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Prospective Graduate Students

Application process:

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 January 1st for admission in the fall semester of the following year. New students must ensure that their complete applications -- including transcripts, 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".  Application fee waiver inquiries and requests can be sent to

The GRE and the TOEFL are no longer required.


Required Materials:

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
  • 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.

Personal Statement

In the personal statement, all Ph.D. applications within the Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences should address the following:

Please describe how your background and academic experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and led you to apply to Penn. Your essay should detail your specific research interests and intellectual goals within your chosen field. Please provide information about your educational trajectory, intellectual curiosity and academic ambitions. If you have overcome adversity and/or experienced limited access to resources or opportunities in your field of study, please feel free to share how that has affected the course of your education. We are interested in your lived experiences and how your particular perspective might contribute to the inclusive and dynamic learning community that Penn values and strives to create.

Additional Guidance on the Personal Statement

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 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.

Supporting Materials

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.

Financial Aid

Please visit the Fellowships and Funding page for information for Master's and PhD students.


Students who have applied by the January 1st 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.