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MA and PhD Admissions

Vanderbilt University
Graduate Department of Religion

411 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37240

Application Deadline: December 15

Online Application 

General Information:

The Graduate Department of Religion (GDR) comprises more than 30 faculty members and offers M.A. and Ph.D. work in the following areas:

M.A. students may specialize in any of the areas listed above or apply for a cross-disciplinary or general M.A. program. The M.A. program involves at least one academic year's work and the writing of an M.A. thesis. The Ph.D. program formally requires three years' study in residence, followed by qualifying examinations and the writing of a dissertation. The Graduate School permits up to 24 hours of 'transfer credit' for previous post-baccalaureate work which is of graduate quality, toward the Ph.D. and six hours toward the M.A.. Ph.D. study does not consist solely of formal course work; especially during the second year students may prepare for the qualifying examinations by auditing courses and by engaging in individual research.

Important Information for Applicants:

You will note that the application form provides space for a statement of purpose in undertaking graduate study. This statement is one of the most important elements in the application process. Please indicate as precisely as possible what you propose to accomplish in undertaking graduate work in the field of religion. Explain your interest in the particular GDR area of study which you have selected, and specify your objectives in that area. Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your previous preparation. In light of the continuing scarcity of academic teaching positions, it is important for us to know what your vocational objectives are. If you have vocational interests other than teaching in a university, college or seminary, or are assured of an appropriate placement, be sure to indicate that. Attach an additional sheet if the space provided on the form is insufficient.

Applications are due by December 15 for matriculation the following fall.

Effective 8/7/19, the Graduate Department of Religion will no longer require the GRE for admission; however a writing sample is now required.  The writing sample must be an academic study, preferably a thesis from the applicant’s masters program, which demonstrates the applicants’ expertise in a subject area.  The sample must be in Word or PDF format and should be no more than 30-35 pages long. 
Applicants whose native language is not English must present the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) with the application. This requirement may be waived if you have earned a degree from an English-speaking institution. The minimum acceptable score on the TOEFL PBT (paper­-based test) is 570, and for the TOEFL iBT (internet-based test), 88.  Many programs, however, require a considerably higher level of proficiency.  For IELTS, the minimum acceptable score will vary by program. In many cases, a score of at least 7.0 is desirable. The GDR also accepts scores from Duolingo, with a minimum acceptable score of 120.
Notification of admission will occur during the first two weeks of March.

Late applications, especially for the M.A. program, are considered if places remain available.

The GDR office no longer schedules official campus visits with faculty. Instead, prospective students are encouraged to send an email to the faculty in the area and ask about their availability for a visit.