PhD Application Information

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Degree requirements for admission

  • BA or BS degree from an accredited institution
  • MDiv or MA degree in Theology, Religion, or a closely related field from an accredited institution

Questions to consider before applying to the doctoral program:

  • What are the specific goals for pursuing a doctorate degree?
  • What topics and areas of research does the applicant want to focus on?
  • How do the applicant's goals and interests fit with the GTU departments and concentrations? 

Application Deadline

  • First priority deadline: December 1, 2023
  • Final deadline: December 15, 2023

Applications must be postmarked or submitted online by the dates listed above for consideration for the following fall semester. All applicants are considered for the Presidential Scholarship, which provides full tuition funding for the recipients' first five years in the doctoral program.

Quick Doctoral (PhD) Application Checklist

  • Select Department and Concentration of Study
  • Complete and Sign Application Form 
  • Submit Supporting Documents:
    • Statement of Purpose (300-500 words). Click here for a video by GTU Admissions Associate Kelly Colwell on tips for crafting an outstanding Statement of Purpose.
    • Writing Sample (20 pages)
    • Official TOEFL or IELTS Scores
    • Official Transcripts from all previous college-level institutions
    • Three Academic Letters of Recommendation
  • Pay Application Fee
  • Apply for GTU Financial Aid by the December 1, 2023 deadline 

Please note that as of December 2022, the GRE is no longer a required application material. The Admissions Committee will not include GRE scores in the review process, even if an applicant supplies them.

Updated February 7, 2023

Determine the Appropriate Department and Particular Area of Concentration

A critical factor for the faculty making the admissions decision is the “fit” between the applicant and the department and concentration to which they are applying. “Fit” has to do with whether or not the specific program of study the applicant described matches with the programs and faculty resources at the GTU. This means that the Statement of Academic Purpose submitted as part of the application deserves special attention in terms of clarity, focus, demonstration of building on prior background, and demonstration of a good match with the program.

An applicant should also identify faculty within the department and particular concentration of study that closely connect with the applicant's interest. It is also recommended to become acquainted with faculty's current research, publication(s), and teaching interests to assess if there might be a connection with the kind of work the applicant wants to pursue as a scholar. The GTU Admissions Office can also assist in this process. Feel free to call (800)826-4488, (510)649-2460, or e-mail

Application Requirements

  • Application form and fee
  • TOEFL or IELTS examination score report
  • Official transcripts from all previous college-level work
  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Academic writing sample
  • Three academic letters of recommendation

Instructions for Completing the GTU PhD Application

The information included in this section enables the GTU to establish applicant records efficiently for the admissions and financial aid process.

GTU Doctoral programs are administered through four interdisciplinary departments, which each include a number of concentrations. The applicant must select one concentration (housed in one department) to which to apply; applications, however, are considered holistically, and it is possible that admission may be offered to a different concentration rather than to the applicant's chosen concentration.  Concentrations are quite fluid, and students may transfer from one concentration to another as research evolves.

International applicants from a country where English is not the official language must submit scores from the TOEFL or IELTS examination. Applicants are expected to have a TOEFL score of at least 80 (internet-based) or 550 (paper-based) from an exam taken within the last two years. For registration information visit

Applicants are expected to have a IELTS minimum score of at least 7.0. For registration information visit

PhD applicants must submit official transcripts of all college-level work. If an applicant is currently enrolled in a program, an in-progress transcript showing work to-date needs to be submitted. Upon admittance, final transcripts demonstrating the conferral of degree need to be submitted before enrollment in the doctoral program. An applicant should also list all post-secondary schools attended, with the most recent listed first. Official transcripts are sealed, unopened documents issued by the institution which bear the actual signature of the registrar and the seal of the institution, or the digital versions thereof. Institutions can send official transcripts directly to the GTU's Admissions Office at or mail to:

Graduate Theological Union

Admissions Office

2400 Ridge Road, 

Berkeley, CA 94709

Digital transcripts are welcome; unofficial, opened, or self-scanned transcripts may be used as "placeholders" to populate an application but must be replaced with official transcripts before a file is considered complete.  We strongly encourage students to order transcripts well in advance of the application deadline.

Most of the areas and topics of study in theological scholarship require research in modern languages (typically German and/or French) and ancient texts (typically Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and/or Latin). The applicant should indicate the level of proficiency in any of these languages.

An applicant should provide information about research and work experience useful in considering the application and also list honors, fellowships, or other commendations of note.

This statement should succinctly and specifically outline the goals and plans for doctoral level study, as well as academic interests. A strong statement is one that articulates research objectives and envisions the main components of study required in anticipation of the dissertation. A well-crafted statement should also clearly show how the resources of the GTU and the chosen department and concentration would assist in attaining the outlined goals. Finally, it should touch on academic background, indicating how this foundation will contribute to the proposed study, as well identifying appropriate GTU faculty with whom the applicant might work with, and why. Part of the challenge of the statement is that it should be brief (300-500 words).  Your statement of purpose is submitted as part of the online application.  We strongly recommend careful proofreading of the statement of purpose.

GTU Statement of Purpose Workshop

Choose people who can speak knowledgeably and articulately about your academic and intellectual potential and will write specific letters. Academic references are different from general character references. Letters are requested by the applicant and submitted by the recommender via the online application system.

Note: Once the application has been submitted, the online application system will send an email to the recommenders listed by the applicant asking them to submit a letter of recommendation.

The applicant can also download the recommendation form (PDF updated December 8, 2020) and email it to the recommender to submit to the GTU by email ( or post.

If the recommender is not able to use the online system, they can seal the letter and form together in an envelope and sign across the seal, and either return it to applicant to send with other materials, or mail the letter to the GTU directly.

If recommenders prefer to send the letter directly to the GTU, the applicant should inform them of the application deadline and provide them with a stamped envelope addressed to: Admissions Office, Graduate Theological Union, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709.

This should be as close to 20 pages as possible, without exceeding that limit. The writing sample may be an essay written for the application, a paper submitted during coursework, or an excerpt from a paper or thesis. It should include footnotes or endnotes as well as a bibliography. Please do not submit an entire thesis.  We will not include more than 20 pages in your application, so it is best to choose a writing sample that concludes within that length.

The writing sample need not be specifically addressed to the research focus of the application.  The priority is showcasing an applicant's excellent writing, critical thinking, and engagement with sources.  The writing sample may be a published work, but only if the applicant is the sole author.  Co-authored pieces may not be submitted as an applicant's writing sample.

Ph.D. applicants should submit a non-refundable fee:

  • $135 for domestic students
  • $155 for international students

Most applicants will submit this fee through the online applicant system, unless a credit card payment is not available to the applicant, in which case he or she may submit a check or money order.

If an applicant submits a check or money order, the name must be imprinted or written legibly on the front of the checks. We do not accept cash payments.

We offer application fee waivers for current GTU students or GTU graduates applying to the doctoral program. When prepared to submit your application, simply write to and request your fee waiver. 

In some extenuating circumstances we offer fee waivers to non-GTU applicants as well. Contact the Admissions Office for more information. 

Information for International Applicants

  • Submit official records from each academic institution attended after secondary school. Official records are original documents issued by the institution which bear the actual signature of the registrar and the seal of the issuing institution. Photocopies are acceptable only if 1) each copy is signed by an academic official who certifies that it is an exact copy of the original document; and 2) it bears the seal and title of the authorizing official. Photocopies of the official’s signature, stamp, or seal are not acceptable. Note: Specialized diplomas or certificate programs recognized by governments abroad may not necessarily be recognized as equivalent to the requirements for an academic bachelor’s degree. If your academic records do not include conferral date and official evidence of the award of your degree, you must also submit additional documents that verify the degree conferral. 
  • Submit official academic records in the original language, accompanied by English translations. Specially prepared English versions are not acceptable in place of documents issued in the original language. Academic records must show the dates of your enrollment, all subjects or courses, units, credits or hours, and grades in each subject. All records must include a complete description of institutional grading scales or other standards of evaluation with maximum grades and minimum marks indicated. Submit official evidence of the conferral of all degrees, diplomas, or professional titles and the date (month and year) of the formal conferral. These certificates should indicate the exact name of the degree, diploma, or title as it is known in the country of origin and not in American terms.
  • Admitted students who plan to enroll should complete a Certification of Financial Resources form for the GTU to review for consideration for the issuance of an I-20. Students at the GTU qualify for the F-1 visa.

Applying as a GTU current student or GTU graduate?

We offer application fee waivers for current GTU students or GTU graduates applying to the doctoral program.  When prepared to submit your application simply write to and request your fee waiver. 

In some extenuating circumstances we offer fee waivers to non-GTU applicants as well.  Contact the Admissions Office for more information.