PhD Application Checklist and FAQ


Students applying to the PhD program in English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago must complete an online application and upload the following to that application:

  • GRE scores--general test only
  • Scanned transcripts from all college-level, degree-track programs
  • 3-4 confidential letters of recommendation (have your faculty recommenders upload these directly)
  • A 15-20 page writing sample (double-spaced; page count does not include bibliography)
  • A statement of academic purpose, 1-3 pages, single-spaced
  • TOEFL scores--these are required only for foreign students who are from non-English-speaking nations and who have had less than one year of study at an English-medium university in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa.

The application deadline for 2017-18 is December 15th. For comprehensive information about admissions requirements and procedures, see the University of Chicago Humanities Division's Admissions webpage and also the Division's Online Application webpage. All applications must be completed online.

Frequently Asked Questions about the PhD Application

Does the Department of English accept applications by mail?
The department, with the rest of the Humanities Division graduate programs, accepts online applications only.


Does the Department of English require the GRE subject exam?
The department does not require the GRE subject exam, and scores for this exam are not considered in the admissions process. Do not submit GRE subject exam scores in your online application.

What is the GRE code for the University of Chicago?

I have multiple GRE scores. How will my scores be interpreted?
ETS provides GRE scores from the past five years of an applicant's records. It is up to the discretion of the reviewers how they would like to account for these scores.

Does the Department of English Admissions Committee have cutoff levels for GRE scores and GPAs?
The Admissions Committee does not have specific cutoff levels for GRE scores and GPAs. Please note that the Admissions Committee generally considers your writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendation letters to be more important to your application than your GRE scores.

Questions about Application Materials

My writing sample is over 20 pages long. Will my application still be considered?
Your application will still be considered if your writing sample is over the recommended upper limit of 20 pages. This recommended limit is not absolutely fixed, but we strongly suggest that applicants try to adhere to it as closely as possible. If you are unable to reduce the paper you want to use as a writing sample in your PhD application to 20 pages, please consider providing an 20-page excerpt from that paper and supplying a brief (one-page or less) abstract that contextualizes the function and place of the excerpted section within the paper as a whole. Place the explanation and writing on one pdf.

What is the deadline for uploading all application materials? All application materials must be uploaded on the application by the application deadline to guarantee inclusion with your application. We cannot guarantee that materials uploaded after the deadline will be included in the review process as your application may have already been reviewed by the committee. We strongly prefer that application materials, including faculty recommendations, should be uploaded to the online application. If this is impossible, recommenders should contact Humanities Admissions at

Do page counts refer to single- or double-spaced pages? The writing sample should be 15-20 pages double-spaced. The statement of academic purpose (also referred to as the Candidate or Personal Statement, or the "Statement of Intent") should be 1-3 pages single-spaced. Additional PhD application information can be found on the Division of Humanities Admissions webpage.

Master's Degree

Does the Department of English offer a master's degree?
The Department of English does not offer a terminal MA degree. We recommend that students interested in master's-level work consider applying to the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities (MAPH). MAPH provides students with strong pedagogical support, including writing colloquia, a core course, and master's thesis workshops.

Department of English students can earn an MA while on the PhD track, providing they do not already hold an MA in English.

Does the PhD program have different requirements for students who already hold a master's degree in English?
The admissions committee will review the transcripts of students entering the program with an MA in English to evaluate if any of their previous graduate course work will be counted as fulfilling requirements in our program. Typically, students who enter the program with an MA in English must take at least one year of course work, plus an additional two courses in their second year of the program. (By contrast, students who enter the program with a BA degree are required to take two full years of courses.)


Once I've submitted my application, how can I check that my materials were received? Once your application is submitted, you can log in to the submission site to track the receipt of your application. As the Admissions Office receives your application materials, they will update your checklist.

Does the Department of English fund all admitted students? All students admitted to the PhD program are funded equally and receive a five-year package, which includes a generous stipend, tuition remission, and health insurance.

How many applicants does the PhD program receive per year and how many of these applicants are admitted?
In recent years, we have received around 600 applications a year and have admitted anywhere from 2% to 5% of those applicants into our PhD program.

I would like to apply for a joint degree program at the University of Chicago. How can I go about doing this?
In the Humanities Division at Chicago, applicants cannot apply for a joint degree program upfront. It is recommended that you apply to one of the two departments in which you are interested and, in the following year, apply for a joint degree with the other department.

I am currently enrolled in a PhD program at another University and would like to transfer to the University of Chicago. How can I do this?
The PhD program in English does not accept transfer students. For admission, you must apply as would any other prospective student, regardless of your academic background. The admission committee will assess your academic progress and see what graduate courses, if any, may be counted toward your PhD course work at University of Chicago.

How many times a year do you accept PhD applicants? We only accept new PhD students in the fall. The deadline is typically in the third week of December.

How can I fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement?
Graduate students must prove they are proficient in one language other than English to meet the Department's requirement. There are a number of ways in which students can fulfill the Foreign Language Requirement:

  1. For students who want to study a new language: Taking (a) two quarters of classes in a language here (100 level or above) or (b) six weeks in an intensive summer course in a language here (100 level or above) and receiving grades of A or A- in those courses.
  2. For students who want to continue training in a language they’ve already begun studying: Taking (a) two quarters of classes in that language at the level the placement exam indicates) or (b) six weeks in an intensive summer course in a language here, also at the level where the placement exam indicates) and receiving grades of A or A- in those courses.
  3. Subject to review by Director of Graduate Studies: Taking (or getting credit for) two years of a language in an undergraduate or another graduate program.
  4. Receiving at least a B grade in a one-quarter graduate literature course, or a 200-level undergraduate literature course, in the literature of one language, taken at this University. Texts must be read in the language, and the student must have taken classes in this language previously.
  5. Receiving an A or A- grade in the one-quarter graduate course, German 33300: German for Research Purposes (or similar courses in other languages, should those be developed), providing that the student selects a set of literary and critical texts (as described in no. 4, above) to use as “sources from their own field of study” in fulfilling the course requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to see that the course instructor understands this requirement and communicates to the Director of Graduate Studies that the student has met it.
  6. Subject to review by Director of Graduate Studies: Taking other intensive summer language courses elsewhere funded by a FLAS grant.
  7. Taking one of the following course sequences in Computer Sciences (either during the year or in the summer) and receiving at least a B grade in both quarters: (1) CS 10100 and 10200, Introduction to the World Wide Web 1 & 2; (2) CS 10500 and 10600, Fundamentals of Computer Programming 1 & 2; (3) CS 12100 and 12200 Computer Science with Applications 1 & 2; or (4) CS 15100/16100 and 15200/16200 (Honors) Introduction to Computer Science 1 & 2.

Can prospective students schedule campus visits?
The Department of English hosts an Open House each year, solely for prospective students who have already been admitted to the PhD program. If other prospective students have questions about the program, they should e-mail department staff at

For information about campus tours, please visit UChicagoGRAD.