How to Apply

Santa Ana River

What kind of degree does the department offer?

We offer a PhD; we do not offer a terminal MA. Students entering with a BA enroll in seminars in their first two years and take a portfolio-based MA exam in the spring of their second year. Students entering with an MA will normally take nine seminars and then prepare for a qualifying exam at which point they advance to “candidacy” — meaning, they are working on their dissertation. For more on our degree program and for information about graduate student funding see “PhD Program” in the “Graduate” menu.

What kind of degree does the department accept?

Admission to the PhD program is open to qualified candidates with a BA or MA degree by the time of matriculation.

To count towards our PhD, the BA or MA degree must be in English or a related field (for example: Comparative Literature, American Studies, Ethnic Studies). An MFA will count towards the PhD if it includes substantial training relevant to the applicant’s proposed plan of study. (When we have accepted applicants with MFAs, they tend to be in Creative Writing or Film.) We review transcripts in order to make sure applicants have done coursework which prepared them for work in our department.

Faculty in our department have MAs and PhDs in a range of fields, including American Studies, Cinema Studies, English, Hispanic Literatures and Cultures, Literature, and Rhetoric.

What can one study?

We are an interdisciplinary English Department. One can take up approaches that fit within existing disciplinary frameworks, challenge those frameworks, redefine and work across them. That interdisciplinary can be found across our subfields.

You will get a good sense of what we do by reviewing faculty profiles, lists of past graduate seminars, dissertations and publications by our graduate students. (Available under the Graduate Program’s menu.) We welcome applications in all the fields we engage.

How do I apply?

The application is submitted on-line. Scroll down for instructions regarding the specific elements of the on-line application. You can find the application website here:

How do I build a strong application?

Your writing is the foundation for a strong application. Each application includes three examples of your writing: 1) Statement of Purpose 2) Personal History Statement 3) Writing Sample (12-15 pages). We also require three letters of recommendation: these are also very important.

See the guidelines below to help you create the best representation of your interests and work.

Statement of Purpose


  • Describe your main research interests.
  • Connect these interests to the work of faculty in our department and, if appropriate, in other departments at UCR.
  • Address the relationship between your writing sample and your areas of research.
  • Describe your accomplishments as a scholar — essays you’ve written, courses you’ve taught, publications, campus/community-based work.
  • Lead your self-statement with where you are in your work now, and where you want to go.

Some applicants apply to work with one or two faculty, but all applicants should think about the different ways their interests connect with other faculty in the department and with our research strengths. Ideally, one wants to be part of a broad intellectual community formed in relation to, but also beyond boundaries defined by nation/period, methodology, genre etc.

It is OK to have interests that cross what feel like disparate fields. Nearly all faculty work across disciplinary boundaries in one way or another.

The Personal History Statement

Applicants have a lot of freedom when it comes to this essay. Faculty in our department read both the statement of purpose and the personal history not only for the information shared in these essays, but also for the quality and character of your voice as a writer. Many applicants use this forum to explain why they feel the connection they do to their fields of interest, or why they want to become a scholar and teacher.

Writing sample

Length: The writing sample should be between 12-15 pages.

Topic: Ideally, this sample expresses the applicant’s research interests as described in the statement of purpose (SOP). Sometimes, however, a student’s best sample is in another field. This is OK, but please explain your choice of essay in your statement of purpose. This will help us to appreciate it.  This situation may, for example, reflect the fact that your BA or MA program did not offer the chance to work in the area you want to pursue with our department. We find that this situation is often the case for students interested in fields like Indigenous Studies, Latinx Studies, Asian American Studies and Black Studies — sometimes applicants come from campuses that do not have enough (or any) faculty working in these areas. Some of the most impressive applications come from students who have had to make their own way in these fields.

Other reasons why the subject of a writing sample might not align with an applicant’s stated research interests include a desire to share one’s strongest writing, to demonstrate range and research skills. Sometimes people hesitate to share writing not based in literature: if you are applying to study archival materials, to pursue topics in visual, performance, media or sound studies you should share writing in these areas.

Research: Your writing sample should show awareness regarding existing scholarship in your field (via citation, engagement with ideas and questions circulating in criticism/scholarship). This is true for all applicants, but it is particularly true for those applying from MA (and MFA) programs.

Letters of Recommendation

Give your recommenders lots of notice, and consider sharing your statement of purpose with them. Ideally, these letters are recent and are from faculty who really know your work. Some applicants apply from the workforce: if you are teaching, we welcome letters that address this kind of work experience. Archival, curatorial and editorial experience also resonates with our department. While letters from these latter professional contexts are interesting and helpful, however, we do also references from people who have been your teacher, or know you through another academic context.

Supplemental fellowship information

This part of the application form is optional, and solicits information about applicants’ backgrounds in relation to higher education. Here, applicants can tell us, for example, if they are a first generation student, if they have worked through their education and describe what it means to be a member of an under-represented community in higher education. Applicants often use this section to share their commitment to social justice and their commitment to teaching.

These narratives are used by Graduate Division as they distribute additional fellowship support. The Eugene Cota Robles Award, in particular, supports applicants with a strong commitment to pedagogy and who have faced challenges in their access to higher education. The award is meant to support people who come “from cultural, racial, ethnic, linguistic, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that are underrepresented in graduate education.” We strongly recommend that students fill this section out.

Areas of Research Interest

The on-line application form allows you to select from a menu describing areas of research strength in our department. While the platform allows you to choose as many as you want, please select no more than four. It is important that we have a sense of your focus. Ideally, you will refer to these areas of interest in your statement of purpose.

How are GRE scores and GPAs  used?

Our department reads applications holistically. We neither admit nor reject applications on the basis of GRE scores. We require them because UCR requires them.

GPAs are more important to us but they, too, are considered in context. The most important GPA is that determined by your last two years of undergraduate coursework.  We calculate this. This should be encouraging information for any applicant who had a difficult first year: this is very common.

Note: High GRE scores when combined with a high GPA can increase your eligibility for the highest level of fellowship awards from the university. These awards are not distributed by the department, but by UCR’s Graduate Division. That said, high/low GRE scores have no impact on our understanding of your eligibility for PhD-level work. They are infamously unreliable as indicators of one’s promise as a scholar and, again, while UCR’s Graduate Division requires them, our department does not consider them.

We do not require a subject test.

Teaching experience

Applicants who have teaching experience are welcome to describe that experience in their personal history or statement of purpose. PhD students teach through much of their time at UCR, and most are training for classroom-based careers. We welcome applications from faculty at area community colleges, and have a strong placement record with community colleges regionally and nationally.

International Applicants

We welcome applications from international scholars. International students are admitted with (very basic) financial support (tuition, a modest stipend). We encourage applicants to consider applying through the Fulbright Program and engaging whatever funding support they might be able to access. If you are an international student and are considering applying for a Fulbright, please reach out to us for guidance.


Our deadline is December 10.

The Department of English accepts applications for the fall quarter only.

The Online Application  — More Details

You will find UCR’s on-line application for Graduate Admission here:

Applicantion Checklist

  1. Official GRE Scores: Arrange for ETS to send us your official GRE scores (no paper submissions to the department).
  2. Letters of Recommendation: Your 3 recommenders should submit their letters to the online system (no paper submissions to the department) shortly after the deadline, if not before.
  3. Official Transcripts: Arrange to have oneoriginal set of each official transcript sent directly to the department.
  4. Supporting Documents: Attach all documents – Personal History, Statement of Purpose, Writing Sample – to the online application. Please upload these three documents as PDFs, and title them with your last name.
  5. Application Fee: Pay the application fee or get a waiver. To request a fee waiver, email the Admissions Office at grdadmis@ucr.eduto request the form before submitting your application.
  6. After you have done the above, hit “submit”!

You may work in stages, saving your work between sessions. You must click “Submit My Application” in order for your file to be evaluated for admission.  Be sure to do this before the deadline. The system will not permit an application to be submitted after the deadline.

More on GRE Scores

  • See above (“On Building a Strong Application”) for an explanation how we use GRE scores and GPAs.
  • The GRE school code for UCR is 4839 and the department code is 2599.
  • We do not require a subject exam.
  • Your GRE must have been taken within the five years priorto September of the year for which you are requesting admission.
  • To insure that your scores arrive by the deadline, you should take the GRE by mid-November.
  • Request that your official GRE scores be sent online(no paper documents) to UCR’s English Department at your earliest opportunity. It takes several weeks for the campus to receive official scores.

More on Transcripts:

  • Even if the information is listed on another school’s transcript, list every school you’ve attended after high school and arrange to have an original transcript from each school sent to us by mail.
  • Transcripts can arrive after the application deadline.
  • Official transcripts are the only documents to be mailed to the English Department. All other documents should be submitted online with your application.

Supplemental fellowship information

We recommend that all students fill this section out.  See above.

International Applicants and TOEFL