Frequently Asked Questions
- Who should I talk to about whether or not I am qualified for admission into the GDRS?
- What is the difference between a track and a specialization and do I need both on my application?
- How do I apply?
- What additional materials need to be submitted with an application?
- What are the minimum test score requirements?
- What if my test scores are lower than the recommended minimum?
- What financial aid is available?
- Are there teaching opportunities for graduate students?
- How many students apply to the GDRS each year? How many are admitted?
- Can I take classes at other universities?
- Does BU offer housing for visiting students?
- Does BU offer housing for graduate students enrolled in the University?
- I am an international student. What special requirements and procedures should I be aware of?
- Can visits to the Division be arranged?
Because applicants are required to choose a field of specialization within one of our tracks, a faculty member working in that field can best assess an applicant’s qualifications, as well as whether or not a student’s goals are well-suited to our faculty and resources. There are relevant faculty members listed on the pages that provide information on the specific Tracks in the program. Please use the lists to find faculty relevant to your interests.
2. What is the difference between a track and a specialization and do I need both on my application?
On the online application form you may notice that only a “specialization” is requested, but on our website you may notice that we have four tracks, and no official “specializations” listed. The graduate school application form reads as it does because it is generic for all graduate programs. If you are applying to the GDRS we require that you specify both a track and a specialization. There are too many possible specializations and there is currently no official list detailing all of them. However, we ask that you do the best you can to specify a specialization on your application forms. Keep in mind that each track page generally enumerates specializations that we have strengths in. What you end up writing in your statement of purpose will be much more specific than the listed specialization of course, but it is of great help to our review process to have that basic information regardless. Please use the following format: “Track (number): Specialization” ; for example “Track 3: Social Ethics”.
Answers to general questions regarding the application process can be found on the GRS General Information page.
- Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended.
- Letters of recommendation. While we do accept professional letters of recommendation, academic recommendations are preferred.
- A writing sample of about 20 pages. Academic writing is preferred. The size limit for submitted documents is 500 kb.
- A two-to-three page personal statement. Personal statements are the place to describe your qualifications for graduate studies, including proposed area of study, previous work related to that proposed area of study, and resources at BU that are particularly suited to your goals.
- GRE scores. Scores must be from a test taken during the last five years.
- All international students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Scores must be from a test taken during the last two years.
NOTE: All materials that are not being submitted electronically should be mailed directly to the Graduate School Admissions office:
Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
705 Commonwealth Avenue, room 112
Boston, MA 02215
The institution code needed to report GRE and TOEFL scores to BU is 3087, and a department code is not needed. The GDRS recommends that students have a combined verbal/quantitative score of 1300 (old system) or 314 (new scores) and a writing score of 5.0. GRE test scores submitted must be from tests taken within the last 5 years.
International students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. In order to be offered admission to Boston University these scores must meet the University’s requirements. Please visit their website for up to date information. On top of the general requirements, the Division also recommends a minimum score of 600 on the paper-based TOEFL, or 84 on the internet-based TOEFL. English proficiency test scores submitted must be from tests taken within the last two years. The English proficiency test requirement is waived only if you have received, or expect to receive, an undergraduate or graduate degree from a college or university in any of the following countries prior to enrollment in GRS: the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland.
Test scores are an important part of faculty assessment of candidates for admission. However, letters of recommendation, personal statements, writing samples, and transcripts are also carefully considered during application review, and the Division will occasionally admit students with lower scores if their other application materials demonstrate the likelihood of success in their chosen program of study. Please note that the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will not admit international applicants who have scored below their TOEFL or IELTS
minimums. For more information see the International Applicants page.
The GDRS is now able to offer all accepted PhD students 5 years Dean’s Fellowships with full tuition and a living stipend. Please refer to our financial aid page for more information.
PhD students awarded the new 5-year Dean’s Fellowships will typically work as Teaching Fellows (in the Department of Religion) during years 2 and 3. There are also teaching opportunities for GDRS students in the BU Writing Program and the BU Metropolitan College. MA students are not eligible for any of these positions.
The GDRS receives about 100 Ph.D. applications and offers admission to 6-9 students each year. We also receive about 30 M.A. applications and accept 2-3 per year.
As part of the Boston Theological Institute, the GDRS offers our students the opportunity to take courses at Harvard Divinity School, Boston College, and other member institutions. For a full listing of currently available courses see the BTI course catalogue.
Unfortunately we cannot offer housing for visiting students. There are many hotels and inns close to BU, and some offer a discount to students visiting the university. If you wish to find the closest hotels to the division we suggest searching for hotels close to “Kenmore Square, Boston”.
BU offers limited graduate student housing, right on the main campus (very close to the GDRS offices) in a newly built apartment complex. The building is purely graduate housing and has over 200 studios and 11 one bedroom apartments. Prices range from $1050 to $1400. There is more information about BU graduate housing at the Rental Property Management website. Students can contact the Office of Rental Property Management at 617-353-4101, or the Office of Off-Campus Services at 617-353-3523 or email@example.com, for assistance finding off-campus housing.
The Graduate Division of Religious Studies at Boston University promotes diversity and welcomes international students. As an international student, there are several special requirements and procedures of which you should be aware. We encourage you to review the international student application procedures section of the Graduate School website.
All transcripts that are to be submitted with the graduate application package MUST be translated by an accredited translation service. There are several services available, but the best are those that offer not only a translation but also an evaluation (qualitative assessment of credits) of the international transcript. Two websites that you might visit include:
All incoming international students, with the exception of students from countries whose native language is English, MUST have taken the TOEFL or IELTS and have achieved as minimum scores listed on the International Student page for the paper based or internet-based tests. The internet-based TOEFL is not available everywhere. To check on the availability of the internet-based TOEFL, or for more information on the exam itself, visit their website at www.ets.org.
We would also like to call your attention to the ever-changing guidelines for obtaining a United States student visa. For more information, visit www.bu.edu/isso/.
We strongly recommend that students who choose to visit make an appointment to see the Coordinator of the track/concentration to which they are applying. To make appointments with Track/Specialization Coordinators or other faculty members, contact them directly.
For further information about the GDRS, please contact our Program Coordinator Claire Sadar Lake, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-358-4215. For information on full campus tours, please visit the Office of Graduate Admissions.