Admission to the graduate program in Religious Studies at UT-Austin is highly competitive. Only highly qualified applicants whose records indicate considerable academic potential are admitted to the program. A prior degree in Religious Studies (B.A. or M.A.) is not required to apply to the program. Some of the students we admit will already have extensive training in Religious Studies, either at the undergraduate or graduate level; others have majored in related disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, classics, literature, art history, philosophy, government or area studies such as American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies, or Asian Studies. In general, prior study at the undergraduate or graduate level on topics within the applicant's area of concentration (regardless of specific degree) is preferred.
Foreign language skills are highly valued in the field of Religious Studies; successful applicants generally have a working knowledge of at least one language necessary for his or her specialization. For more information on language proficiency requirements, please see the relevant Areas of Concentration to which you plan to apply.
All students must have earned a bachelor's degree prior to registration. In addition, note that:
- We admit students for the fall semester only.
- We only accept full-time students.
- We offer the M.A. as the first step toward completion of the Ph.D.; we do not offer a terminal M.A. degree.
Our department has strengths in historical and cultural approaches to religion, particularly in textual studies, material culture, social history, ethnography, and anthropology of religion. We do not offer courses in professional ministry or constructive theology; applicants interested in these areas might consider the excellent programs offered through the local seminaries in Austin: Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary; Seminary of the Southwest; Austin Graduate School of Theology.
Before You Apply
Every graduate program is different and has its own set of strengths, emphases, and intellectual approaches. Some highly qualified applicants may not find our program to be the best fit for their particular academic interests. We encourage potential applicants to familiarize themselves with our program and identify specific faculty members with whom they might work. Contact them directly to explore how your interests might fit together.
The Department of Religious Studies has reinstated the GRE requirement for the 23-24 admissions cycle (Fall 2024 entry).
Applicants will apply to one of the four areas of concentration. Please view each area of concentration for language requirements specific to that area. Applications are carefully reviewed and ranked by the faculty of the selected area.
In general, the following factors are considered when evaluating an applicant. (Not listed in order of importance.)
- Language preparation appropriate to student's area of concentration
- Previously taken basic courses in the field and in related historical and/or cultural environment
- Grades and course selection at previous institution(s)
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Writing sample (both for content and style)
- Match between interests of student and strengths of current faculty in the field
- GRE scores for all applicants and TOEFL scores for applicants whose native language is not English.
PLEASE NOTE: GRE scores will be required for Fall 2024 admission.
The department is looking for applicants whose letters of recommendation, academic profile, and writing sample indicate a capacity for sustained, sophisticated, and original scholarly activity. It seeks to encourage a stimulating learning environment and a vigorous exchange of ideas by admitting a student body that is intellectually and socially diverse.
Application deadline is January 5th, 2024.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit their materials well in advance of the deadline. Late applications will not be considered.
Typically, PhD students receive five years of funding when admitted to the Religious Studies program. This funding usually comes in the form of assistantships and/or fellowships, and it normally covers the cost of 9 hours of tuition and student health insurance in addition to a substantial stipend for living expenses. Each applicant is automatically considered for all applicable funding available through our department and the University. We expect to give most students multi-year award packages. Funding offers are made along with offers of admission. No separate application for funding is required.
While admitted students are offered a five-year package, continued funding past the first year is contingent upon satisfactory progress in the program, as defined by the terms of the Religious Studies Graduate Student Handbook, the Graduate School, and other communications from the Religious Studies Department.
All application materials must be submitted by December 15, 2023. Applying to the Graduate Program in Religious Studies involves the following steps:
1) Texas Common Application, available at the ApplyTexas website. This includes:
- Electronic application for admission
- Three letters of recommendation: Complete the "Reference" section of the ApplyTexas application. Enter each recommender's name, valid e-mail address, and title. After you submit your application and it loads on our system, an email will be sent to your recommenders to complete their recommendations online.
Requests for references and other admissions materials can be monitored on the Application Status Check website. This site also allows you to resend a Request for Reference e-mail to your recommenders, add a new recommender, and revise your FERPA (right to view) status from retained to waived. If you have any questions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Statement of Purpose: This provides you with the opportunity to introduce your intellectual interests to us. We would like to know about your past academic work and the topics and problems you wish to investigate in graduate school. We want to see that you write well and think clearly, and that your interests are a good fit for our department. A statement of one to two pages in length (approximately 700 words) is considered normal.
- Application fee: (U.S. - $65; non-U.S. - $90).
2) Supporting documents - Writing Sample & CV/Resume. After you submit your application and it loads on our system, you can upload your supporting documents through the Application Status Check website.
- Writing Sample: The writing sample must be an academic study, preferably a Masters Thesis or undergraduate Senior Thesis, which demonstrates the applicants’ expertise in a subject area. There are no restrictions or specifications on the topic of your writing sample, but the sample should reflect favorably on your writing and analytical skills and demonstrate the intellectual capacity to do excellent scholarly work. The sample must be between 25 to 35 pages in length.
- CV or resume
3) Transcripts. You must provide one copy of the academic transcript from every senior college you have attended. You may upload a copy of your transcript(s) after you have submitted your application for admission and paid the application fee. After you have submitted your application you will receive an email that contains a link to the Status Check web site where you will be able to upload your transcript. The uploaded transcript(s) is considered to be unofficial but will be used to process your application for admission. Please do not mail official transcripts or paper copies of your transcripts before you are offered admission. Sending paper copies of documents you have uploaded will significantly delay the processing of your application.
4) Report of GRE scores and (if applicable) official report of TOEFL scores. (More on test scores.)
- The Educational Testing Service (ETS) code for the University of Texas at Austin is 6882.
Be sure to provide an e-mail address that will be active until the end of April. If you change e-mail addresses, please contact the Graduate Coordinator to have your records updated.
Give your recommenders plenty of lead time when requesting letters of recommendation. You must submit the online application before your recommenders can get the e-mail directing them to the online submission of letters of recommendation.
Incomplete applications are unlikely to be reviewed. Check the Application Status Check website to verify receipt of application materials.
Admissions decisions are released in late February or early March. As soon as a decision is reached, it will appear on the Application Status Check.
Still have questions? E-mail the Graduate Coordinator for help and clarification.
January 5, 2024