Admission and Application


GW English Admissions a student talking to an admission counselor


Students with a BA in English, American Literature or a closely related discipline — or 24 credit hours of literature in English above the sophomore level — may apply for admission to either the MA or PhD program. Applicants are expected to have outstanding grades in literature, or a closely related discipline, as well as an overall average of at least a B in their college-level work.


Application Requirements

GW's Columbian College of Arts and Sciences requires applicants to submit their applications online. Any application materials not submitted online should be sent to the Graduate Admissions office:

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
The George Washington University

801 22nd Street, NW, Room 107
Washington DC 20052

Phone: 202-994-6210
Fax: 202-994-6213

The application form must be accompanied by:

  • Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • M.A. Applicants - GRE general (taken in the last five years). Note: the ETS code for both the GRE and TOEFL is 5246.
  • Ph.D. Applicants - GRE general (taken in the last five years). Subject GRE test is recommended (taken in the last five years). Note: the ETS code for both the GRE and TOEFL is 5246. The GRE general test is waived for applicants who hold a J.D., M.D., or Ph.D.
  • Statement of Purpose (250-500 words).
  • Writing sample,10-20 pages; this should be critical/scholarly work rather than creative writing.

For the latest admissions information, please visit the GW Graduate Program Finder.


Application Deadlines

Deadlines vary from year to year. For more detailed information on this year's deadlines, please consult the GW Graduate Program Finder.

In general, the deadlines are:

  • January 15 for PhD candidates
  • February 1 for MA applicants for funding consideration
  • April 1 for all MA candidates

After submitting your application online, you may check your application status by logging into your online account. Applicants who do not apply online must contact the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to determine their status.


Admission FAQs

The minimum TOEFL score required of all PhD applicants from non-English speaking countries is 100 on the internet-based test and 600 on the paper-based test. The English department will consider MA applicants with a lower TOEFL score on a case-by-case basis. The TOEFL requirement may be waived for applicants who already hold a higher education degree from a college or university where English is the primary language.

All graduate school applicants are required by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to take the GRE. If requested, the English department will consider waiving the GRE score if the applicant already holds a JD, MD, or PhD. The GRE score must not be more than 5 years old from the time of application. The English graduate program highly recommends that prospective applicants also take the specialized subject test in English. The subject test allows us to better assess each applicant’s ability to thrive in the program and arrive prepared for the rigors of graduate study.

All aspects of the application materials are important and all are taken into consideration when applicant pools are reviewed. There is no section of the application that is more telling than another, and every application is evaluated in its entirety. We do, however, look for ways in which the student matches with our existing expertise, and also how the applicant identifies his or her strengths in relation to the departmental offerings and expertise as a whole. Your best chance to make an argument for a good fit with our program strengths is through your personal statement, in which you should identify faculty with whom you would like to work. The committee’s deliberation involves an individual process of consideration for every applicant and our goal is to find the most productive potential for future scholars in the individual mix of qualifications, past academic and professional performance, liveliness of scholarly and self presentation, and commitment to the rigors of quality graduate-level work.

There are some parts of graduate degree work that can be completed while a student is out of state. The MA thesis project and the PhD dissertation are largely self-directed activities that are often completed in another location. Sometimes being off campus is, in fact, necessary for reasons of access to an archive located in another state or country. However, during the primary phase of your coursework (in the MA program the first year and a half, and in the PhD program after the first two years), we expect that students will maintain an active presence in the program and take classes on campus. Funded students usually teach as part of their package and we expect that, short of a special arrangement, they will be residents of D.C.

No external marker of identity or social status influences the consideration of any applicant. Our admissions committee bases its selections on the quality of all applicants’ past work as well as likelihood of fit for our programs. The program promotes values of diversity, multiculturalism and the productive integration of social differences as the basis for its social justice commitments. Thus, we actively seek a diverse faculty and student body through which to achieve these ideals. Please see GW’s anti-discrimination policy for all members.

You can apply to the MA or PhD programs with any research areas in mind. However, as with any graduate program, our most significant offerings for scholarly development reside with specific themes. At GW, these are Medieval and Early Modern Literature, Post-Colonial and 19th-century British Literature, American Literature and Culture—especially ethnic and minority studies—and Crip/Queer Studies. When choosing a graduate program, it is necessary to consider your scholarly interests and assess the degree to which a program can successfully feed, cultivate, and nourish those pursuits. We highly recommend tailoring your application to reflect the ways in which our areas of specialization will assist you in achieving your future goals. Specific identifications of scholarly and faculty research at GW that dovetail with your own interests usually make for the most dynamic application packet. The question is not whether we accommodate your research interest, but rather whether your research interests can flourish given our specific areas of expertise.