Graduate School Application Process

Making Application

You have now targeted schools where you'd like to complete your graduate study, and you've done your "homework" by reading as much as you can about the graduate program(s) and reviewing publications by the potential faculty mentors you've identified. Now what?

First, find out when the application deadline is for the schools to which you plan to apply. Applications are often accepted in late December or early January for the following autumn, though some schools do have different application cycles or a "rolling admission" process. Research information and application instructions for each school.

Prepare all documents that are required by your target schools. Most schools will require these admission materials, but you should check with each prospective graduate program before proceeding:

MA / PhD




Here is a helpful article about applying to graduate school:…
Consider writing to appropriate faculty at your target schools.Tell them about your academic interests (or interests in creative writing), and read their published works. Without being overbearing or a pest, try to maintain some dialogue with prospective faculty mentors. This way, you become more than just another name on a list of applicants.

Request letters of recommendation from faculty members who know you well enough to discuss your work and your potential in detail. Otherwise, admission committees will receive "meaningless" letters that say "Janelle did well in my Victorian literature class. She earned a 3.7." Graduate admission committees need to see letters that speak specifically to your accomplishments as an undergraduate, your potential as a graduate student, and your potential for fitting into and contributing to a community of scholars in English language and literature. Good letters of recommendation are an important component in admission decisions. For more information, see the section on requesting letters of recommendation.

Work hard at perfecting your statement of purpose. Your statement of purpose is an extremely important component of your graduate admission packet. Ask peers, faculty, or advisers to review what you've written, and plan to make multiple drafts. English Undergraduate Advising offers Statement of Purpose Workshops every autumn quarter. Watch your englmajors e-mail for announcements. There are workshops on statement of purpose writing available through the UW Women's Center (open to both women and men), and there are also many publications available through bookstores that address this topic. Click here for English Advising's online information about statement of purpose writing.

Polish your writing sample. Your critical writing sample should represent your best work in an area related to the academic interest(s) you want to pursue in your graduate study. Continue to revise and refine. Work with faculty whenever possible on your revisions. Prepare to turn in an absolutely clean copy (don't turn in a sample that has been graded or commented upon) that has been edited thoroughly. Your creative writing sample should consist of your best work in either poetry or fiction. Again, seek faculty help and guidance in your revisions, and prepare to turn in clean copies (not graded or marked up) that have been edited thoroughly.

Take the appropriate GRE tests well in advance. For MA/PhD, often both the General Aptitude Test and the Literature in English Subject Test are required. (Most MFA programs do not require the Subject Test.) The GRE (Graduate Records Exam) General Test has sections that test your verbal, analytical, and quantitative ability. (Your verbal and analytical scores will be most important for graduate study in English.) The GRE Literature in English Subject Test consists of approximately 230 questions on poetry, drama, biography, the essay, the short story, the novel, criticism, literary theory, and the history of the language. For information about the tests, sample questions, and registration, visit the GRE website.

Fill out all of the application paperwork completely and submit all requested information (personal statement, GRE scores, recommendations, etc.) on time. Most schools have an application checklist. Make sure that there's nothing missing. If you have questions about any of the materials, contact the graduate program adviser for the targeted program(s).

Apply for teaching assistantships and other available fellowship programs. There is usually a separate application for these funding opportunities. Most schools can direct you to other funding opportunities outside their own departments as well. For information about graduate funding sources from the UW Graduate School, click here.