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University of Pennsylvania Course/Program Name
Application closes on
National :05 Jan 
International :05 Jan 

BA Jewish Studies

 Course Level
Bachelors / UG
Full Time

4 Years
 Start month

 Tuition fee

51464 USD
51464 USD

Application fee

International 75 USD
National 75 USD
Department of Jewish Studies
Scores accepted
IELTS (min)7
TOEFL-IBT (min)100
TOEFL-PBT (min)600
SAT (avg)1600
ACT (avg)32

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About this course

 The Jewish Studies Program at Penn provides students the opportunity to explore Jewish culture, history, language, and literature from the era of the Bible through the contemporary period. The major aims to introduce students to the broad chronological and disciplinary scope of Jewish Studies and to familiarize them with the diverse expressions of Jewish culture in different times and places. Those who complete the major will have a firm grasp of the role of Jewish culture within world civilization.

Majoring in Jewish Studies is an organic part of a liberal arts education. Students study Jewish culture in dialogue with other disciplines in the humanities. The Program provides opportunities for interaction with faculty members who specialize in a wide range of fields and offers students the chance to pursue individual research, both inside and outside the classroom.

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Eligibility Criteria

Eng lang – On the TOEFL-iBT exam (Internet-Based Test), competitive applicants tend to have a composite score of 100 and above (the exam is scaled from 0-120, with 120 being a perfect score) with demonstrated consistency on each section of the exam (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). On the Paper- Based TOEFL, Penn tends to admit students with a score of 600 and above (the exam is scaled from 310 to 677, with 677 being a perfect score).

  • IELTS - 7.0
  • SAT - 1600
  • ACT - 32

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Course Modules

Jewish Studies Major
A undergraduate student wishing to pursue a major in Jewish Studies at Penn may choose among four options, each of which concentrates upon a different intellectual approach to Jewish civilization in its various aspects.

Interdisciplinary Major
The interdisciplinary major allows students to study Jewish history, literature, religion, and culture in a program that integrates these different dimensions of Jewish civilization from the various disciplinary perspectives of Jewish Studies. The major normally consists of 14 c.u.s though double-majors may apply to have the requirement reduced to 12 c.u.s. Please note: Transfer credits (including all study abroad courses) are limited to 4 c.u.s for the Interdisciplinary major.

  • Proficiency in Hebrew or Yiddish language, which can be attained either by studying these languages at Penn and completing the last level, or for Hebrew, by passing out of the requirement through the placement exam. For Hebrew proficiency a student can also have scored 700 and above on the Hebrew Achievement Exam (SAT II), or have gained an Israeli Baccalaureate. Both modern and Biblical Hebrew language courses -- including JWST 059 -- may count towards the major as language or elective courses but not for the modern Jewish literature requirement. In special circumstances, students may petition to have another language substituted for use in the major.
  • Three courses in Jewish history, from at least two different periods (ancient, medieval/early modern, or modern) which normally will include at least two semesters of either JWST156/HIST 139; JWST157/HIST140; or JWST158/HIST141.
  • Three courses in Jewish literature. These courses may be either in the original language or in translation, but they must include at least one course from the Biblical period; one from the Rabbinic or Medieval periods; and one from the Modern period.
  • Three courses in Jewish religion or culture, including courses in political science and Middle Eastern studies, folklore, sociology, archaeology, and anthropology.
  • JWST 390 Senior Research/Thesis Seminar
  • Complete the Jewish Studies Major Assessment

Jewish History Concentration though the Department of History
The Jewish history concentration within the History major focuses upon the historical dimensions of Jewish experience and the evolution of Jewish life in the context of the different cultures in which Jews have lived. The History major requires 12 c.u.s.

  • Two out of the three general survey courses in Jewish history which treat the ancient (HIST 139), medieval (HIST 140), and modern periods (HIST 141) respectively.
  • Three additional courses in Jewish history, one of which must be a seminar that contains a historiographical or methodological component. With the permission of the faculty advisor, JWST 390 Research/Thesis Seminar may be taken to fulfill the seminar requirement. Students may also choose to enroll in the History Honors program which requires a thesis.
  • Two courses in Jewish Studies from other departments (including NELC, English, Folklore, German, Religious Studies, and Sociology).
  • In addition to the requirements for the Jewish history concentration, students must fulfill the general requirements for the History major, which include:One course in American history, 1 course in European history; and 1 course in world history.
  • Two courses that cover the pre-1800 period.
  • Two history seminars at the 200 level or above.
  • Although language courses will not be counted for the 12 c.u.s of the History major, students concentrating in Jewish history must attain second-year proficiency in Hebrew or Yiddish, either by passing the proficiency exam or by completing the four-semester Hebrew or Yiddish language sequence.

Hebrew and Judaica Concentration though the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
The Hebrew/Judaica Concentration in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations focuses upon the study of Hebrew language and literature as a window for understanding Jewish culture and its historical experience through the literary analysis of texts and artifacts. The major normally requires 14 c.u.s. If a student is a double-major and enters Penn with proficiency in Hebrew language, s/he may apply to have the major reduced to 12 c.u.s.

  • Proficiency in Hebrew language, which can be attained either by studying these languages at Penn and completing the last level, by passing out of the requirement through the placement exam, scoring 700 and above on the Hebrew Achievement Exam (SAT II), or having gained an Israeli Baccalaureate. Both modern and Biblical Hebrew language courses -- including HEBR 059 -- may count towards the major as language or elective courses but not for the modern Jewish literature requirement. In special circumstances, students may petition to have another language substituted for use in the major.
  • At least three courses in which Hebrew texts are read in the original. Minimally, these courses must include at least one text-course in Biblical literature (e.g. HEBR 250) ; one in Rabbinic or Medieval Hebrew literature (e.g. HEBR 257 or 258); and one in Modern Hebrew Literature (HEBR 259 or 359).
  • Two "breadth" courses in NELC outside the Hebraica/Judaica concentration (eg., NELC 102 Introduction to the Middle East, NELC 136, Islam, Religions, and Institutions or NELC 101, Ancient Middle Eastern History). Double majors are required to take only one "breadth" course.
  • Remaining electives in courses relevant to the student's fields of interest. No more than seven of these electives (half the major) can be taken in other departments or outside Penn.
  • A "concentration" paper: In an appropriate class or seminar, the major must write a more ambitious paper which will serve as a capstone project for the major. A student need not take a special course to fulfil the requirement, but majors are encouraged to take the Jewish Studies Thesis/Research seminar to do so.

Judaism Concentration through the Department of Religious Studies
The Judaism Concentration in the Religious Studies Department focuses on the study of Judaism within the context of other world religions and offers students the opportunity to explore the construction of Jewish religion in its different cultural settings. The major consists of 12 courses, four of which can be transferred from other departments or programs (in addition to all courses normally cross-listed with Religious Studies).

  • RELS 002, Religions of the West (a comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).At least two introductory-level courses in Judaism (like RELS 123, Classical Judaism; RELS 126, Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; RELS 128, Jews, Judaism, and Modernity). At least two semesters of the three semester Jewish History sequence (RELS 120; RELS 121; RELS 122)
  • At least two other courses on either other world religions (eg. Intro. to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) or other methods of studying religion (e.g. Religion and Literature, Theories of Religion, The Cult Controversy).
  • One Seminar in Religous Studies at the 400 level or above OR JWST 390 Research/Thesis seminar.
  • Four electives, which may include courses from other departments. Of the above courses, at least one must be in each of the General Distribution sectors in which Religious Studies Courses are taught (eg. History and Tradition, Society, Arts and Letters). Although language courses will not be counted for the major, students are encouraged to attain proficiency in a Jewish language (normally Hebrew or Yiddish).

The Honors Option in Jewish Studies
Each of the major options offers students the opportunity to graduate with Honors; in most cases the Honors program includes a special Honors Thesis. For further information, students are advised to speak with the honors advisor in each department or program.

Jewish Studies Senior Research Seminar (JWST 390)
In the Spring semester of their senior year, Jewish Studies interdisciplinary majors participate in an advanced research seminar. During the semester, students will conduct independent research on a topic chosen in consultation with a faculty advisor, and complete a 20-30 page paper. Students will work with individual faculty advisors in their area of specialty and also participate in a seminar meeting that meets periodically throughout the semester. In the seminar, students will discuss research methods and interpretive skills and share their work-in-progress. JWST 390 is required of all students majoring in the Interdisciplinary Jewish Studies major, but all majors and minors in the various departmental programs are encouraged to take the seminar. Students are advised to begin speaking with an advisor about their research topic during the semester preceeding the seminar.

Jewish Studies Major Assessment Procedures
In order to measure their progress and accomplishment as Jewish Studies majors, and to reflect on their experiences within the major, graduating students will be required to:

Participate in a senior seminar (JWST 390) where they complete a substantial research paper. This experience allows students to become experts in a topic that they choose.  Majors also have the option of writing an honors thesis, in which case they enroll in a second semester independent study, in addition to the senior research seminar.
Complete a Self-Assessment in the Jewish Studies Major

Check further details on University website

How to Apply

Required Materials

  • Common Application & Penn Writing Supplement
  • Official High School Transcript
  • School Report
  • Counselor Recommendation
  • Academic Teacher Evaluations (2)
  • Early Decision Agreement
  • Mid-Year Report
  • Final Report

Home School Applicant Guidelines
Penn welcomes and encourages applications from a growing number of Home School students. We enjoy getting to know academically talented and often courageous pioneers who chart non-conventional academic paths. As part of Penn’s holistic evaluation process, home school applicants are asked to review the Application Tips below and to complete all sections of the Common Application and Penn Writing Supplement.

More information is better… In the Secondary School Report and elsewhere in your Penn application, please share your motivations for choosing a rigorous home school journey.  Why did you or your family seek home schooling as an option for your education?  Describe your curriculum in detail and tell us how you, your family or oversight group have organized your pursuit of knowledge across core academic disciplines including humanities, math, social and natural sciences, and foreign languages.  How has being home schooled helped you grow intellectually and personally or enhanced your opportunities for learning?  The aim is to help the admissions committee understand how you have worked to “demonstrate mastery” and “distinguish excellence” across the curriculum.  Anything you or your academic supervisor can do to explain and contextualize your educational circumstances can only be helpful in the Penn admissions process.

Application Tips

  • It is partcularly important for each home school applicant to submit a consolidated transcript that pulls together and organizes all academic work. If the name of a course isn't clear or needs further explanation, include a brief course description. Course listings, grading/rating scales, syllabi, lab work, reading lists, textbooks or historical/current information help to enhance our understanding of your academic program.
  • Standardized test scores in subjects you wish to showcase may provide objective evidence and support for grades and ratings.
  • Recommendations and viewpoints provided by instructors from outside of your home provide objective evaluations and lend additional context to your academic work.
  • The Secondary School Report may be completed by a high school guidance counselor, homeschool program coordinator, curriculum advisor, or family and may include motivations for home schooling, description of curricula, etc.

International Application Guidelines
Prior to the expected date of entrance at Penn, an international applicant should have completed a program of secondary education that would enable the student to enter a university in his or her own country (e.g., A-levels, Abitur). 

Because Penn's admissions decisions are made prior to the announcement of the results of many national examinations (such as the A-levels or the French Baccalaureate), applicants are expected to be enrolled in programs preparing them for these examinations. Applicants must also request that their schools send Penn predictions of external examination results in addition to the school marks. 

Where national examinations are required for admission to a pre-university program (e.g., GCSE, SPM, HKCE, WASC, O-levels, or India's "Std X" examination), students should have received high marks on these examinations and should present certified copies of the examination results with their applications to Penn. 

We are also interested in learning about your non-scholarly interests, community service, and extracurricular activities (while recognizing that patterns for non-academic involvement vary from country to country). 

 TOEFL Examination
Penn's school code is 2926.

A strong command of the English language is necessary for successful study at Penn. Applicants whose families do not speak English at home, or applicants who have not attended a high school or secondary school where the primary language of instruction is English, are asked to take the TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, administered by the Educational Testing Service. Non-native English speakers who are attending English-speaking schools are also encouraged to take the TOEFL. In general, it is good practice for all applicants who have English as a second language to take the TOEFL.

To register, visit TOEFL's website. Results should be forwarded directly to the Penn Office of Admissions.

Prospective applicants should register for TOEFL two-to-three months before the test administration date.

Be sure to designate Penn as a recipient university each time you register. If you are in your final year and are testing in October or later, we recommend that you do not use Score Choice. If you have taken the test but did not designate Penn as a score recipient, please do so afterwards. Send Penn an unofficial copy of your scores as well.

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