Why graduate admission is competitive
We aim to admit a limited number of students so that we can better support them, both intellectually and perhaps financially. Additionally, professors suited to particular interests may be on leave or working with other graduate students.
Statement of Purpose:
Your statement of purpose, also known as a statement of intent, details your career goals (where you see yourself in 5 years) and educational objectives (how you will get there). It tells us a little bit about you and your passion. This statement is typically 2-3 double-spaced pages long. We look at how focused your interests are, your writing ability, and whether and how we can help you meet your goals and objectives.
If, for example, you indicate that you wish to start a Heritage Management company based in eastern North American archaeology, then we would not admit you since we have no one on staff to supervise such work. If you indicate a desire to study the physical geography of Antarctica, we would refer you elsewhere as, again, we do not have the faculty to supervise such a thesis or PhD.
To write a compelling Statement of Purpose, do contact the faculty member with whom you see yourself working and learn more about their research. Faculty members welcome your interest in their work! The Graduate Chair can also help answer questions.
Letters of Reference:
Three letters of reference should come from professionals who can speak to your ability to perform graduate-level work, such as a professor who knows your work through independent study, senior seminar work, field school, or lab work. These referees could speak to your degree of preparation, your aptitudes and skills, abilities to set and meet goals. A supervisor from work could also be a reference and could speak to your professionalism, sociality and time management skills, for example.
Be sure they know you well enough to write you a positive letter. Provide them with a resume or summary of work and academic experiences. Coach them on a specific aspect you would ask them to highlight in their letter for you. Give them advance warning (e.g., at least a month) on when the letter is due.
Transcript of Courses:
We consider your performance in undergraduate classes, especially in the discipline you hope to pursue. Students with better grades tend to know what they are good at and have mastered the skills needed to be successful graduate students. Some students may have lower grades from their freshman and sophomore years; we expect to see As and Bs in disciplinary coursework by their junior year.
If there are gaps or series of withdrawals or incompletes in your academic career, we look for explanations.