuss your overall scholarly ability. Please ask your referees to include specific examples of your academic achievements; your independent thinking, analytical and critical thinking skills; papers and presentations given in their courses; and your merits relative to other students. For international applicants, the letters should also address English proficiency. If recommenders submit their letters via the Graduate School's online application system, they will be asked to provide class rank information; if they do not submit their letters through this system, they should include this information in the letter itself.

Strong letters of recommendation will provide the Department with evidence that you will succeed in the study of African languages and expressive cultures at the graduate level. While we will accept letters from faculty in any discipline, we will give greater weight to letters from faculty whose scholarship is related to the fields we study.

All letters must be received by the 15 November deadline in order for us to consider your application.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines, along with other information about the Department's graduate program, are available here

After the Application

Following your application, the Graduate School will provide you with a link and a UW-Madison NetID and account. Use the information to track the progress of your application. Please keep in mind that materials sent by post may take some time to appear on this progress report.

The Department automatically considers all applicants for support through teaching assistantships and various UW-Madison fellowships. Eligibility varies by program. The process is very competitive, and we are unable to provide support for all students qualified to pursue degrees in our graduate program. However, the majority of our students to receive about five years of funding, mostly in the form of teaching assistantships. Many of our graduate students also pursue outside funding as their career progresses.

Application Contacts

Department Admissions Chair: Samuel England <>

Department Address:
Department of African Cultural Studies

1410 Van Hise Hall

1220 Linden Drive

Madison, WI 53706