How to Apply to the MODA Program

For admission in Fall 2024, all application materials must be received by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by December 14, 2023. Late applications will not be accepted. The department does not offer spring admission.

The online application and additional admissions information are available on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Admissions webpage. Student inquiries about the application process and portal should be directed to [email protected].

If you have additional questions specifically related to the department and the MODA program, please email [email protected].

For admission to all graduate programs, the prerequisite is a minimum of 4 courses in art history or studies closely related (e.g., archaeology, architectural history, art-historical anthropology, visual studies, film studies, media studies, etc.). As MODA is a program devoted to advanced study in modern and contemporary art, students should have previous courses in those fields, and demonstrate a basic grasp of the history of modernism. An undergraduate major in art history is not a requirement, but candidates should contextualize their course of study thus far and their ability to pursue graduate level work in art history. It is also advised that students have prior knowledge of at least one foreign language at the time of applying.

For the MA in Modern Art (MODA), indicate "Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies" under Proposed Department on the application. Then declare the intended fields of specialization on the application under the headings "Subfields 1 and 2." The applicant must indicate one of these fields in the application:

Subfield 1 Options:

  • 20th & 21st Century Art and Theory
  • 20th & 21st Century Architecture and Theory

If relevant, please also indicate a second subfield:

  • American and European, pre-1945
  • American and European, post-1945
  • African American/African/ Caribbean/African Diaspora
  • Latin American
  • Modern and Contemporary East Asian
  • Modern and Contemporary South Asian
  • Modern and Contemporary Middle Eastern
  • Global Contemporary
  • History of Photo and New Media (1900-1945)
  • History of Photo and New Media (post-1945)

Applicants who wish to study fields other than the above (i.e., pre-1900) should apply to the MA in Art History program.

Application Information

A complete application includes the following information:

Applicants should upload a transcript or record (e.g. web-based transcripts, mark sheets, Relevé de Notes) of any academic work from each university-level institution you have attended for use in review of your application. Uploading a scanned copy of your transcript or academic record will expedite processing and review of your application. However, applicants should not send official paper transcripts. If you receive an offer of admission, you will be required to send official paper documents for verification before the offer is considered official. Do not send official transcripts before being notified by GSAS.

Study abroad undertaken as part of your undergraduate work does not require uploading of a separate transcript, provided that both courses and grades are recorded on the main transcript.

Transcripts that are in a language other than English must be translated into English. The translation must be certified to be an accurate translation of the original and be notarized or otherwise authenticated. Both non-English and translated transcripts should be uploaded.

The statement of academic purpose should be a succinct statement of approximately 2-3 pages (double spaced) describing your past academic work and preparation related to your intended field of study, your plans for graduate study at Columbia, and your subsequent career objectives. If you intend to transfer from a graduate program at another university, please explain why you wish to do so. If you are not currently attending an academic program, please describe your activities since you were last enrolled. If there has been a break in your educational experience, please include a brief explanation.

A CV is a type of résumé traditionally used to list academic accomplishments, awards and publications. The CV includes research and teaching, publications, presentations, and other education-related activities, and should follow a standard format for academic c.v.s (see

Three letters of recommendation are required. Per GSAS, at least TWO must be submitted by academic recommenders.

Letters of recommendation should ideally be from professors and scholars who can speak to the applicant's abilities and suitability for graduate study at Columbia. Typically, letters come from art and architectural historians or archaeologists, professors who have taught or supervised the applicant in college or at the Masters level. A letter from an academic in another discipline, preferably the humanities, is also acceptable, as are letters from museum professionals. The referee ought to know the applicant well, know his or her work, and know what his or her goals are. The letters of reference are an important component of the application.

As a note, applicants should request letters of recommendation as early as possible. We urge you to verify that all of your letters have been submitted by the time you submit your application to avoid any delay in the review of your file. Admissions will notify you via email when a recommendation has been submitted for your file. You may submit your application even if all of your letters have not yet been received, but your file will not be considered fully complete until the letters have arrived. After submitting the application, you may monitor receipt of recommendations by viewing your Applicant Status page. You may not submit your application until you have designated the required number of recommenders.

The GRE is optional. Should students wish to take the exam, the GRE code for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is 2162. There is no department code.

The English Proficiency Requirement is mandated by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Applicants whose native language is not English and who have received an undergraduate degree from an institution in a country where the official language is not English, or who have received an undergraduate degree from a non-English speaking country and are now studying at the graduate level in the U.S. or another English-speaking country, must take the TOEFL or IELTS and need to score at least a 100 on the internet-based exam or the IELTS and score at least 7.5. For more information, please read the English Proficiency Requirements under Information for International Students on the GSAS Admissions webpage. The TOEFL code for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is 2162. There is no department code.

Note: Applicants who have studied for at least two years at a U.S. institution or at an institution in a country where the official language is English and earned the undergraduate (or bachelor’s) degree at that institution are not required to complete the English proficiency requirement.

International applicants should also visit the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) website for details regarding studying at the University, including visa and registration requirements.

The writing sample is a very important component of the application. It should be an example of your best scholarly writing. Typically, the writing sample will be an excerpt from an undergraduate senior thesis, a seminar paper, or an article or other published work; it should be a critical or scholarly work in art history or a closely related field that demonstrates the candidate's skills in research and interpretation. Writing samples should be between 10-15 pages (essay and footnotes ONLY). If the writing sample is above 15 pages, then a selection should be taken and edited so it reads as a complete essay.

Note: Applicants can submit up to 10 additional pages to include a bibliography and/or images ONLY.

Per GSAS, a nonrefundable fee of $120 will be required for the 2023 online application. Applications are not considered complete until the fee has been paid. Decisions will not be released on applications with pending application fee payments.

For information on fee waivers, see the Application Fee Waivers page on the GSAS website.

NOTE: If you have problems with the online application portal please contact GSAS Admission for assistance.

Additional Information

There are no organized events or tours for potential applicants. With rare exception, the Director of MODA only meets with admitted students. Applicants who wish to visit campus should consult the Visitors Center page on the Columbia University website.

All applicants will be notified by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of the results of their application in mid- to late March.