Applying for the Graduate Program

We welcome inquiries from prospective applicants interested in exploring the rich cultural, social, and religious histories of South and Southeast Asia and/or the living contemporary cultures of these areas.   We are a humanities department with a strong emphasis on language training.

As a graduate student at SSEAS, whether in our MA or Joint MA/PhD Program, you will design your own curriculum around central requirements.  Your course load might include cultural history, the classical literary canon, religious literature, folk and popular works, oral traditions, performance media (including recitation, musical and dramatic performance, dance, and film), and modern literatures of the colonial and post-colonial periods.  Whatever your research interests, a central strand of your graduate training will be the development of advanced research proficiency in your language of emphasis, and training in critical textual analysis.  Our admissions requirements reflect this focus, and are detailed more fully below.

Before filing an application, we encourage you to explore both our Graduate Programs and our faculty research areas.  We also recommend that you send a preliminary email of inquiry to those faculty working in your primary area of interest. If you are interested in applying for the 2023-2024 academic year, you may do so online through the Office of Graduate Admissions, where you will also find details about the application process.

Deadlines: All applications must be submitted online by December 15, 2023.  We strongly recommend that you submit all supporting materials (listed below) by this deadline. While we can accept letters of recommendation and GRE and TOEFL scores after the deadline, we cannot guarantee that supporting materials arriving after this deadline will be included in the departmental admissions process.

Our Student Affairs Adviser is available to answer any questions about our department’s specific admissions requirements and the application process.

If you are unable to complete the online application contact the Graduate Division via phone at (510) 642-7405 or by e-mail.


Whether you are applying for the MA or the Joint MA/PhD, the Department requires the following minimum levels of training and qualifications for consideration:

Language Training:

At least two years of college-level study or the equivalent (as determined by the Head Graduate Adviser) in your language of emphasis is a prerequisite for admission to our program. Our languages of emphasis are Bengali, Burmese, Hindi, Khmer, Indonesian (Bahasa), Malay, Pali, Persian, Prakrit, Punjabi, Sanskrit (including Buddhist Sanskrit), Filipino (Tagalog), Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

South and Southeast Asian Studies Training:

Eight undergraduate or graduate courses with a focus on South or Southeast Asia, ideally with an emphasis on the humanities, or the equivalent (as determined by the Head Graduate Adviser).


 Writing samples:  

The writing sample is an important element of your application and is used to gauge your preparedness for graduate level training, including your ability to work with primary source materials.  We strongly recommend that you select a paper written for a class, an honors thesis, or an article written for an academic journal.  Please choose the writing sample that best reflects your knowledge, interest, and ability to think critically and write clearly.  While the submission of two writing samples is encouraged, we require a minimum of one writing sample of no fewer than 15 pages, ideally on a humanities topic related to South or Southeast Asian Studies.



As a humanities department at a public university, our funding capacity is modest. A few full fellowships are available for top-ranked PhD candidates. Both MA and Joint MA/PhD applicants, who are US citizens or Permanent Residents, are eligible for FLAS (Foreign Languages and Area Studies) Fellowships, and are expected to submit an application essay for that fellowship along with their application to the graduate program. Most of our students support themselves through a combination of Graduate Student Instructorship positions (which include a stipend plus tuition and fees), grants, and financial aid.