To Which Area Should I Apply?
The department welcomes applications from students with broad research interests which run across or even contest the boundaries between different religious traditions and which address broader themes within religious studies. However, for the purposes of navigating the admissions website, please note the following. If you are still in doubt where your application is best directed, please write to the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair for guidance.
- Applicants wanting to work primarily in Buddhism should apply under East Asia or South Asia depending on their interests. Please note that applications in both these areas will be reviewed initially by all Buddhist Studies faculty.
- Applicants wanting to work primarily in Christianity should apply under Europe and North America or Late Antiquity depending on their interests.
- Applicants wanting to work primarily in Islam should apply under South Asia.
- Applicants wanting to work primarily in Judaism should apply under Europe and North America or Late Antiquity depending on their interests. Please note that applications in both these areas will be reviewed initially by all Jewish Studies faculty.
After initial review by an admissions committee composed of faculty in the relevant subfield, applications are then read and considered by the faculty of the entire department. Please keep this in mind when formulating your statement of purpose.
PhD applications should include the following:
- completed application form (including indication of intended area or field of study in the department)
- application fee (pay in online application)
- statement of purpose (upload to online application)
- two official copies of each transcript (mailed directly to the department)
- three letters of recommendation (via online application)
- writing sample of recent work on a religious studies topic (upload to online application)
- Note: graduate record examination (GRE) scores are now OPTIONAL.
Writing Sample Guidelines
A writing sample of recent work on a Religious Studies topic. At the head of your writing sample, please describe in one or two sentences why you chose it. The sample should be 15–25 pages long (double spaced). You may submit a paper written for a class, a published article, or a section of an undergraduate honors or masters thesis or other long academic work (in which case please include a cover sheet explaining the larger project and how this excerpt fits into it). The writing sample should demonstrate your academic abilities, including a clear writing style and the capacity to think your way through a problem and frame an argument, observing the usual scholarly conventions (citation, reference, footnoting and so on). The approach should be academic and the subject matter related if possible to the area you propose to explore in your PhD studies. Keep in mind that your paper will be read by all members of the Religious Studies faculty; ideally it should be accessible even to faculty who are not specialists in your particular area.
Most international applicants, and applicants whose first language is not English (this now includes US citizens) are required to submit recent scores from the:
- test of english as a foreign language (TOEFL)
Applicants who have received a Bachelors or higher degree from a U.S. school are usually exempted.
Please note that department and university offices are closed.
Please do not mail paper transcripts at this time; we will request them at a later stage.
Electronic transcripts are welcome.
- For the 2021 round of admissions, please only send official e-transcripts. Do not send paper transcript at this time. Please wait until we request them.
- In addition to uploading a scanned copy of the transcript, once requested applicants will arrange to have two official transcripts sent to the department from every postsecondary institution they have attended for at least one academic year as a full-time student. (Please wait until we request paper transcripts to mail them during the pandemic.)
- Electronic official transcripts are accepted; for these, only one copy is necessary. They must be sent directly from the institution or certified clearinghouse.
- NOTE: An official transcript is one that is received directly from the issuing institution or from the CollegeNET CertiFile Service (CHESICC/Educational Perspectives) that bears the seal or signature representing its validity.
- Transcript requirements are listed at https://gradadmissions.stanford.edu/applying/starting-your-application/required-application-documents/transcripts-academic-records-0
Transcripts should be sent to:
Please only mail paper transcripts once we request them.
Department of Religious Studies
Attn: Graduate Admissions
Stanford, CA 94305-2165 USA
Check the status of your application (e.g., letters of recommendation received, official ETS scores, etc.,) by logging into your application account Activity Log.
For full details concerning the application process, see Stanford’s Graduate Admissions website.
Remaining questions should be sent to:
PhD Admissions Process
Each year, the Department of Religious Studies admits a small number of students to graduate study. Although numbers vary considerably from year to year, the department typically receives some sixty to seventy-five applications, from which it selects three to five for the doctoral program.
Application files are screened by a department admissions committees consisting of the faculty in the various areas or subfields, which recommend a limited number of files for the deliberation and decision of the entire professoriate. Notification of the result of the selection process normally occurs in late February. In many cases applicants being considered for admission are invited to visit Stanford to discuss their applications with the relevant faculty before a final determination is made. Students receiving offers of admission have until April 15 to respond. Those who have not already visited the campus during the selection process may apply to the department for funds to visit Stanford before making their decision on the offer.
Two principal factors play a role in the selection process:
- the qualifications of the applicant, and
- the match between the applicant’s interests and the department’s resources.
The professoriate judges applicants on a combination of talent, preparation, and scholarly promise. Primary considerations include
- significant academic background in religious studies and in the languages necessary for research;
- strong letters of support from academic references;
- clarity and maturity in the statement of purpose; and
- evidence of intellectual gift in the writing sample.
Considerable weight is given in the selection process to the question of whether the department’s resources are appropriate for the candidate. Generally speaking, only those applicants whose intellectual agenda matches well with the department’s faculty resources are likely to be selected. Applications to the PhD program, in particular, are judged in relation to the fields of doctoral study offered by the department.
Given that the chances of admission (and of subsequent success in the program) are strongly influenced by the fit between student and faculty interests, applicants are well advised to become as familiar as possible with the department’s intellectual profile before applying.
Prospective applicants to the PhD program will want to determine whether their interests would fit comfortably into a field of study offered in the department or could be adequately supported as an individually designed field by department faculty. To this end, they should familiarize themselves with the expectations of the relevant subfield (or area) and the type of work being done by faculty and doctoral students in the department. Direct consultation with faculty and doctoral students is strongly recommended.
There is no separate application for financial aid. Candidates admitted into the PhD program automatically receive full funding by requesting it on the application form.
Guidelines and applications for waivers of the application fee can be found on the Grad Admissions website here.
Knight-Hennessy Scholars cultivates and supports a highly-engaged, multidisciplinary and multicultural community of graduate students from across Stanford University, and delivers a diverse collection of educational experiences, preparing graduates to address complex challenges facing the world. Each year, Knight-Hennessy Scholars selects up to 100 students who are newly enrolling in a graduate degree program in any of Stanford’s seven schools. Knight-Hennessy Scholars participate in an experiential leadership development program and receive funding for up to three years of graduate study at Stanford. Candidates of any country may apply. Candidates must submit two applications to be considered; one to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by early October and one to the graduate degree program by its deadline. Visit kh.stanford.edu to learn more. The Knight-Hennessy Scholars application to join the 2022 cohort closes on October 6, 2021 at 1:00pm PDT.