Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions for Current and Prospective Students: 

For admission for the following fall semester application deadlines are:

January 5 for PhD applicants, February 1 for MA applicants with funding consideration and April 1 for all MA applicants.

The deadline for spring semester admissions (MA program only) is October 1.

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.


Only doctoral students are eligible for funding. The funding packet offered to all PhD students includes tuition remission, a Graduate Assistantship stipend, and a range of benefits (medical, dental, psychological, etc.).  Washington, DC offers exciting opportunities to experience a major metropolitan city also operating as the nation’s capitol; however, it has a high cost of living (DC was recently ranked as the most expensive city in the U.S.). 

For that reason we try to diminish costs as far as possible so that all students are able to focus on their scholarship as the central component of their labor while at GWU. Graduate packages for doctoral students include five years of tuition and stipend.

We accept PhD students to whom we can offer a full funding package for five years provided they make good progress in our program. Additionally, there are opportunities within and without the university to procure additional funding pertinent to one’s research interests (many of these are available to MA students as well).  We encourage and support students in these efforts and also routinely identify such opportunities on our email and website communications networks.  Because DC is a hub of government, funding opportunities exist in a variety of areas potentially relevant to student research interests.


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 GWU’s anti-discrimination policy for all members. 


While we recognize the difficulty of economic demands on all students, we also feel strongly that it is not possible to hold a full-time job and seriously pursue the rigorous nature of doctoral work at the same time.  All our PhD students hold Graduate Assistantships and/or Teaching Assistantships in order to hone the skills of instruction, public speaking, and writing crucial to success in any area of professional life. Some of our MA students also hold part-time jobs. However, in general, these additional workloads are approved based on their ability to feed an individual student’s future goals and immediate research interests. We expect that active participation in a vibrant departmental culture will engage student perspectives and believe that each student’s contribution depends upon their ability to keep an active presence in the program throughout their graduate degree work.

You can apply to the MA or Ph.D 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 GWU these are Medieval and Early Modern Literature, Post Colonial and nineteenth-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 GWU 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.

While the number of students who graduate from our programs each year varies based on time to degree completion, we generally graduate 3-4 PhD students a year and 6-8 MA students. Time for completion of the degree for the typical MA student is two years, and the length of Ph.D. study is limited to 8 years by the graduate school, although we expect students to finish during the five-year funding period. By providing ample funding packages, we seek to make graduate study a condensed, rigorous, yet achievable pursuit, as well as one that does not go on indefinitely. Our belief is that one is best prepared for the demands of today’s competitive job market by undergoing an intensive program of study that significantly hones critical, research, and pedagogical skills while also making an expansive range of texts available for demonstration of a marketable expertise.

We do not post job placement rates on our website because such statistics do not capture the fit between areas of study and diversity of professional objectives. Our program is able to tailor students as critical thinkers able to engage with pressing issues of social justice. These perspectives verse students in the lively nature of the literary past by delving into continuing questions of concern addressed in historical traditions of thought, genre conventions and expressive modes of experimentation, canonical and minority literatures, theoretical engagements with questions of social organization, exclusion, and alternatively productive systems of participation, as well as popular, philosophical, and literary mediums of communication. We believe the development of this diversity of interests and specificities of talent provide the foundation for success in any professional field seeking individuals who are independent thinkers attempting to improve the world and/or their immediate communities.

College guidelines allow graduate students to take up to 2 courses outside of her/his degree-granting department (and students are encouraged to take these courses at nearby universities as well).  Courses taken outside of departmental offerings are usually on the basis of the fact that some aspect of a key expertise for a student’s research may otherwise go unfulfilled. All areas of the GWU graduate curriculum are available for outside credit consideration as we promote not only interdisciplinary work but also the development of disciplines that are not exclusively literary in focus. We emphasize in particular the work of literature understood within its specific historical, cultural, material, philosophical, and genre contexts.

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 DC.