In the wake of the events of summer 2020 and in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, the faculty together with representatives of the graduate student community of the Department of Religious Studies commit ourselves to confronting and contesting racism, anti-Blackness, and the legacies of colonialism. Our goal is to interrogate how the study of religion, in its historical constitution and current practices, contributes to systems of inequity in structures of evaluation, curation of ideas, and mechanisms for the development of intellectual leaders. We strive to create a collaborative environment that supports and empowers all our members and that fosters debate on the ethical implications of intellectual engagement. And we seek to admit a diverse cohort of graduate students excited to join us in this collective labor.
In the years ahead, fulfilling this goal will involve recruiting new faculty and students to the department, and improving the internal culture of our community. For example, in academic year 2020-21, the Department revised its appointing partnerships with the Divinity school and other FAS units in service of more inclusive and transparent governance. In addition, the Department formed a committee involving equal numbers of doctoral students and faculty to establish mechanisms for improved mentoring relationships between students and faculty and support for students who pursue careers outside the academy.
The application for admission to the doctoral program is a formal space where the Department seeks to increase its transparency and encourage a wide range of applicants. The applications we receive inform how subfield distinctions shift and change. While the formal GSAS application asks candidates to apply to certain subfields, we encourage applicants to name in their statement any faculty members they hope to work with, regardless of their research area.
Here are the elements of doctoral applications:
Statement of Purpose
Statements of purpose describe a candidate’s reason for applying to graduate school. Such statements usually center descriptions of research interests, particularly the questions that animate their scholarly work. We welcome statements of purpose that indicate any career plans the applicant may have for after graduate school. Whether a student is primarily interested in an academic or a non-academic professional horizon, the statement should express why doctoral education in Religious Studies is the right next step for their research interests and training. Applicants often make reference to previous research experiences elsewhere, as well as specific skills whose development they imagine Yale faculty and university resources could support. Applicants should mention if there are particular faculty at Yale with whom they would like to work.
Writing sample (15-25 pages in length)
Writing samples are usually 15-25 pages in length, and are whole or partial works derived from previous course work. Sometimes students excerpt from a master’s thesis.
The doctoral program in Religious Studies admits students with only bachelor’s degrees as well as students with advanced degrees. The faculty reviewing applications review transcripts from previous institutions in order to see what relevant courses have been taken, and to assess language preparedness.
Confidential letters of recommendation
Applicants should request letters of reference from individuals who have had the chance to witness the applicant’s work as a researcher and learner. Such letters might be written by faculty appointed at colleges or universities, or they might come from other professional mentors.
The Department of Religious Studies no longer accepts GRE scores from applicants.
TOEFL or IELTS is required of most applicants whose native language is not English.
If you have received (or will receive) an undergraduate degree from a college or university where English is the primary language of instruction, and if you have studied in residence at that institution for at least three years, you are exempt from the English Language Test requirement and are not required to submit the TOEFL or IELTS.
No exemptions are made on the basis of an advanced degree (e.g. M.A./M.S. or Ph.D.) from any institution.
When you complete your application, you will answer questions about your native language and the primary language of instruction at your baccalaureate institution. If either was English, you will not be required to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores when you submit your application. No separate documentation is necessary.
Persons wishing to apply to the Ph.D. program in this Department can complete an online application by visiting https://gsas.yale.edu/admissions. All policies, procedures, instructions and answers to frequently asked questions as well as access to the application can be found at the website. Applications are due normally mid-December; decisions by the Graduate School are normally released by early March. Admitted applicants must indicate acceptance of Yale’s offer of admission by mid-April.
Department Selection Process
Every member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Religious Studies may review applications and nominate one candidate for consideration by a Department admissions committee that includes faculty from the Department, faculty from the Divinity School, and current students in the program. From this pool of nominees, the admissions committee is charged with selecting the most excellent students whose interests best align with the resources of our program. Each member of the committee independently ranks the nominees by excellence. The results of these independently generated rank lists are averaged so as to produce a general rank list. The committee reviews the rank list and may make slight adjustments in light of recent admission trends. Once the committee finalizes the ranked list, offers are extended to the top candidates. If the number of acceptances drops below the target admission rate, an offer will be extended to a student or students on the wait list.