Special Update in light of the COVID-19 pandemic:

The Department of Anthropology plans to complete a normal doctoral admissions process in 2020-1.  There has been no change to graduate student funding levels or the standard admission process or the December 1 deadline for applications.  The University of Chicago is adhering to all public health protocols and these are likely to change alongside the status of the pandemic.  You can get updated information about the University of Chicago COVID-19 response here:  https://coronavirusupdates.uchicago.edu. 

As you prepare your application materials, please also know that the Department of Anthropology no longer requires GRE scores as part of the application process.

Admissions Process

Each year the Department receives more than 200 applications, and less than 10% of those are admitted. The Candidate Statement is a very important part of the application. In evaluating candidates, faculty are interested in a candidate statement that clearly and specifically describes: (1) the candidate’s topics of research interest (as pertains to a future dissertation project), (2) what has brought you to those specific research interests (e.g., intellectually, personally, etc.), and (3) why the University of Chicago’s Department of Anthropology is a good fit for you to pursue your dissertation work. The candidate statement must be limited to 2,500 words. Letters of reference should come from people who are familiar with those aspects of the applicant’s background, broadly defined, that are relevant to graduate study in anthropology. GRE scores are not required for application and are not part of the department’s evaluation process.

All applications are considered together in the admissions competition rather than on a rolling basis. Admissions are handled by a committee of faculty members, which solicits readings from multiple relevant faculty for every application. Faculty read and evaluate candidate applications independently of each other. Admission, thus, is done collectively—rather than students being “picked” to work with particular faculty—based on general enthusiasm from a range of readers. As such, all faculty are taking on student advising and therefore applicants need not contact faculty directly before applying (e.g., to inquire if they are taking students or interested in their specific application).

The Department welcomes applications from a variety of academic backgrounds; previous study of anthropology is not required. A writing sample is requested of all applicants, demonstrating the ability to write clearly and make a cogent argument. It is preferred that it be 6,000 words or fewer, not inclusive of bibliographic references. Writing samples may be a research paper, an excerpt from a bachelor’s or master’s thesis, or an essay exam.

Applicants may address general questions to Anne Ch’ien, Administrator for the Graduate Program, 773-702-8551; amchien@uchicago.edu


Apply Online


This year’s application due date is December 1.

Our application process is now entirely online (paperless).  All supporting materialincluding letters of recommendation, transcripts, and writing samplesmust be submitted electronically through the online application.

Special Note: While the Anthropology Department offers an M.A, degree on the way to the Ph.D., its central focus is on training Ph.D. students. Students not yet ready to make a commitment to the Anthropology Ph.D. may explore several more specialized M.A. programs, which allow one to take courses across the social sciences, strengthening a future application to a Chicago Ph.D. program. For example, see the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences.