Most undergraduate students balk at the 1,680,000+ hits that result from typing “art history graduate programs” into their internet search bar. Moving into the next stage of university education can be intimidating, but talking with people who have already been through the process can help. Two undergraduate student authors interviewed PhD students Rachel Carlisle and Ashley Lindeman for their experiences and advice.
Ashley and Rachel both agree that it is crucial to research professors’ scholarship and courses before selecting a program; the department must be a good fit for the student’s academic interests. Additionally, every university has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Important factors to consider include distance from home, funding, size, and degree requirements. For Ashley, the support system provided by Florida State University’s Department of Art History professors was key, while Rachel focused more on how FSU fit into her personal and professional life.
The next step is crafting an impressive application. Committees tend to focus on academic engagement, both inside and outside of the classroom, writing samples, and letters of recommendation. Therefore, internships and extra-curricular activities, becoming familiar with the correct way to write as an art historian, and developing relationships with professors and supervisors are critical. Departments are looking for students that will give a lot back to the program, both on paper and in person. Above all, Rachel and Ashley encourage applicants to reach out to professors and graduate students for help and advice, and remind them that this is often the first step in building the kind of relationship that results in academic improvement and good recommendations.