Tips for Application

The questions below are compiled to provide detailed information designed to assist with inquiries regarding the application process. Please read them carefully.

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Am I qualified to apply for the MA or PhD in African Cultural Studies?

Admission to the MA graduate program requires a Bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) 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.

Admission to the PhD graduate program requires an MA in a closely related field (with the thesis or another substantive piece of graduate-level writing submitted as a writing sample).

If you are unsure which program to apply to, you may reach out to for guidance. Please do not apply to both the MA and PhD.

You should also consult the Graduate School’s requirements for admission.

I am unsure if I should apply to the MA or PhD. Should I apply to both?

No, please do not apply to both the MA and PhD. Instead, please read the question titled “Am I qualified to apply for the MA or PhD in African Cultural Studies?” You may also contact for help and clarification.


Do I need a supervising advisor/faculty member to agree to work with me before I apply?

No. However, it is very important that you review our faculty bios to ensure we have sufficient faculty to support your research interests. If you wish to clarify a faculty member’s interest areas to determine fit, please do reach out to them by email. Just know that we do not look for faculty endorsement during the application review process.

If you do email a faculty member or the Graduate Coordinator, please do not include transcripts or supporting documents unless they are requested.


What should I include in my Purpose Statement?

Your Purpose Statement should 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. We look for evidence of your developing research interests and how they relate to the research interests of our faculty.

We recommend a length of 500-1000 words.

More details about the application requirements are found here.

Should I include my transcript(s) or any other supporting documents when emailing faculty?

No. A faculty member or the Graduate Coordinator may request information later on, but please do not send along any transcripts or supporting documents in any initial email to the department.

Can I submit unofficial transcripts with my application?

Yes. You will only be asked for official transcripts if you are offered admission.

You may also consult the Graduate School’s requirements for admission. Scroll down to “Transcripts.”

Do I need to submit a TOEFL score or other proof of English proficiency?

Please consult the Graduate School’s requirements for admission. Scroll down to “English proficiency.”

Do you provide funding or scholarships?

Any applicant – including international students – offered admission is automatically offered 5 years of funding, usually in the form of Teaching Assistant positions for language or literature/culture courses. These appointments include tuition remission, stipend, and health insurance benefits.

More details can be found here.

Do you provide application fee waivers?

Yes and No.

We are able to offer fee waivers to US citizens who are members of under-represented communities and first generation college students. These waivers originate with the Advanced Opportunity Fund (AOF) and applicants are automatically considered according to a number of factors asked about during the application process.

Unfortunately, we are unable to support the number of application fee waiver requests we receive from our international applicants.

Who should I email if I have questions?

Please direct all questions about the application process to

You may have questions specific to a faculty member’s area of expertise and in that case, please do reach out to that person directly.

Please do not email the same question to more than one person.