American Studies

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Arts (M.A.), Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Location(s): Foggy Bottom - Main Campus

Program Overview

Housed in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, American studies at GW is one of the nation's most rigorous and innovative programs. With a core of 15 full-time and 20 affiliated faculty members, the program emphasizes interdisciplinary cultural analysis with approaches from anthropology, architectural history, art history, English, folklife, geography, media studies, history, performance studies and political theory. The department’s particular strengths are in cultural history and cultural studies, art and culture, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, transnational American studies, urban studies of space and place, political and public cultures and religion. 
Students in the Ph.D. program construct a comprehensive plan of study in three related fields tailored to their interests. These interdisciplinary fields highlight major problems in American studies and in related disciplines, such as art history, English, history and political science. Students develop research agendas early in their studies through participation in seminars and workshops, often drawing on the rich resources of Washington-based archives and research institutes. The department strongly supports the acquisition of foreign language skills.
Students in the master’s program can pursue a general degree in American studies or a concentration in museums and material culture. The general M.A. prepares students for advanced Ph.D. work. The material culture M.A., which draws on the department’s interdisciplinary strengths in the analysis of culture, provides pre-professional training with strong links to pertinent D.C. cultural resource management institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution. Both degree programs stress professional-level research and writing skills.

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:
Fall - Ph.D.: December 15;
M.A.: April 1 (February 1 for fellowship consideration)
Spring - October 1 (M.A. only)
Standardized test scores:
The GRE general exam is required for the PHD program.
The GRE general exam is not required for the MA program.
GRE general test (institutional code 5246). Waived for applicants who hold a J.D., M.D., or Ph.D.
The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction. 
Minimum scores for the PhD program are:
  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 7.0 with no individual score below 6.0; or 
  • TOEFL: 600 on paper-based or 100 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 68;
Minimum scores for the M.A. program are:
  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score below 5.0; or
  • TOEFL: 550 on paper-based or 80 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 53
Applicants to the M.A. who do not meet minimum English language requirements may be eligible for our full-time Applied English Language program.
Recommendations required: 
M.A. - Two (2) recommendations
Ph.D. - Three (3) recommendations
Prerequisite requirements:
M.A.: The degree of Bachelor of Arts in American studies or a related field. For the Master of Arts with a concentration in historic preservation, a course in American architectural history is additionally required.
Ph.D.: Applicants are required to have an adequate background in the humanities and/or social sciences as they apply to the field of American studies
Prior academic records:
Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.
If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.
Statement of purpose:
An essay of no more than 500 - 750 words, in which you state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field and in American Studies at GW in particular, including your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans.
Writing Sample:
Ph.D. applicants must submit a current writing sample of 15 – 20 pages. The sample should reflect your abilities to articulate complex ideas and to utilize evidence in support of your arguments.  The writing sample should also provide an example of your research skills, as well as your engagement with scholarship in American Studies or related fields.
Ph.D.: An interview is required.
International applicants only: 
Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents and English language requirements.
For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.
Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 215
Washington DC 20052
Contact for questions:
[email protected] ~ 202.994.6210 (phone) ~ 202.994.6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday