Preparing an Application for Graduate Studies

The information below will help prospective applicants gather their materials and submit their applications for graduate studies in the Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures Department. The application deadline falls in the beginning of December of the year preceding the academic year in which admission is sought. Please contact the Graduate Student Services Adviser with any questions. The online application portal and additional information about graduate studies at Berkeley are available here.

Getting Ready to Apply

Prior to beginning the application, review general information on graduate admissions and the Graduate Division’s minimum requirements for academic work. Then, review the department’s requirements for admission. Note that applicants for the M.A. program must have fulfilled the equivalent of departmental requirements for the B.A. Degree.

Preparing Your Application Materials

Application materials should be scanned in a PDF format and uploaded to the Graduate Division's online application system before the deadline. Each document should be titled with the format [Last Name_Document Name]. Materials sent through the mail, including transcripts, will not be accepted.

Statement of Purpose

Applicants compose a short two-page statement of purpose describing  their intellectual interests and their motivations for applying to the department's graduate program. Review this page for more information.

Personal History Statement

Applicants write a short two-page personal history statement describing their achievements with a particular attention to any hardships that were overcome during the process. Review this page for more information.


The Graduate Division accepts unofficial transcripts from prior university and college programs for the initial review of applications. Admitted students are required to submit their original transcripts if they accept the department’s office of admission. Transcripts written in a language other than English must be accompanied with an official English translation.

Writing Samples

A writing sample is used to gauge an applicant’s preparedness for graduate studies. Writing samples are written in English and are approximately 20 pages. A writing sample can be an excerpt from a longer work. More than one writing sample can be submitted so long as the total number of pages does not exceed 20. Published and unpublished work is permissible.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation from mentors, employers, and/or colleagues are required. The online application will invite letter writers to submit their letters through the online application portal. These letters must be submitted before the application deadline.

Evidence of English Language Proficiency (If Applicable)

All applicants from countries in which the official language is not English are required to take an English language proficiency test, either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the academic modules of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). However, this exam can be waived for those students who have completed at least one year of full-time academic course work with grades of B or better in a United States-based university. Please note that scores more than two years old at the time of application cannot be accepted. Scores must be submitted electronically before the application deadline. For reporting instructions, visit the Graduate Division's website.

The MELC Department does not require GRE scores for graduate applications.

Once these materials are organized, they can be uploaded through the application portal available here.

All supporting documents, including letters of recommendation, should be submitted by the application deadline. Materials submitted after the deadline will not be considered for review. The department will begin reviewing applications immediately following the admission application deadline. For this reason, it is important that all parts of the student's application are submitted before the deadline.

What is Next?

All applications for admission are initially reviewed for completeness and then circulated to department faculty members in December. The department’s graduate admissions committee solicits feedback from faculty members prior to beginning their deliberations in January. A select number of applicants are scheduled for interviews that are conducted virtually in late January. Applicants make a short presentation about their research interests during this interview. When applicable, applicants will be asked to sight-read a short passage from a Middle Eastern text to demonstrate their readiness to undertake advanced language training. Applicants interested in archaeology and art history will analyze a selected piece of material and visual evidence.

Offers of admission are made in February. Admitted students are invited to visit the Berkeley campus soon after they are notified of their offer. These admitted students must declare their acceptance of the department’s offer before April 15 and are expected to begin their studies in August.

Still Have Questions?

Consider contacting the Graduate Student Services Adviser with questions. A list of frequently asked questions can be found here