How to Apply to the PhD Program

For admission in Fall 2022, all application materials must be received by GSAS by December 16, 2021. Late applications will not be accepted. We do not offer spring admission. The online application along with additional admissions information are available on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Admissions webpage.

All applicants must declare their intended field of specialization on the application under the heading "Subfield." The applicant must indicate one of these fields in the application:

  • Ancient Art History: West Asian (Near Eastern), Greek, Roman
  • Art and Architecture of Africa and the African Diaspora
  • Art and Architecture of the Americas until 1550 (“Pre-Columbian”)
  • Arts and Architecture of the Lands of Islam
  • East Asian Art and Archaeology
  • History of Architecture
  • Native North American Art
  • South Asian Art

If applying to History of Western Art, applicant must select one of the following five subfields:

  • Early Christian, Byzantine and Western Medieval Art and Architecture
  • Europe 1700-1900
  • Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture
  • U.S. American Art to 1945
  • 20th- and 21st-century Art (including American Art, post 1945)

For admission to all graduate programs, the prerequisite is a minimum of 4 courses in art history or closely related studies (e.g., archaeology, architectural history, art-historical anthropology). An undergraduate major in art history is not a requirement. It is also advised that students have prior knowledge of at least one foreign language at the time of application. Applicants to the PhD program are encouraged to contact faculty in their proposed field of study. A good time to do this is the fall semester.

Application Information

A complete application includes the following information:

NOTE: If you have problems with the online application portal please contact GSAS Admission for assistance.


You should upload a transcript or record (e.g. web-based transcripts, mark sheets, relevé de notes) of any academic work from each university-level institution you have attended for use in review of your application. Uploading a scanned copy of your transcript or academic record will expedite processing and review of your application. However, applicants should not send official paper transcripts. If you receive an offer of admission, you will be required to send official paper documents for verification before the offer is considered official. Do not send official transcripts before being notified by GSAS.

Study abroad undertaken as part of your undergraduate work does not require uploading of a separate transcript, provided that both courses and grades are recorded on the main transcript.

Transcripts that are in a language other than English must be translated into English. The translation must be certified to be an accurate translation of the original and be notarized or otherwise authenticated. Both non-English and translated transcripts should be uploaded.

Statement of Academic Purpose

The statement of academic purpose should be a succinct statement of approximately 2-3 pages (double spaced) describing your past academic work and preparation related to your intended field of study, your plans for graduate study at Columbia, and your subsequent career objectives. If you intend to transfer from a graduate program at another university, please explain why you wish to do so. If you are not currently attending an academic program, please describe your activities since you were last enrolled. If there has been a break in your educational experience, please include a brief explanation.


A CV is a type of résumé traditionally used to list academic accomplishments, awards and publications. The CV includes research and teaching, publications, presentations, and other education-related activities.

Three Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation should ideally be from professors and scholars who can speak to the applicant's abilities and suitability for graduate study at Columbia. Typically, letters come from art and architectural historians or archaeologists, professors who have taught or supervised the applicant in college or at the Masters level. A letter from an academic in another discipline, preferably the humanities, is also acceptable, as are letters from museum professionals. The referee ought to know the applicant well, know his or her work, and know what his or her goals are. The letters of reference are an important component of the application.

As a note, applicants should request letters of recommendation as early as possible. We urge you to verify that all of your letters have been submitted by the time you submit your application to avoid any delay in the review of your file. Admissions will notify you via email when a recommendation has been submitted for your file. You may submit your application even if all of your letters have not yet been received, but your file will not be considered fully complete until the letters have arrived. After submitting the application, you may monitor receipt of recommendations by viewing your Applicant Status page. You may not submit your application until you have designated the required number of recommenders.

GRE and TOEFL Scores

**For the Fall 2022 application cycle, the Department is waiving the GRE requirement.**

Applicants whose native language is not English and who have received an undergraduate degree from an institution in a country where the official language is not English, or who have received an undergraduate degree from a non-English speaking country and are now studying at the graduate level in the U.S. or another English-speaking country, must take the TOEFL  and need to score at least a 100 on the internet-based exam or the IELTS and score at least 7.5. For more information, please read the English Proficiency Requirements under Information for International Students on the GSAS Admissions webpage.

Note: Applicants who have studied for at least two years at a U.S. institution or at an institution in a country where the official language is English and earned the undergraduate (or bachelor’s) degree at that institution are not required to complete the English proficiency requirement.

International applicants should also visit the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) website for details regarding studying at the University, including visa and registration requirements.

The GRE and TOEFL code for the Graduate school is 2162. There is no department code.

Writing Sample

The writing sample is a very important component of the application. It should be an example of your best scholarly writing. Typically, the writing sample will be an undergraduate senior thesis, a seminar paper, or an article or other published work; it should be a critical or scholarly work in art history or a closely related field. Applicants with an MA in art history should submit their MA Thesis or similar sample of graduate-level work. Writing samples should be no more than 20 pages (essay and footnotes ONLY). If the MA Thesis is above 20 pages, then a selection should be taken from the thesis. Applicants should make sure to edit the submission so it reads as a complete essay.

Note:  Applicants can submit up 5 additional pages to include a bibliography and/or images ONLY.

Additional Information

All applications received by the deadline are reviewed by faculty over a period of several weeks in January. Final admissions decisions are communicated only by the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; decision letters from the Dean usually go out in late February or early March.

The Department offers advanced standing to any incoming PhD students, including those who have earned their MAs from Columbia, according to GSAS regulations.

We encourage all applicants to investigate and apply for non-Columbia funding.

Student inquiries about the application process should be directed to If you have additional questions specifically related to the department and our program, please email