MA/PhD Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are admitted to the MA/PhD program each year?

We typically receive 250-350 applications each year for an incoming class of 10-14 students.

What is the difference between the Literature & Culture track and Language & Rhetoric track? Can I apply to both tracks?

Within the MA/PhD program we offer two tracks: one in Literature and Culture, the other in Language and Rhetoric. Intellectually, there is substantial connection between work in these areas of the department: faculty teaching in the Language and Rhetoric track are certainly thinking about matters of culture, just as faculty teaching in Literature and Culture clearly attend to the nature and politics of language. Students in either track can and do take courses in the other. 

However, these two tracks offer distinct forms of professional training and accreditation: students in the Literature and Culture track are trained to conduct research and to teach in literary and cultural studies (e.g., in fields such as Victorian literature, ecocritism, or contemporary speculative fiction). Students in the Language and Rhetoric track are trained to conduct research and to teach in areas broadly related to language-in-use (e.g., in fields such as composition studies, rhetoric, history of English, applied linguistics, literacy, and writing pedagogy). Their research might study practices in the composition classroom or might address topics in discourse analysis, language policy, and translingualism. On completion of the PhD, Literature and Culture students are qualified to apply for jobs teaching in their area of literary or cultural study; students in Language and Rhetoric are qualified to apply for jobs in rhetoric and composition studies, applied linguistics, or writing program administration. 

When applying to the program, applicants must choose between these two tracks and may not apply to both simultaneously.

I already have an MA in English. Can I apply directly to the PhD?

Our program is an integrated program, where some students enter the program with an MA in English (or related) degree, and others can earn one along the way. However, all students are required to earn 65 credits of coursework before moving on to exam reading. Students who already have a Master's degree may be able to transfer in up-to 10 credits of coursework (about one quarter's worth of coursework), and may or may not need to earn another MA in English. That is on a case-by-case basis, and that conversation happens with the Director of Graduate Studies once students are admitted to the program. Students who are able to transfer in those 10 credits would effectively have one less quarter of coursework to complete. You can learn more about our degree requirements here:

What is the most important piece of the application?

Applications are reviewed holistically and we take all materials under consideration.

Do I need to find a supervisor/committee director before applying to the program?

In our program, students do not need to create a committee until after their coursework requirements are complete (about two years into the program). Because of this, it is not necessary for applicants to find a committee director/supervisor before applying to our program.

Should I email faculty I am interested in working with?

Because of the volume of applications we receive each year, it is not feasible for faculty to engage in correspondence with individual applicants. Most of what prospective students need to know can be found on our website. For example, a good way to establish whether our program is a good fit with your interests is to browse our faculty profiles here: If after perusing the profiles you still have a question about whether our program can support your work, please reach out to the department’s Director of Graduate Studies.

Under no circumstances do we provide advance feedback on research proposals or application materials.

I am a non-native English speaker. Do I need to submit official test (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo) scores?

If submitting test scores, official TOEFL, IELTS and/or Duolingo test scores are required. Information on how to send test scores can be found on the UW Graduate School’s website here:

I am a non-native English speaker and meet the minimum admissions requirements. Why do I need to also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores?

The UW Graduate School has two policies in connection to this: Policy 3.2 and Policy 5.2.

Because we admit students to the MA/PhD program with funding in the form of an Academic Student Employee (ASE) teaching position, non-native English speakers must also meet the requirements listed in the UW Graduate School’s Policy 5.2 in order to be eligible to teach. 

There are a variety of ways to show English language proficiency in Policy 5.2. Typically, the best way to demonstrate proof of English proficiency is to submit TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Can I submit Duolingo scores to meet UW Graduate School Policy 5.2?

No, Duolingo scores do not meet the requirements listed in Policy 5.2. If submitting Duolingo scores, you must also meet the requirements listed in the UW Graduate School’s Policy 5.2: Conditions of Appointment for TAs who are not Native Speakers of English to be considered for an ASE position.

How do I know if my official test scores have been added to my application? 

You can confirm transmission of electronic test scores by logging into your application, and checking your Application Status Page > Tests section (successfully sent scores will show a date under “Date Received” column). 

Can I submit four letters of recommendation?

While the requirement is only three letters of recommendation, you do have the ability to submit four names of recommenders in the application portal.

Can my recommendation letters arrive after the December 1st application deadline?

While letters should arrive by December 1st, we will still consider letters which arrive within 48 hours of this deadline. Please note that it is the applicant’s responsibility to communicate with their recommenders well in advance of the deadline, so as to ensure that letters can be uploaded on time.

My writer is having an issue with the recommendation link. What should I do?

If a writer is having issues uploading their letter, they are welcome to email it directly to Note: we are unable to upload recommendation letters until your application has been submitted.

Are there specific guidelines for formatting the resume?

We don't have any specific requirements for formatting the resume. In formatting a resume, the main concern is that your most important qualifications and experience should stand out on a quick perusal.  

Even though they are no longer required, should I still submit my GRE scores?

If you have already taken the GRE and wish to submit scores, you may do so. However, it will not disadvantage you in any way if you do not submit GRE scores.

Can I apply after the December 1st deadline? Do you offer extensions?

The application is due at 11:59pm on December 1st. If December 1 falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then the deadline is the following Monday. We typically do not offer extensions.

Can the application fee be waived?

The UW Graduate School offers fee waivers to applicants who qualify for financial need; for more information, see the Graduate School's website:

What kinds of funding are available?

All students admitted to our MA/PhD program are offered five years of funding in the form of an Academic Student Employee (ASE) position. There is no separate funding application to complete. Typically, students teach one undergraduate composition course (e.g. ENGL 131) per quarter in autumn, winter and spring quarters. The funding package includes a tuition waiver, health insurance, and monthly stipend during the academic year.  (Sixth year funding is available, contingent on progress to degree.)

In addition, we have a number of supplemental recruitment awards we can offer each year, as well as multiple sources of fellowship support for students at the dissertation stage.

How large are the graduate seminars?

Seminar courses range from 4-10 students, with average class size at 6-8 students.

Do you offer a standalone MA in English Language & Literature?

Our MA is not designed to be a terminal degree. It is intended to be a pathway to our PhD program. Applicants interested in a terminal MA degree should not apply to the MA/PhD program.