Graduate Theological Union

Ph.D. Application Information


Degree requirements for Admission

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

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? 
Quick Doctoral (PhD) Application Checklist (see details below; click here for printable checklist):
        — Select Department and Concentration
         Complete and Sign Application Form
         Submit Supporting Documents:
o   Statement of Purpose (300-500 words)
o   Writing Sample (20 pages)
o   Official GRE or TOEFL Scores
o   Official Transcripts (from each previous institution)
o   Three Letters of Recommendation
         Pay Application Fee
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 s/he is 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 Deadline

Application must be postmarked or submitted online by December 15 for consideration for the following fall semester. All applicants are considered for the Presidential Scholarship, which provides funding for the recipients' first two years in the doctoral program.

Application Requirements

  • Application form and fee
  • GRE or TOEFL examination score report
  • Official transcripts from all previous post-secondary institutions
  • Statement of Academic Purpose
  • Academic writing sample
  • Three academic letters of recommendation

Application Help


Instructions for Completing the GTU PhD Application


Personal Data

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

Degree Sought and Field of Study

GTU Doctoral programs are administered through four interdisciplinary departments, which are composed of concentrations. The applicant must select one department and then a specific concentration within that department in which to be considered for admission, and will not be considered for admission to any other department of study.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or TOEFL

All applicants whose native language is English are required to submit GRE scores from an exam taken within the last five years. Scores should be sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to the GTU Admissions Office (institution code 4336). We recommend that applicants take the exam by mid-November, as scores must be in by the end of December in order for the file to be considered complete.

International students applying from a country in which English is not the official language are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) in place of the GRE. Scores must be from an exam taken within the last two years. Scores must be sent from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to the GTU Admissions Office (institution code 4336).

Academic and Professional Background


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. Institutions can send official transcripts directly to the GTU's Director of Admissions, Dr. Andrea Sheaffer: or mail to: GTU Admissions Office . 2400 Ridge Road . Berkeley, CA . 94709

Language Study

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.

Professional Experience

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.

Statement of Academic Purpose

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). This is a vital part of the application process, and should be typed (not handwritten) and signed.  Your statement of purpose is considered digitally signed if you submit it through the online application.

Letters of Recommendation

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 a recommendation form (.pdf) and email it to the recommender to submit to the GTU by email ( or post.

If the applicant does not use the online system the recommenders can seal the letter and form in an envelope and sign across the seal, and either return it to applicant to send with other materials, or they can 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.

Academic Writing Sample

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.

Application Fee

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

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

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

Information for International Applicants

International applicants must:

  • 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.
  • 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.