MA/PhD Application Checklist


For frequently asked questions, please see our MA/PhD FAQ page. 

*Effective the Autumn 2021 admissions cycle, GRE General Test scores are no longer required as a part of the application.

The application deadline is December 15. If December 15 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the deadline is the following Monday. Offers of admission are usually made by mid-March.

Note: Be sure to select the English Language & Literature (PhD) application. You'll need to select either the Literature & Culture track or the Language & Rhetoric track. 

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For questions about application procedures, please email the English Graduate Office at

Application Materials

Unofficial Transcripts from All Colleges or Universities Attended

One copy of transcripts from each college or university attended, reflecting all graduate and undergraduate coursework is required. This copy will be considered "unofficial," but will suffice for application purposes. If admitted, you will be asked to submit your official transcript (either certified electronic transcript (preferred method) or a transcript in a sealed envelope bearing the Registrar's seal) from your degree-granting institution to the University of Washington Graduate School. 

Statement of Purpose (500 - 1,000 words)

The statement of purpose should explain your decision and motivation to pursue graduate study in English language and literature: How have your academic interests evolved? To which track are you applying (Language and Rhetoric or Literature and Culture) and within that track, what are your proposed fields, or areas of concentration (e.g., African American literature, late Victorian culture, queer theory, environmental humanities, translingualism, rhetorical theory)? What draws you to those fields and what are the issues or debates within your field(s) that you find especially important or compelling? Insofar as your personal background or experience has shaped your academic interests, you may want to include some biographical context, as well.

If you have a provisional sense of what the topic of your dissertation might be, by all means, please share it – although you need not be worried if you don’t. You should, however, provide some description of the kinds of materials and questions that engage you (perhaps by describing an honors thesis or MA essay, and highlighting its relation to other, allied topics you hope to explore).

Simply put, the statement of purpose should provide the selection committee with a snapshot of yourself as a scholar, as well as an indication of your intellectual and professional goals. You will also want to be specific about why you have applied to UW English, in particular: what do you see as the fit between your interests and those of program faculty? Are there specific faculty with whom you would be especially interested in working?

Critical Writing Sample (15-20 pages)

The Critical Writing Sample should be a 15-20 page paper representing the applicant's strengths as a critical thinker and writer. Ideally, the topic of your critical writing sample will align with your proposed fields of study. However, we do recognize that sometimes, this isn’t possible, if, for instance, the longer pieces you’ve had the opportunity to produce were not in your areas of primary interest. In that case, your goal is still to select a piece of writing which corresponds in some fashion to your present focus or demonstrates an engagement with theories and methods that would be applicable to your present focus. For example, let’s imagine your proposed focus is on sensibility in the 18th century and you have not written a longer essay on that topic. However, maybe you have a longer essay you’ve written on the late Victorian novel of sensation, which you could present as showcasing your approach to the study of emotion, or affect. Simply put, you want your writing sample to reflect some dimension of your current focus or approach. If you are concerned that the relation is not transparent, you might consider including a short prefatory paragraph explaining the relevance of the sample to your future work. Submitting two short essays is possible, but may well not work to your advantage. You might be better served by revising and expanding a short essay that you feel reflects your strongest work.  

Recommended style: double-spaced; consistent style (APA, Chicago, MLA, etc.) across the document; 1-inch margins; readable font

Three Letters of Recommendation

Use the online application to provide contact information for three people who will submit letters of recommendation. The most useful recommendations come from college professors familiar with your work as a student. Letters from employers are only helpful if your work was directly related to writing or teaching.

We urge applicants to have a full discussion with all prospective recommenders prior to seeking their recommendation. Recommenders should be aware of where you will be applying and of your academic and professional goals. Your aim is to select recommenders who believe your goals are well-suited to your talents.

Proof of English Language Proficiency (Non-native English Speakers Only)

Minimum admission requirements: Non-native English speakers must demonstrate English language proficiency in one of the ways listed on the Graduate School’s Memo 8: Graduate School English Language Proficiency Requirements

Requirements to hold a TA-ship/ASE appointment: MA/PhD students interested in an Academic Student Employee (ASE) appointment must also demonstrate English language proficiency in one of the ways listed on the Graduate School’s Memo 15: Conditions of Appointment for TAs who are not Native Speakers of English. If submitting TOEFL scores, you must receive a score of 26 or above on the speaking portion of TOEFL-iBT in order to be eligible to teach.

How to submit official TOEFL scores: Please ask ETS to send your official scores to the University of Washington using the University's institutional code: 4854. There is no need to include a departmental code.