Bard Graduate Center is the home for advanced study of the cultural history of the material world. We offer the MA and PhD degrees in Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. Admission for the two programs is separate.

The application to Bard Graduate Center can be found online. The application deadline for admission to both the MA and PhD programs for the 2017–18 academic year is January 6, 2017. Applicants to the MA program must have received a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. There are no restrictions as to the applicant’s prior field of study, but some previous study, training, or work experience in the history of art, architecture, decorative arts, history, material culture studies, archaeology, or anthropology is expected. Some preparation in art history is encouraged but not required.

Applicants to the doctoral program are required to hold an MA in either the decorative arts or a related field, such as art history, history, cultural or museum anthropology, archaeology, or cultural studies. Students entering the program with an MA from another institution are required to take additional courses as part of their program of study for candidacy for the PhD. Students who have completed the MA program at Bard Graduate Center and who wish to continue study toward the PhD must make a separate application to the doctoral program.

After prescreening by a faculty committee, a number of applicants are invited to an interview with the Admissions Committee. All applicants must be able to communicate effectively in written and spoken English. Students are strongly encouraged to interview in person, if possible. Students with deficiencies are expected to rectify them prior to admission to the program. Some students may be able to correct them during the first academic year, but such work is not granted credit.

How to Apply

Apply to our MA or PhD programs.

All correspondence should be addressed to:

Admissions, Attn: MA or PhD Program
Dean Elena Pinto Simon
Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024

The following should be submitted via the online application:

  1. A nonrefundable application fee of $70, which is payable online with the actual application submission.
  2. A personal statement of approximately 750 words explaining why the applicant has chosen the decorative arts, design history, and material culture as a field of graduate study. The statement should be specific, especially as to career goals. This should be uploaded to the online application.
  3. Three letters of recommendation from instructors or professional colleagues. These can also be sent separately via mail, if preferred. If so, the letters should be addressed to Admissions, signed across the seal, and sent directly by the authors. Copies sent by the applicant will not be accepted.
  4. A sample of written scholarly work (e.g., a college research paper, published article, or extended catalogue entry). Applicants to the doctoral program must submit a copy of a Master’s Thesis or a Qualifying Paper. This writing sample should be a research paper, academic in form and tone, that exemplifies your best scholarly work. Please include illustrations if relevant. Students who do not have a term paper to submit should consult the Academic Programs Office about the kind of work that is appropriate. This is not returnable and should also be uploaded to the application online, or, if you prefer, you may send it separately, with a clear indication of your name included.
  5. A CV outlining the applicant’s education, current and previous employment, and experience, if any, in the decorative arts, design history, and material culture. This should be uploaded to the online application.

The following should be sent separately:

  1. Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended. Please note that copies are considered official only if they are sent directly to us from the issuing institution. Unofficial transcript copies sent by the applicant will not be accepted.
  2. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score report, sent by the Educational Testing Service at the applicant’s request. The applicant is required to take the General Test. Our score report code number is 2020. Only official copies will be accepted. For information, call 609.771.7670. All applicants must take the GRE by December 15, 2016. The GRE submitted for admission consideration must not be more than three years old. Applications without GRE scores will make the applicant ineligible for interview consideration.
  3. International applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and should take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). TOEFL scores should be sent by the Educational Testing Service. Other evidence of English proficiency will be accepted only with the approval of the Graduate Committee. Our TOEFL number is 5034. We must have these results by the application deadline date.

All application materials submitted become the property of Bard Graduate Center.

Potential applicants are encouraged to attend an open house during the fall term to meet with faculty, staff, and students and to learn more about our programs. We welcome questions about the program and about the admission process. If you have further questions, please contact Dean Elena Pinto Simon at elena.simon@bgc.bard.edu or by telephone at 212.501.3057.

Deadline for all applications: January 6, 2017.

Please note: An application is considered incomplete and will not be acted upon until all materials listed above have been received.

Tuition and Fees: MA Program
Tuition for 2016–17 is $1,335 per credit. A student enrolled full-time in the MA program normally takes 27 credits in the first year (including the August orientation session, fall term, spring term, and Internship) and 21 credits in the second year (fall and spring terms). The number of credits for part-time students varies according to their schedules; however, part-time students must enroll for a minimum of 6 credits each fall and spring term. Tuition and fees for a typical program of study for a full-time MA program student entering in the fall of 2016 are as follows.

Year 1: 2016–17

April 1, 2016

  • New students’ nonrefundable tuition deposit $500

July 1, 2016

  • Orientation and fall term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee $250

Dec. 1, 2016

  • Spring term and Internship tuition (15 credits) $20,025
  • Registration/library fee $250


Year 2: 2017–18

July 1, 2017

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee $250

Dec. 1, 2017

  • Spring term tuition (9 credits) $12,015
  • Registration/library fee $250

April 2018

  • Graduation fee $120


Totals

  • 5 terms, 48 credits in 2 years, $67,992

All numbers are based on 2016–17 rates and are subject to change in subsequent years. The deposit is credited in the fall term. Health insurance fees are accurate at time of printing and subject to change.

Tuition and Fees: PhD Program
Students who received an MA from Bard Graduate Center follow the 27 credit track. All other doctoral students follow the 51 credit track.

For students required to complete 27 credits:

Tuition for 2016–17 is $1,335 per credit. In the second year of the program and after completion of qualifying exams, the student must register for the doctoral dissertation, for 6 credits. Tuition for dissertation registration is $4,000. Tuition and fees for a typical program of study for a full-time PhD student entering in the fall of 2016 are as follows.

Year 1: 2016–17 (coursework and exams)

April 1, 2016

  • New students’ nonrefundable tuition deposit $500

July 1, 2016

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee $250

December 1, 2016

  • Spring term tuition (9 credits) $12,015
  • Registration/library fee $250

Year 2: 2017–18 (propose dissertation)

July 1, 2017

  • Fall term tuition (6 credits) $4,000
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

Year 3: 2018–19

July 1, 2018

  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

Year 4: 2019–20

July 1, 2019

  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

April 1, 2020

  • Graduation fee $120

For students required to complete 51 credits:

Tuition for 2016–17 is $1,335 per credit. In the third year of the program and after completion of qualifying exams, the student must register for the doctoral dissertation for 6 credits. Tuition for the dissertation registration is $4,000. Tuition and fees for a typical program of study for a full-time PhD student entering in the fall of 2016 are as follows.

Year 1: 2016–17 (coursework)

April 1, 2016

  • New students’ nonrefundable tuition deposit $500

July 1, 2016

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee $250

December 1, 2016

  • Spring term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Registration/library fee $250

Year 2: 2017–18 (coursework and exams)

July 1, 2017

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $16,020
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee $250

December 1, 2017

  • Spring term tuition (9 credits) $12, 015
  • Registration/library fee $250

Year 3: 2018–19 (propose dissertation)

July 1, 2018

  • Fall term tuition (6 credits) $4,000
  • Health insurance fee $1,396
  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

Year 4: 2019–20

July 1, 2019

  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

Year 5: 2020–21

July 1, 2020

  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $500

April 1, 2021

  • Graduation fee $120

All numbers are based on 2016–17 rates and are subject to change in subsequent years. The deposit is credited in the fall term. Health insurance fees are accurate at time of printing and subject to change. For doctoral students, it is expected that the dissertation will be completed and defended by the end of the student’s fourth/fifth year in the program.

Student Housing


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Bard Hall, located at 410 West 58th Street, provides housing for students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Nine residential floors offer a variety of furnished studios and one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchens and baths for students; as well as one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for faculty and guest scholars. The building is equipped with 24-hour security, a double-height lounge that opens onto a landscaped outdoor space, an exercise room, conference and study rooms, and laundry facilities. Apartments are equipped for phone, cable TV, and Internet connections.

Student apartments are furnished and, depending on size and design, contain a daybed/sofa, small dining table and chairs, desk, bookcase, twin or full-size bed, and chest of drawers. Residents must be enrolled for a minimum of nine credits each semester in order to remain eligible for housing. The costs of the units for a twelve-month term are as follows:

  • Studio Unit: $17,462
  • One-bedroom Unit: $20,396
  • Two-Bedroom Unit: $17,292 (per student)
  • Costs are accurate as of press time and are subject to change.
Students are billed for housing in the fall and spring semesters of each academic year, to coincide with tuition billing. All apartments are assigned by lottery. Applications are mailed in early April and must be returned by the deadline indicated, accompanied by a $100 nonrefundable application fee. Students are required to pay a $500 damage deposit upon contract; the damage deposit will be returned upon departure and after satisfactory inspection of the apartment.

The Bard Hall handbook, available from the Academic Programs Office, outlines policies and guidelines for residency. Bard Hall is a nonsmoking residence, and, for general health reasons, student residents are not permitted to keep pets.

Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants
Bard Graduate Center is committed to assisting students whose personal resources would not otherwise allow them to continue their education at the graduate level. In recent years, we have demonstrated this commitment by awarding scholarships and fellowships of varying amounts to more than half of the incoming class. Financial aid is awarded on the basis of achievement and promise and on the basis of financial need, as determined annually by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application and the Office of Financial Aid at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Financial aid is decided annually. Eligibility for aid is determined each year by the demonstration of financial need and all students who wish to be considered for aid must complete a FAFSA. The FAFSA form must be sent to the federal processor by January 15. Our FAFSA number is 002671. It is crucial for applicants to submit their FAFSA on time. Late FAFSA applicants cannot be considered for financial aid. Those applying on or before the deadline receive full consideration. Students will be notified of financial aid awards by mid-March. International applicants who wish to be considered for aid must complete the College Board International Student Financial Aid. Application and submit it by January 15.

A student applying for financial aid must not be in default of a federal student loan or owe a refund on a federal grant. The FAFSA application is available online, and applicants are encouraged to apply electronically.

Administrative Calendar

  • December 15, 2016: Deadline to take GRE
  • January 6, 2017: Deadline to receive applications at the BGC
  • January 15: FAFSA application due to federal processor
  • March 15: Notification of admission begins
  • March 15: Notification of financial aid awards to incoming students begins
  • April 1: Entering students’ $500 deposit due
  • July 1: First tuition and fees payment due
  • January 1, 2018: Second tuition and fees payment due

Students may qualify for financial assistance in the form of institutional scholarships (which are based on both need and merit) and/or institutional fellowships (merit based); campus employment; and federal, state, and private loans and grants. Applicants may wish to investigate other sources for financial assistance. The federal Grad Plus Loan program can be used to cover the remaining cost of education, including living expenses, not covered by any other aid. Grant monies are available from a number of national organizations and private corporations that support independent research in the arts and humanities at the graduate level.

Eligibility for institutional scholarships and fellowships is determined based on merit and financial need. We do not administer an institutional loan program. Full-time students in the Master of Arts program enrolling for classes in a third academic year are no longer eligible to receive institutional financial aid. Awards are made without regard to gender, sexual orientation, race, color, age, marital status, religion, ethnic or national origin, or handicapping conditions. International students, although not eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. government, may qualify for institutional scholarships and fellowships.

A limited number of fellowships and grants are awarded, based on merit, to incoming and returning students. Fellowships and grants may be awarded in combination with need-based scholarships, campus employment, and federal loans. Fellowships and grants are not automatically renewed. All students must reapply in order to be considered for a fellowship or grant in the second year. Second-year fellowships and grants are renewed based on academic performance in the first year of the program and FAFSA information. There is no separate application for these awards; all eligible students are considered for them.

International Applicants
We welcome international applicants to Bard Graduate Center. International candidates must be proficient in English and should submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) by January 6, 2017. Our TOEFL number is 5034. International candidates should also complete the College Board International Student Financial Aid Application and submit it by January 15, 2017, in order to be considered for financial aid. In order to receive visa documentation, foreign students must submit proof that income from all sources is sufficient to cover expenses during the period of residency in the United States. To this end, international applicants must complete a Certification of Finances. Evidence of financial responsibility must be demonstrated by one of the following: affidavit from a bank, certification by parents or sponsors of their ability to provide the necessary funds, or certification by employers of anticipated income.
Open Houses and Campus Visits

One of the best ways to learn more about Bard Graduate Center is to visit! Each fall, members of the faculty host open houses for prospective students where you have an opportunity to meet faculty, hear much more about our program, and tour our buildings. You will also have the chance to have your questions about admissions and financial aid answered.

Our open houses are held at 38 West 86th Street. In fall 2016, we held three open houses at our building in Manhattan (on October 9, 23, and November 7) also held a regional open house in Boston on November 14 for those who were unable to make it to New York. This year’s open house dates will be announced in spring 2017.

In addition to Open Houses, we regularly do a number of campus visits across the country during the fall. And in early spring of each year we host an Accepted Students Day, when prospective students have the chance to meet faculty and students and to attend classes and special lecture events.

Frequently Asked Questions

For FAQs about our doctoral program, please see here.

Where do I find the online application?

Our application can be found here.

What degrees are offered?

We offer programs leading to MA and PhD degrees in decorative arts, design history, and material culture. Students are able to explore the cultural history of the material world in a wide range of courses and methodological approaches. We offer a general concentration for the MA degree, with the possibility of specializing in areas such as New York and American material culture; modern design history; early modern Europe; history and theory of museums; global Middle Ages; archaeology, anthropology, and material-culture studies; and cultures of conservation. All students must take a one-year survey course, a one-semester core course that focuses on methods and approaches to the object, two courses that concentrate on work before 1800, and one non-Western course. Every student must submit a Qualifying Paper. Doctoral students follow a one- or two-year program of courses, take three qualifying exams, and write a dissertation. Doctoral applicants should also consult the Doctoral FAQ, elsewhere on this website.

When is the deadline for filing an application?

The deadline is January 5, 2018, for both the MA program and the PhD for admission in the fall of 2018. There are no mid-year acceptances.

What must I submit with my application?

All applicants must submit a completed application form, a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, a C.V., a sample of written scholarly work, transcripts from all previously attended institutions of higher education, GRE results, TOEFL scores where applicable, and a nonrefundable $70 fee. All applicants must complete an online application. Letters of recommendation and transcripts should be sent, via mail, to Dean Elena Pinto Simon, Bard Graduate Center, 38 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024.

Is the GRE required of all applicants?

Yes, all candidates must submit their GRE results. Candidates must take the GRE by December 15, 2016, and the results must arrive by January 6, 2017. Applicants who have not submitted GRE scores cannot be scheduled for an interview. The GRE is one part of the overall qualifications that are considered by the Admissions Committee. Bard Graduate Center does not have a cut-off for scores; the GRE exam is one of the many ways that the committee reviews candidates. The GRE submitted may not be more than three years old. Our score report code number is 2020. Only official copies of the exam results will be accepted. For further information about testing, call 609.771.7670.

Is it possible for me to do my graduate degree part-time?

Yes, we acknowledge that many working professionals and others in the process of changing careers might need to work on a part-time basis. This may be done at both the MA and PhD levels. However, it is not possible to complete the degree by taking only evening classes. All entering students must take one required class, the Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, in their first year, along with the Approaches course. The Survey course is offered in the evening; the Approaches course is not. There is also a required internship for MA students. Doctoral students who have not had Survey (because they come from another institution) must take it in their first year of matriculation, along with the Approaches course. Part-time students are not eligible for financial aid at the MA or PhD level.

What are the language requirements?

All MA students must pass an exam in one language—French, German, Italian, or Spanish. The language examination, offered during the August Orientation Session and again in the fall, tests reading and translation skills with the use of a dictionary. All doctoral students must show proficiency in two languages, typically French, German, Italian, or Spanish. The language requirement must be fulfilled by May of the first year for MA students. Doctoral students must satisfy two language requirements by the time they have finished their coursework.

May I visit the Bard Graduate Center?

Yes, students in the area are welcome to arrange a visit and tour the facilities. It is also possible for you to meet with a faculty member or a senior administrator. To arrange such a visit, you may e-mail Dean Elena Pinto Simon at elena.simon@bgc.bard.edu or admissions@bgc.bard.edu. Open house dates for fall 2017 will be announced in the spring. Because our classes are all seminars, it is not possible to sit in on a class.

I am an international student. Am I eligible for admission to Bard Graduate Center?

Yes, we welcome international applicants. All foreign students must demonstrate proficiency in English and should take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The Educational Testing Service should send TOEFL scores to the BGC. Our TOEFL number is 5034. This exam must be taken by the month of December 2017.

How does the Graduate Admissions Committee determine acceptance?

After a careful first-round review, a number of applicants are invited to an interview in person or, if necessary, by video, with the Admissions Committee. Applicants are urged to come for their interview in person if at all possible. Applicants are usually contacted during late January to arrange an appointment. Please note that an application is considered incomplete and will not be acted upon until all materials have been received. Materials submitted are not returnable. Interviews are held in February. Notifications of acceptance go out in early March, followed, about a week later, by the financial aid offer.

What should my personal statement include?

The personal statement is an important part of the total admissions document and should be about 750 words explaining why the applicant wishes to attend Bard Graduate Center and what his/her areas of special interest are. The statement should be specific, especially as to career goals.

What is an acceptable sample of written scholarly work?

The committee will consider a college research paper, published article, exhibition review, or catalogue entries. Please include illustrations if relevant. The specific topic of your writing sample is less important than its ability to represent your best scholarly and academic work. Since this is a research institution and the programs are writing intensive, this sample is a very important part of your application. All doctoral candidates must submit either a MA thesis or a Qualifying Paper / Master’s Essay.

What documents should be sent with my completed application?

The nonrefundable fee of $70 paid through our online application; the personal statement; three letters of recommendation from instructors or professional colleagues; a C.V.; and a sample of written scholarly work must be posted online to the electronic application. Official transcripts, GRE scores, and TOEFL scores, where appropriate for international applicants, may be sent separately to Dean Elena Pinto Simon, Bard Graduate Center, 38 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024. All letters of recommendation sent by regular mail must be signed across the seal and sent directly from the authors to the above address. Copies sent by the applicant are not acceptable. All materials are needed for admissions review and must be submitted in a timely manner. The entire application must be completed by January 5 2018.

Is there an internship program?

All MA students are required to do an internship as part of their graduate work. We have an active internship program associated with many of New York’s major cultural institutions. Our students have done internships at more than 250 institutions in the New York area and around the world. Internships are selected by working in conjunction with the Dean of Academic Administration.

Is student housing available?

Bard Hall, located at 410 West 58th Street, provides housing for students. This facility offers a variety of furnished studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments. Apartment leases usually begin in August and run through June 30 for first-year students.

What other programs and outreach does Bard Graduate Center sponsor?

We have a full range of exhibitions, symposia, conferences, guest lectures, and alumni activities. These events run throughout the academic year and give students a broad exposure to work and professional activities in their chosen fields. There are also events in gallery education that are open to students. In addition, the travel program offers students the opportunity to travel abroad with faculty, as part of the Survey class, and study objects in situ. They may also take a course at one of our consortium schools, with faculty approval. We also have an exchange program with the Royal College of Art in London and Humboldt University in Berlin. In addition, a number of our internships are now abroad. Selections for these internships are made at a faculty meeting.

Is there campus employment, and what kinds of jobs are there for students?

Yes, most students receive a campus employment amount as part of their financial aid package, and can work up to 8 hours a week here on campus. There are jobs in every part of the institution—from the library and Visual Media Resources to the Digital Media Lab, Gallery, Gallery desk, Academic Programs, Special Events, Education, the Press Office, and faculty assistants. All students receive a mailing in May about all positions, and students interview for these jobs starting when they arrive in August. The pay is $15 an hour.

May I begin my studies mid-year?

No. Students are accepted to begin their degree work in August of each academic year.

May I just “take a class”?

No. All students are enrolled in either the MA or PhD program or are from one of the consortium schools; there are no continuing education classes in academic programs.

Does Bard Graduate Center offer financial aid?

Yes. There is a generous amount of aid available to students at both the MA and PhD levels. All students who wish to be considered for aid must file a FAFSA online by January 15, 2018. International applicants must complete the College Board International Student Financial Aid Application. Aid is based on need and merit, and scholarships range from three credits to full tuition coverage. Please direct any financial aid questions to Dean Elena Pinto Simon.

Need more help with your application?

Call admissions at 212.501.3019 or e-mail admissions@bgc.bard.edu. For any specific questions, please call Dean Elena Pinto Simon at 212.501.3057 or e-mail elena.simon@bgc.bard.edu.