Admissions Overview

2024-25 Admission Theme: Media Aesthetics

The Department of English currently has a themed admissions process. This means that the cohort of students admitted each year shares a particular area of research or methodology. Previous themes have included Black studies, Pre-1900 literature, and Poetry and poetics. This year’s theme is described below. Such a themed approach to PhD admissions has pluses and minuses: it allows the department to focus course offerings and programming, but strong applicants may be excluded by the particularity of a given year’s theme. We have nonetheless decided to continue with themed admissions at present. Note that the department anticipates that each theme is broadly salient and will be realized in varied ways. All themes are conceived as inclusive of multiple time periods and subfields.

For the 2024-2025 admissions cycle, the University of Chicago English Department is accepting only applicants planning to focus their graduate work on “media aesthetics.” We are looking for students who are asking and answering questions of how distinct mediums (print, performance, film, digital media, etc.) shape aesthetic experience, as well as those studying historical and cultural approaches to media and mediation. This work can be done in any period, and it can be transnational and multilinguistic in scope.  

We are particularly interested in applicants whose intellectual work engages with one or more of the following: medium specificity; remediation; adaptation and comparative media; new and old media; game studies; literary settings and environments; theatrical scenes, sets and contexts; atmospherics; book history; manuscript culture; trans-media; electronic literature; and artistic media including performance. We also welcome hybrid scholars working in creative and critical work in and across media, or public humanities and public facing work that foregrounds mediation. 

Future Admissions Themes

 Year 2 (2025–26): Environmental, ecological, and/or spatial matters, including eco-aesthetics, built environments and literature, geography and urbanization, and environmental e/affects. Prospective students might also consider connections to the Committee on Environment, Geography and Urbanization.

Year 3 (2026–27): Transnational literature, migration, and movement, including decolonial literatures, speculative fictions, the movement of cultural meaning, and translation.

UChicago Quadrangles


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:

  • Scanned transcripts from all college-level, degree-track programs. [Note: For Spring 2020 transcripts, ‘Pass’ grades and letter grades will be regarded as equivalent as we evaluate applications for admission to our PhD program.]
  • 3-4 confidential letters of recommendation (recommenders may upload directly or you may use a service like Interfolio).
  • A 15-20 page writing sample (double-spaced; page count does not include bibliography)
  • A statement of academic purpose, 1-3 pages, single-spaced


English Proficiency

Applicants for whom English is not a primary language may be required to submit current scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Current scores are no more than two years old at the time of application submission. A complete description of the English proficiency policy may be found at this website, and questions about the English proficiency requirement should be directed to

Frequently Asked Questions

Information for Applicants Impacted by COVID-19

The English Department as well as other Graduate programs at the University of Chicago share a desire to identify the most promising students for admission, and assess a wide variety of factors on a holistic basis. Faculty and admissions committees are aware of the disruptions impacting not just academic coursework and grading systems, but also research, travel, internships, employment, and many other activities. In light of the unprecedented challenges associated with COVID-19 facing individuals, institutions, and organizations, UChicago will evaluate applicants with these significant impacts in mind.

The University fully expects that admissions committees will evaluate all applicants with this in mind during future admissions cycles, including respecting decisions, whether made by institutions or individual students, to grade courses in Spring 2020 on a Pass/No Pass or other basis.

Does the Department of English accept applications by mail?
No. The department, with the rest of the Humanities Division graduate programs, only accepts online applications.


Does the Department of English require the GRE exam?
No. The department does not require any GRE exam scores.

Does the Department of English Admissions Committee have cutoff levels for GPAs?
No. The Admissions Committee does not have specific cutoff levels for GPAs, nor does the Department report average GPAs. Please note that the Admissions Committee generally considers your writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendation letters to be of most relevance.

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 faculty recommendations be uploaded by the application deadline. 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?
No. 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.)


Should I contact faculty with whom I would like to study before applying? 

It is not necessary or advantageous to contact individual faculty regarding your application. 

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 incoming doctoral students receive a comprehensive funding package to support them in their scholarly and pedagogical training and are eligible to be registered for up to 9 years. The funding package includes:

  • An academic year stipend (and teaching remuneration)
  • Full tuition aid
  • Health insurance premium aid

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 500 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?
Please refer to the Division of the Humanities page regarding joint degree information. 

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 application portal opens in early October and closes mid-December. We recommend that you check the Division of the Humanities page

I am an international applicant. Where can I find more information about resources available for international students at the University of Chicago?
For more information about international student resources at UChicago see the Division of the Humanities Resources for International Students.

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?
For information about campus tours, please visit UChicagoGRAD. 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

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