In response to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of South Asia Studies at the University of Pennsylvania will not be accepting appliations for doctoral study commencing in fall 2021.
The Department will, however, be accepting MA applications for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
All applicants must apply online, using Penn's Apply Yourself system. Instructions, forms, and a link to the online application are located at the Penn Arts and Sciences website or follow this direct link to the online application.
The application deadline is December 15th for admission in the fall semester of the following year. New students must ensure that their complete applications -- including transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and any supporting materials -- arrive by this date in order to be considered.
The application fee is $90.00. Payments must be made by credit card, check, or international postal money order written in U.S. currency and made payable to the "Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania". If you need to request an application fee waiver there is a place on the application to do this.
PLEASE DO NOT MAIL APPLICATION MATERIALS TO THE SOUTH ASIA STUDIES DEPARTMENT.
The Graduate Group in South Asia Studies requires the following materials as part of the applications. Each is discussed in more detail below.
- Academic transcripts of undergraduate courses and grades, and any previous graduate work
- GRE score for all applicants, this is the general test of the Graduate Record Exam
- TOEFL score for non-native speakers of English only, the Test of English as a Foreign Language
- Personal statement of your academic goals
- Recommendations from at least three professors or others familiar with your academic abilities
- Writing Sample 35 pages or less of your original work (this can be a portion of a larger work)
The same application is used by applicants from either the U.S. or abroad. An admissions committee within the Graduate Group makes decisions regarding admission, with the approval of the Graduate Dean.
Transcripts should be uploaded online to the application. Only if you are accepted in the SAST graduate program will you need to mail an official transcript directly to the department.*
After a year in the program, students in the PhD program may be eligible to transfer up to eight semester credits completed prior to admission. MA students may be eligible to transfer up to 4 credits. All courses to be considered for transfer credit must be graduate level courses taken outside of an undergraduate program. Approval will be at the discretion of the Graduate Group.
We accept any valid set of scores for the general test of the GRE , as long as the test was taken no more than five years before the date the application is completed. This includes both the computer-based test and the paper-based test. For more information on taking the GRE, testing dates and locations, score reporting, and frequently asked questions, visit http://www.gre.org/ .
The GRE is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), telephone 609-921-9000. All scores must be officially submitted to the Graduate Division by the testing agency. The codes that you will need to know are University of Pennsylvania: 2926
Your chances for admittance will be much better if you score at least 700, or roughly 166 on the new exams, on the verbal and (especially) the quantitative sections of the test; if you score lower than 600 on either section, your chances for admission to the SAST graduate program are less. The verbal scores of non-native speakers are judged somewhat differently from those of native speakers, but the quantitative scores are not.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is required for non-native speakers of English. For details, see http://www.toefl.org. Anyone who has received a bachelor's degree or higher from an American university is exempt from this requirement.
The TOEFL is administered by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) , telephone 609-921-9000. All scores must be officially submitted to the Graduate Division by the testing agency. The codes that you will need to know are University of Pennsylvania: 2926
Applicants are expected to have a score of at least 600 on the paper-based test (PBT), or 250 on the computer-based test (CBT) or the newer internet-based test (IBT). All these versions of the test are accepted, subject to the two-year limit.
Your personal statement is an important part of your application. The admissions committee looks not only at the general background and qualifications of the applicants, but also at the fit between your specific goals and interests, and the kind of research conducted by the members of the graduate group.
The most successful statement will demonstrate that you understand the kinds of work conducted by members of the faculty with interests related to yours, and why Penn is a particularly appropriate place for you to study. To this end, you may find it useful to consult the faculty research page to determine any overlapping research interests that you may have.
You should be clear about your goals; it is acceptable to have wide interests or not to be entirely focused yet, but you should show that you understand what it means to pursue advanced study in the areas of interest that you identify. Personal anecdotes about how you got interested in South Asia, or childhood experiences with any of the languages or culture, do not generally contribute to the effectiveness of the statement.
The personal statement is the place to describe your past training and work in related areas. We welcome applications from those with limited formal training in the field, but in such cases it is especially important to demonstrate your understanding of what graduate work in South Asia Studies will entail, and to emphasize aspects of your educational background that will contribute to your success.
Note that applicants are not expected to work out arrangements with individual faculty members before applying. The application is made to the graduate group as a whole, and students who matriculate in the program are assigned appropriate advisors after they arrive. Nevertheless, it is entirely sensible to identify how your research interests relate to those of the faculty at Penn.
You will need letters of recommendation from at least three professors or others who are qualified to comment on your academic ability and background. The most effective letters come from those who have worked with you closely, especially on independent research, and who are familiar enough with the field of South Asia Studies to understand what abilities are most relevant.
When you include the email addresses of your recommenders in the online application, each will automatically receive an email with an attached recommendation form. This email will allow the recommender to submit a letter electronically. Once the recommender submits the letter, it will be attached to the online application.
A writing sample, such as a substantial term paper or thesis from previous undergraduate or graduate work, is required. Your writing sample should be no more than 35 pages and can be a section taken from a larger work of yours. This document should be uploaded directly to your online application.
Please visit the Fellowships and Funding page for information for Master's and PhD students.
Students who have applied by the December 15th deadline will normally be notified of our decision by March 15th.
The School of Arts and Sciences allows candidates to defer admission for up to one year.
*The application and all materials submitted to the Admission Office become the property of the University of Pennsylvania and cannot be returned under any circumstances.