Prospective Student FAQ

Because many of our applicants share general questions about the application process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to make applying a bit easier. If you have a question that isn't answered on this list, please contact Heather Dias at

For all Prospective Applicants

For International Applicants

If I have a previous graduate degree, how will that be counted in my application to the PhD program?

Since we have a direct admission with a BA into the PhD program, students with an MA in English, MFA in English or any other graduate degree are welcome to apply if they are willing to fulfill all course requirements; previous coursework will only be counted at the discretion of the graduate director. All students admitted to the PhD program will receive a five year competitive funding package.

If I have a BA in English, can I apply directly to the PhD program?

The English Department does admit students who apply to the PhD program with a BA directly to the PhD program. All admitted students will receive a five year competitive funding package.

I am applying to the PhD program, but I would like to be considered for the MA program if not selected for the PhD. How do I indicate this on my application?

Please indicate this in your personal statement. We receive hundreds of applications for the 8-12 spots that are available for the PhD program in any given year, so we will not consider you for the MA unless specifically instructed.

How should I format my statement of purpose/what length should my statement of purpose be?

The statement, which should be around 1000 words, should address relevant aspects of your educational experience, the focus of your academic interests, and reasons for applying to our program. If you are applying to the PhD program but would like to be considered for the MA if you are not selected for the PhD, please indicate that here. The statement should be in a readable 12 pt font; however, we do not care if the statement is single spaced versus double spaced.

I have a transcript from my institution that is encrypted. What should I do? Should I still upload it to the application?

No, do not upload an encrypted transcript to the application. It will upload as a blank document. The program will not be able to use it for its evaluation. Please print the document out, scan it, then upload a scanned version.

Does the English graduate program require the GRE subject test?

No. Although the admissions committee will consider submitted subject test scores as part of a complete application, you are not required to take it and submission of such scores are unlikely to be a deciding factor in your admission.

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What GRE scores do I need to qualify for admission to the MA program? To the PhD?

Although we pay close attention to GRE scores, we do not specify particular scores as a requirement for admission. Strong GRE scores are obviously an asset to an application; low GRE scores need to be offset by other strengths in an application (see next question).

I took the GREs seven years ago. Can I submit those scores for consideration in my application?

We do not accept GRE scores that are over 4 years old.

What makes an application to either program successful in the admissions process?

The admissions committee looks closely at all the materials in an application:  GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and writing sample.  The critical writing sample, however, is probably the single most important element of a successful application.

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What makes a strong writing sample? What should I use as a writing sample?

In evaluating writing samples for both MA and PhD programs, we look for clarity and detail of argument; familiarity with literary, critical, and theoretical concepts; familiarity with literary research; and engaging ideas. We expect writing samples submitted by applicants who already have the MA to demonstrate an accomplished, focused presentation of these elements appropriate to advanced graduate study. Generally an applicant submits as a writing sample a paper originally completed for an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course and revised for the application process. We prefer that the writing sample be in the intended area of study. Samples of non-academic writing are not acceptable for this purpose.

How will I know that my application is complete?

You can check on the status of your application by logging on to your online application. We typically have spaces for around 15 entering MA students and 8-10 entering PhD students.

What are the strengths of your faculty?

The Department of English has distinguished faculty in all areas of its curriculum. For details see Faculty List by Area of Specialization.

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What is your record of PhD placement for the academic job market?

We have an excellent record of placing our PhDs in tenure-track jobs. Please see the Placement page on this website for details.

What forms of financial aid do you offer and how do I apply for them?

We provide funding in the form of fellowships and teaching assistantships. We have a limited number of fellowships that are distributed for recruitment, but a larger portion of financial aid is in the form of teaching assistantships. All PhD students will have their aid structured so that they will not have to teach the first year, and most teaching assistantships will be structured to require teaching two courses in your 2nd and 5th years and 3 courses in your 3rd and 4th.  Both TA-ships and fellowships carry a full tuition waiver (10 credits/semester). All applicants to the PhD program are automatically considered for financial aid, which is awarded solely on the basis of academic merit. MA students will be considered for partial funding through a limited number of teaching assistantships, but unlike the PhD program, we do admit unfunded MA students. Additionally, there are GAships available in various departments in the University to which students may apply. More information about travel and summer funding for admitted students can be found here

How long will it take me to finish the MA program? The PhD?

A full-time student will finish the MA in four to five semesters. The direct admit PhD program is designed to be completed within five years of initial enrollment. Progress to degree will vary depending upon an individual's circumstances. The Graduate Office is committed to facilitating students' progress to degree. The expected progress to degree schedule for the PhD program can be found here, the expected progress for MA students can be more flexible. We do allow MA students to work on the degree part-time; all PhD students are expected to be full-time. 

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Can I work on a degree part-time?

MA students are permitted to pursue the MA part-time. MA students may alternate between full and part-time status, depending upon circumstances and desire. All those working toward a PhD must be full-time students.

My GPA falls below those specified as qualifying an applicant for the MA (3.5) and PhD (3.7) programs. Can I still apply?

Yes. We realize that occasionally an applicant's GPA, especially for the BA degree, will not accurately reflect an individual's ability to perform successfully in a graduate program. In a case where an applicant has a GPA lower than that specified, we look all the more closely at other elements of the application. Please note that the Graduate School of the University of Maryland does stipulate 3.0 as the minimum GPA required for admission to any to any graduate program.

I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in English but I do not have an undergraduate major in English. What do I need to do to qualify for admission?

Applicants to the MA program without an undergraduate major in English should demonstrate that they have successfully completed approximately 24 upper-level credits in English. Prospective applicants who do not meet this criterion should consider taking upper-level undergraduate courses at the University of Maryland or elsewhere.

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I am interested in pursuing a graduate degree in English but I have missed the application deadline. Is there any way that I can take courses without being formally admitted to the program?

The University provides the category of Advanced Special Student for non-degree seeking individuals. Information on how to qualify for and obtain Advanced Special Student status is available on the Graduate School website.  Individuals admitted to the University as Advanced Special Students can take 600-level courses in the English graduate program, on a space-available basis, with the permission of the Graduate Office. The University permits an individual to transfer into a regular degree program up to 9 credits earned as an advanced special student. 

How many international students do you admit each year?

Admission to the English PhD program is exceptionally competitive and is based on the entire application.

If I, an international applicant, am admitted, what are my chances of receiving financial aid?

International students are evaluated equally with domestic applicants. All students admitted will be granted similar financial packages. We do keep in mind the financial requirements for international students when offering aid packages.

What additional steps do international students need to take in the application process?

Please consult the website for the Office of International Student and Scholar Services for a comprehensive overview.