Advice to Applicants

We strongly recommend that potential applicants review the information below to craft a strong application to our program.

To begin with, please familiarize yourselves with the Islamic Studies program at UCLA and read the MA and PhD program requirements. Details of the application process to the NELC department are covered under application policies and procedures. Applicants are also advised to consult our departmental frequently asked questions on applications.

You should also review our roster of affiliated faculty to become familiar with the program’s areas of strength and to gauge whether your research interests align with our faculty’s. We strongly recommend that prospective applicants email faculty members whose interests intersect with their own in advance of submitting their application. Applicants should introduce themselves to these faculty members and briefly explain their interests and research trajectory. Applicants may also request a meeting with these faculty members in advance of applying if appropriate. To ensure productive efficient exchanges with potential advisors, we strongly recommend that applicants use email correspondence or meetings with faculty members to discuss their own research interests and trajectories. Keep in mind that many questions about the application process are addressed online or can more readily answered by administrative staff rather than by faculty members.

In submitting a statement of purpose, applicants are advised to engage with academic inquiries they find most appealing and to include relevant background about training (linguistic, analytical, etc.) which they have already received and which will enable them to pursue those inquiries. Statements of academic purpose are distinct from autobiographical essays: while some discussion of a student’s background is desirable, strong applications tend to emphasize a student’s plans for the future and provide relevant details about his or her accomplishments. We do not expect students to submit a full outline for their dissertation, as we recognize that academic interests may evolve. At the same time, the strongest applications are specific with regard to a student’s methodology, areas, time period, and relevant languages of interest.

Writing samples should feature a student’s strongest recent work on a topic relevant to Islamic studies. Texts that are not related to the student’s research interests, or that do not qualify as academic essays, are unlikely to help an application succeed. Please keep writing samples within the fifteen-page maximum.

Additionally, please note that GRE (and, when necessary, TOEFL/IELTS) scores play an important role in the admissions process at UCLA. While there is no formal minimum GRE score for consideration in admission to the program, admitted students typically score above the 80th percentile. The Admissions Committee pays particular attention to applicants’ verbal and analytical scores. If there are mitigating circumstances for a poor test performance, feel free to include a note for the Admissions Committee’s consideration.

Finally, we urge all potential applicants to observe standard email etiquette when corresponding with faculty members. This includes referring to faculty by the appropriate title and observing proper rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Students seeking further advice in crafting their applications to Islamic studies programs are advised to reach out to the Islamic Studies program director or the NELC student affairs officer (Contact information for them may be found on the NELC website). Please note that students admitted to the PhD program are usually offered funding for 5 years. A standard funding package will typically consist of a fellowship for the first year and a combination of TAships and fellowships in subsequent years. Additionally, UCLA offers a number of competitive and generous fellowships and research assistantships. Students are encouraged to apply annually for such opportunities which may increase their fellowship amounts. Unfortunately, we are generally unable to offer funding for MA students and international students. International students are encouraged to apply for government funding from their own country or for fellowships such as the Fulbright.