PhD Program Admissions Information

Admission Process

All successful applicants enter the English graduate program as PhD students. We do not award a terminal MA degree. Without exception, incoming students are fully funded through a tuition scholarship and fellowship to cover living expenses. Applications to the program are judged holistically. There is no specific grade-point average or GRE score required for admission; instead, we look for a variety of signs of high achievement in undergraduate or MA work, particularly in written scholarship. A literary-critical paper of 10-25 pages must be included with your online application as your writing sample. 

When is the deadline for admission?

The department's deadline for admission is January 7, 2022. The online application system will open on September 1, 2021

How do I apply?

All students must apply to the PhD program online through the Graduate School.

What materials need to be included with my application?

Applications to the English graduate program require the following:

  1. a completed online application plus fee;
  2. a sample of literary-critical writing (10-25 pages);
  3. a brief statement of purpose describing your projected area(s) of interest or field(s) of study in the English department;
  4. OPTIONAL FOR ADMITTANCE: results of the GRE general test (WU code: 6929).  We do not require any minimum GRE score and do not publish average scores of our applicants.  The optional GRE is one factor in a holistic evaluation of every application submitted. Not taking this test will not adversely affect the evaluation of your application;
  5. OPTIONAL FOR ADMITTANCE: results of the GRE subject test Literature in English (WU code: 2501).  A high score may provide further evidence of literary background.  Not taking this test will not adversely affect the evaluation of your application;
  6. unofficial transcript(s) from all prior degree-awarding programs (BA and up); transcripts are not required from study abroad programs, an associate's degree, or community college credits; 
  7. three letters of recommendation.

Fellowships & Funding

All incoming graduate students are fully funded. In 2020-21, the value of full tuition remission is $56,300, and the University fellowship stipend is $26,831. Beginning in the fifth semester, all students who have made satisfactory progress are eligible for appointment as classroom instructors. These appointments carry a full stipend ($26,831 in 2020-21) and full remission of tuition and are renewable for up to five semesters so long as performance in the classroom and in the degree program remains satisfactory. No prior experience is required, and training is provided. The teaching load is one class per semester, with the number of students capped at twelve in all first-year writing courses.

Are there funds available for travel needed for my dissertation?

Dissertation Travel Funds are awarded by the Graduate School to students in good standing in the final year of their dissertation work. The funds will ideally be used by the student to visit an archive or museum to complete dissertation research, present a conference paper, or attend national meetings in their disciplines at which job interviews are held. Prior to the year-long fellowship, students can apply to participate in the summer Mellon Summer Dissertation Seminar that comes with a stipend of $2,000.

Is summer funding included?

General summer funding is now a guaranteed part of our support package.

Will the department offer financial assistance for me to attend conferences?

The Graduate School and our department fund the presentation of research at academic conferences and recognize excellence in both scholarship and teaching. Graduate students can be reimbursed for transportation and housing costs, registration fees, and meals associated with several conferences over the course of the degree.

Annual graduate student awards

The Cornelison English Graduate Prize is annually awarded to the authors of the two essays judged to represent the finest written work produced in that year's coursework. First place comes with $2,500; the runner up receives $1,500. At about the same time every year, the Graduate School presents the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence, with a prize of $1,500, to graduate instructors nominated by all departments and programs in Arts and Sciences. Our department's nominee has never failed to win this accolade.

Additional Funding Opportunities at WashU

Those who are eligible may also apply for an Olin Fellowship for Women in Graduate Study or a Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship for students bringing a strong sense of diversity to the university. Both require separate applications (through the office of the Dean of the Graduate School). The Olin awards carry stipends ($35,000 in 2020-21) in addition to full remission of tuition and are renewable for the duration of the degree program up to a maximum of four years. No teaching or other duties are required, though students may opt to do so. Chancellor's Graduate fellowships are for five years, carry full tuition remission and, in 2020-21, an annual stipend of $35,000 + $1,800 allowance for books, travel, etc.

Teaching and Training

What teaching experience will I get in this program?

The department promotes students' professional development as teachers through four interlinked teaching experiences.

  • The sequence begins with mentored teaching in a university courses during the fall and spring of the third year, with some home-based in English and others based in departments and programs that have included African and African American Studies, American Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Film and Media Studies, and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. These mentored teaching experiences (made with the concurrent approval of the DGS and the relevant course instructor) do not always need to mirror perfectly a student's area of specialization, as indicated by the Major Field. They are made on the basis that the experience will be professionally useful.
  • Starting in the fourth year of graduate study, students begin teaching Writing 1. This course, required of all first-year undergraduates, fosters creativity and experimentation in all phases of the writing process. Graduate instructors are prepared to teach this course through the Practicum in Teaching Writing, a three-credit course taken in the fall of their fourth year.,
  • The third level of teaching expertise is represented by co-teaching opportunities in the area of a student's specialization and in collaboration with a member of the student's Research Advisory Committee. In most cases, co-teaching proposals will be approved after the student has successfully passed the Major Field exam in the fall of the fourth year. Co-teaching proposals must be submitted to the Curriculum Committee when that body makes its general call for course proposals. Each student is advised to plan well in advance with his or her primary advisor about the possibilities for and timing of a co-teaching experience.

Can I teach a course of my own design?

We do offer and facilitate opportunities for teaching a self-designed course. Such opportunities exist at Washington University (at University College and in some of the programs with which we collaborate) and at many of the other colleges in the city of St. Louis.

What other opportunities are available at WashU for developing as an educator?

The Graduate School also offers a teaching citation, which enhances students' teaching knowledge and skills. Gaining the citation requires participation in non-credit workshops in the Teaching Center, completion of varied teaching experiences, submission of faculty and student evaluations of the student's teaching, and the development of a teaching philosophy statement.

Life in St. Louis

A culturally diverse and exciting city, St. Louis is one of the most affordable and livable major metropolitan centers in the United States. Perhaps the greatest surprise to visitors and newcomers is just how green are our neighborhoods. One rarely goes more than two or three city blocks without finding an attractive and welcoming park in which to stroll, run, bike, or rollerblade. In addition, with affordable housing, excellent restaurants, numerous sporting events, and varied cultural activities, St. Louis is one of the most pleasant American cities in which to live and to work.

What is there to do in St. Louis?

The city's extensive park system provides natural beauty in almost all neighborhoods. Forest Park, the crown jewel of this system, not only borders Washington University to the east but also boasts the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis History Museum, the St. Louis Municipal Opera, and miles of biking, jogging, and strolling paths. Tower Grove Park is also a popular place to relax, while the Missouri Botanical Gardens, with its free summer jazz concerts and annual Japanese Festival, is one of the city's most scenic spots.

The St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Blues guarantee that professional sports action is always nearby. In addition to the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theatre St. Louis, the city is the home of a number of repertory theatres. The St. Louis Art Museum, one of the finest in the Midwest, has recently been joined by two contemporary art museums: the Pulitzer and the Contemporary Museum of Art.

Is there affordable housing nearby?

Affordable housing can be found in several neighborhoods. With monthly rents averaging between $400 and $700, one can often find distinctive apartments and homes that feature hardwood floors, steam radiators, and excellent interior woodwork. In addition, neighborhoods are quiet and often include community gardens that add to the natural beauty of St. Louis's urban environment. The University runs an apartment referral service to assist incoming students in their search for housing.

How is the food scene?

The number of excellent restaurants and bars that cater to a variety of tastes contributes to the genuine sense of community experienced in the city's different neighborhoods. For example, the Delmar Loop, an area just north of the Wash U campus, includes Italian, Lebanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Persian, and Ethiopian restaurants in addition to the (reputedly) best hamburgers in town at Blueberry Hill. The city's Italian district, known simply as the Hill, includes some of the city's best dining, while the Soulard area features New Orleans-style restaurants in all price ranges and perhaps a dozen or so family-owned pubs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you send prospective applicants an informational packet about the English department?

We do not have information to be mailed out; however, most questions can be answered by reading through our online Graduate Student Handbook.

How much is the application fee?

The non-refundable application fee is a $45.00. 

Do you require a minimum score for the General GRE?

We do not require a GRE score for admission to the program. We consider applications in a holistic fashion, looking for various signs of aptitude and preparation. If you'd like to submit your GRE score, you may do so on the CollegeNET application. 

Do you require the GRE Subject in Literature test?

We do not require a GRE score for admission to the program. We consider applications in a holistic fashion, looking for various signs of aptitude and preparation. If you'd like to submit your GRE score, you may do so on the CollegeNET application.

How long should my writing sample be?

Writing samples are typically 10-25 pages. 

Do you look for anything in particular in the statement of purpose?

Statements of purpose should primarily speak to your research interests and why they matter; they should also convey a sense of why our particular program is a suitable place for you to pursue these interests.

Can my recommenders submit their letters of recommendation through a dossier service such as Interfolio?

Our online application system is not currently compatible with services like Interfolio. Within our CollegeNet application system, once you input the name and contact information for each recommender, the system will generate a unique link for each recommender that they will follow back to the system to upload their letter. 

Do I need to submit hard copies of my official transcripts?

No. However, we do request that you upload clear and legible unofficial copies of your transcript(s). If you are admitted into the program and accept our offer of admission, we will then require an official copy of your collegiate and graduate school coursework, if applicable, to confirm that your previous degree(s) has been officially conferred.

Am I able to apply to your graduate program if I only have a bachelor’s degree?

Yes. All students that enter our graduate program earn their Master’s degree in English and American Literature and continue seamlessly into the remainder of the Ph.D. program.

Does Washington University offer a terminal M.A. degree in English Literature?

No. Students who enter our program will earn an M.A. in English and American Literature after two years, but continue on toward their Ph.D. in either English and American Literature or English and Comparative Literature. 

I am currently working full-time. Is there any way for me to continue working and pursue my PhD at the same time? Do you have any night, online or weekend courses available?

We do not offer graduate-level courses during the weekend or online. The Ph.D. program is considered full-time, and we pay our graduate students a stipend that is meant to cover living expenses. With the cost of living in St. Louis being so reasonable, most of our students find that it is not necessary to search for additional sources of income.

Does the English department offer scholarships for its Ph.D. students?

We do not offer scholarships. All incoming graduate students are fully funded and provided with tuition remission. In 2020-21, the value of full tuition remission is $56,300, and the University fellowship stipend is $26,831.

Other Forms of Support

There are also two highly competitive university-wide fellowships which Writing Program students are urged to apply for separately. (The only students in the Writing Program who receive a different level of support are those who win these fellowships.) Women who graduated from (or will graduate from) an undergraduate institution in the United States should consider applying for the Mr. and Mrs. Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women in Graduate Study. In addition to the same full tuition scholarships, the Olin Fellowships in 2017-18 carry a stipend of $31,296 per year and, if academic performance is satisfactory, they are renewable for the length of the degree program.

Learn More About the Spencer T. Olin Fellowships for Women

The Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship Program is for students who graduated from (or will graduate from) an undergraduate institution in the United States who would contribute to the diversity at the university. In addition to the full tuition scholarships, the Chancellor's Fellowships for 2017-18 carry a stipend of $31,296 per year. 

Learn more about the Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship Program

There are no special awards for foreign applicants. Except for the Olin Fellowship and The Chancellor's Graduate Fellowship Program, there is no special application form for applying for financial aid. The financial statement referred to in the application form is not required for first-year support, but you may request it from the Graduate School (after January 1st) if you wish to apply for a loan to supplement any award you might receive.

When should I hear a decision regarding my admission to the program?

The Graduate Committee will aim to send decision letters to each applicant by the beginning of March of each year.


If you have any additional questions about the Ph.D. program and/or any aspect of the application process, please contact the Academic Coordinator:

Rhiannon Amato
Campus Box 1122
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
Phone: 314-935-5120