Admissions FAQ

Graduate course


Should I apply for admission to the Medieval Institute for a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies or to a department that permits me to focus my fields of study around the Middle Ages?

Our program begins from two related convictions: that our understanding of the past is strengthened by crossing disciplinary boundaries; and that any deep investigation of medieval culture should take seriously the material evidence of the past, especially in the form of manuscripts. At Notre Dame, graduate students in both the Medieval Institute and traditional departments have access to the same courses and the same professors, and the Medieval Institute study spaces and library are available for all campus medievalists.

Master’s and Ph.D. students in other programs may also earn the Medieval Institute’s Graduate Minors in Medieval Studies and Byzantine Studies; however, specific program requirements differ. Medieval Institute students graduate with a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies, but most of our graduates get jobs in departments such as History, English, or Philosophy (since there are very few departments of Medieval Studies). Ideally, a dissertation in the Medieval Institute will incorporate texts and methodologies from various disciplines, while at the same time preparing a student for a career in a specific field or academic discipline.

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Do you offer a terminal master’s degree?

No.

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Do you have a special policy for international students?

No. International students are considered in the same pool as U.S. students, and they receive the same funding package.

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What is your funding package?

All of our students receive a tuition scholarship and a stipend to provide for living expenses. The base stipend for students entering in 2021 is $25,000. Some students may be awarded premier fellowships from the Graduate School. These fellowship are offered on a competitive basis and provide an increased stipend and other benefits. More information can be found on the Graduate School website

Funding may also be available for a sixth year to students who have made satisfactory progress. The Medieval Institute encourages its students to seek outside fellowships for financial support and for study or archival research abroad.

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Do I need to have been a Medieval Studies major in college?

No, but your undergraduate program should demonstrate a strong background in course work and/or written research related to the Middle Ages.

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What should I put in my statement of intent?

The Statement of Intent must be written in English and should be no longer than 1000 words. It should address the following topics:

  • your prior experience that has prepared you to pursue a PhD in Medieval Studies
  • your intended trajectory within the MI’s PhD program and your career goals beyond
  • the factors that attract you especially to Notre Dame, including the faculty with whom you intend to work as well as resources, partnered units, and opportunities at Notre Dame

Your description of prior experience should not stray towards the personal, but should rather be a statement of academic and/or professional experience, focusing on opportunities you have had to do independent work or research beyond regular coursework. It should also outline your training in languages, especially the medieval language (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, or Arabic) relevant to your proposed research area.

Your proposed trajectory should clearly indicate your intended discipline and subfield (e.g. English: Late Medieval Devotional Literature; Theology: Byzantine Liturgy). It should also clarify how you envision taking an interdisciplinary approach to your research interests, since interdisciplinarity is an important component of the MI’s identity. Finally, it should outline your career goals and explain how a Ph.D. will help you attain them.

The Graduate Committee considers carefully whether Notre Dame can support an applicant’s professional development. Your statement should identify several Institute faculty fellows who could provide mentorship in areas related to your research interests and professional goals. Note that all Faculty Fellows may serve on dissertation committees, but not all are available to direct dissertations (select "Available to direct dissertations” under "Advising" to find those who are). You may also consider identifying the institutional resources, training and development opportunities, or aspects of the Ph.D. program that will particularly help you achieve your goals.

If there have been any significant gaps or setbacks in your academic record that you think we should be aware of, you may explain these in your statement.

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I already have an M.A. Will I get credit for this?

All students must complete our requirements for the M.M.S. (Master of Medieval Studies), even if they enter with a master’s degree from elsewhere. With the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies and of the Graduate School, it may be possible to transfer credit for appropriate graduate-level courses from another university.

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Do I need an M.A. to apply?

No. Some students enter our program with just a B.A. However, we have found that it is often a considerable advantage to enter our program after completing an M.A. elsewhere. Although we require that you complete the work for another master’s degree at Notre Dame, your previous experience with graduate-level course work and the extra time for language training can be very helpful for success in our program.

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I have applied before; do I need to complete the entire application again?

Yes, all application material, both electronic and paper, must be resubmitted with the new application, and a fee is required for each individual application. GRE scores are valid for five years, so you can resubmit the scores without taking the test again, if you are reapplying within that timeframe.

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Can I come to visit the campus?

Yes. You are welcome to visit the Notre Dame campus at any time during the academic term, but this is not required. Please be sure to make appointments in advance with the Director of Graduate Studies and with individual professors (see our list of Faculty Fellows and Affiliated Faculty) whose work is of interest to you. Note that all Faculty Fellows may serve on dissertation committees but not all are available to direct dissertations (select "Available to direct dissertations” under "Advising" on the Faculty Fellows page to find those who are).

Keep in mind that if you are a finalist for admission, we will invite you to campus for a prospective student visit (at our expense) to acquaint you with our program, campus, and faculty.

PLEASE NOTE: During the coronavirus pandemic, current visitors are not allowed on campus without an approved invitation. Learn more about the current policy on visitors

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What should I send for a writing sample?

Send your most polished piece of scholarly writing, ideally a research paper (or part of a research paper) based on analysis of primary sources in their original language. Although we prefer writing on a medieval topic, this is not necessary. The writing sample should demonstrate (a) the ability to interpret primary sources in their original language, (b) the ability to cite and assess relevant scholarship, in appropriate places and ways, in order to (c) articulate an argument that is clearly expressed and supported.

Although we prefer writing on a medieval topic, this is not necessary. If your topic is not medieval, it should reflect scholarship in your primary field of interest (history, English, philosophy, etc.). Samples should be no more than 15 pages long, double-spaced, not counting notes and bibliography. If you are sending part of a longer paper, please include an abstract or a table of contents for the longer work. Written work should be in English.

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