Applying to the Graduate Program in Folklore

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We appreciate your interest in UNC’s Folklore Program and look forward to receiving your application. You will submit your application electronically via the Graduate School website. We encourage you to contact us directly as well, however, at  We’re here to answer your questions, to help you learn more about specific aspects of our program so you can judge if this is the right place for you, and to arrange for you to visit Chapel Hill.  We are always delighted to have prospective students sit in on classes and talk with individual faculty members and current students.

We expect that many applicants to a Folklore graduate program will not have been exposed to the academic study of folklore at the undergraduate level.  To learn more about what the study of folklore entails, we recommend that you look at one of the “primers” for the field: Barre Toelken’s The Dynamics of Folklore, Robert Georges and Michael Owen Jones’s Folkloristics: An Introduction, or Martha C. Sims and Martine Stephens’s Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions. When you are ready for more advanced works on specific topics, see this list of books and articles our faculty members have found most influential in their own work. The UNC Folklore Program adds a strong emphasis on Southern regional culture to the interests and issues these general works describe. Not all of our students focus their studies on local subjects, but most do ethnographic fieldwork here. The distinctive culture of the area around us is one of the UNC Folklore Program’s most exciting resources.

To apply to our program, you will need to supply a copy of your undergraduate college transcript(s), three letters of recommendation (preferably from your college professors or others who can write about your abilities in an academic setting), a CV, and your Graduate Record Examination scores (no more than five years old). For international applicants, the Graduate School requires additional materials–see their website. For the application, obtain unofficial transcripts, scan them, and upload those pdfs; if you are accepted, you will need to ask the colleges or universities you attended to send official transcripts directly to the Graduate School. We also require a two- to three-page statement of your interests and professional goals in folklore. Specifically, be sure to explain what has led to your involvement in the field (readings, courses, mentors, fieldwork, festivals), why you want to study at UNC in particular, and what you plan to do with your graduate degree in Folklore—in other words, how would two years of study in the UNC Folklore Program fit into your life trajectory and support your intellectual and professional goals? We also need to see one or two samples of your writing.  They should show your ability to develop ideas and to write clearly, and ideally one (if you send two) should demonstrate your facility with a formal academic writing style.  The writing samples do not have to be explicitly about a folklore topic.  Your best college term paper or a chapter from your honors thesis would be perfect.  Try to keep the writing sample to 10-15 pages.  We welcome creative work and copies of audio or video productions as well–the best way to make such material available is to put it on a website or blog and include links in one of the documents you upload as a writing sample.

The Graduate School website accepts application materials for Folklore up until the first Tuesday in December (December 2 in 2014) for admission the following Fall. You absolutely MUST get that on-line application submitted and your application fee paid by December 2 or we cannot consider you. After that admissions are closed for the year.  It may take time for the Graduate School staff to get your materials uploaded, and the faculty cannot see your file to start the evaluation process until the required materials are in place.  We generally begin making admission offers in February, but it could be as late as April before you hear from us. (The Graduate School website may inform you that Folklore is also able to admit students for Spring or Summer sessions, but we resort to this expedient only in extremely unusual circumstances and without any hope of offering funding.  Those deadlines are in October for the following Spring and in March for Summer Session II.)

If you are thinking about applying for a student loan to supplement any support the Program offers you should complete the FAFSA application as soon as possible after January 1 but definitely before mid-February, whether you have heard from us about admission yet or not. Remember that it helps to have gathered the material you will need for your Federal Income Tax return in order to supply all the information required for FAFSA.

Patricia Sawin
Coordinator of the Folklore Program and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of American Studies
CB 3520, Greenlaw Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3520 
(919) 962-4065