Year 1 - Coursework & Language Requirements

Funding: Normally, 1st year students are supported by a University Fellowship (UF). The UF stipend enables and requires the student to be engaged in full-time study (a genuinely fabulous thing), concentrating on courses without the distractions of employment.

(Note: A full-time student is defined as a student who does not work more than 10 hours a week in paid employment.)

  • Course waivers for graduate level work completed prior to matriculating to Yale. The first year is a good time to think about obtaining course waivers based on previous graduate level course work or language study so as to reduce your course or language requirements at Yale.  Talk to the DGS about this early, and take care of all paperwork early. Obtaining these approvals early helps with your planning and course selection in future semesters.
    • NOTE:  If, prior to entering Yale, you completed coursework that you would like to count towards your required coursework, you will need to seek an official course “waiver.” For some reason, this is the language that Yale prefers to use. Instead of saying that course X and course Y from your M.A. transcript will give you 2 credits to count towards your 12 course requirement, they like to say that because you completed course X and course Y, Yale “waives two required courses,” so that you now have to complete only 10. The maximum number of course requirements that can be waived is three.  To secure a waiver, prepare a course waiver petition.  A copy of your final official transcript must be present in your GSAS file for the petition to be evaluated.
    • NOTE to PREVIOUS NOTE: Normally, doctoral students automatically earn an M.A. degree en route to the Ph.D. However, while Graduate School policy allows a portion of the Ph.D. course requirements to be waived based on previous studies in a graduate program, it does not allow course requirements for the M.A. degree to be waived.  Therefore, the courses waived may NOT be counted in determining eligibility for awarding the en route M.A. degree. Students who use course waivers to complete their 12-course requirement will not be awarded an en route M.A. but are still eligible for the MPHIL degree.


  • Students in Religious Studies are required to take RLST 510, the required departmental seminar, and are expected to take it in their first year.
    • NOTE regarding course selection: Faculty members can be excellent resources as you plan your courses and exams.  They have vital knowledge and expertise and their advice should be considered with all due seriousness. However, on occasion a faculty member might exert undue pressure upon you to either take a course for which you see no specific utility or rationale, or not take a course which you are particularly eager to take. If this should happen, consider discussing the problem with the DGS, the chair, or even a grad school dean.


  • Students should make plans for meeting the language requirements. In addition to regular language coursework, you can satisfy the language requirement by (a) taking and passing a translation exam offered by the relevant department; (b) successfully completing a summer session reading course; or (c) passing a translation exam set by a faculty member in the department.  Here are more details on (a) and (b).
    • (a)  The French and German departments offer translation exams at regular intervals and on fixed dates for students who need to fulfill their language requirements.  Heather sends notices of these exams so pay attention to those e-mails and take advantage of these opportunities.  In some fields, faculty are willing to give you a translation exam.  But be proactive in setting a concrete date for the exam.
    • (b) the Graduate School administers summer reading courses in French, German, Italian and Spanish for GSAS doctoral students and funds the tuition for these courses in order to assist students in satisfying degree requirements or pursuing dissertation research.  Courses meet Monday through Friday from 9 am - noon.  There is a strict deadline for application (around the end of March each year, but check the deadline for any given year).  You can learn more about the summer reading courses here.
  • Have an end of year meeting with your ADGS and at least one other faculty member in your field.  Really.  Even if the ADGS does not contact you, be in touch with them and ask for a meeting to review the year and begin planning for next year. Be sure to include at least one other faculty member – someone whose research and teaching interests align with yours OR someone who can offer a helpful perspective when thinking through your plans. Or both.
  • If you think you would like to pursue a joint degree (between the Graduate School and a professional school) or a combined degree (combining Religious Studies and another department or program), please see the DGS as soon as possible.  The DGS will work closely with you, the DGS of the other department and your advisers to craft a manageable course of study and set of exams, and will petition for approval from the Graduate School.  This takes time so bring the matter to the attention of the DGS early.  General information on joint degrees and combined degrees can be found here.