HMNSS Building

How to Apply


Please review these guidelines. Following our advice will help you create a strong application.


Admission to the Ph.D. program is open to qualified candidates with a BA or MA degree. Your previous coursework should support your plan of study and maybe centered in a range of disciplines. Faculty in our department have BAs, MAs, and PhDs in a range of fields, including American Studies, Cinema Studies, English, Hispanic Literatures and Cultures, Literature, and Rhetoric. We welcome applications from students with degrees in these and related fields. An MFA may count towards the Ph.D. 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/Media. We review transcripts in order to make sure applicants have done coursework that prepared them for work in our department.

Please note, UCR does not allow the duplication of a Ph.D. degree: if you already have a Ph.D. in English or in a closely related field, please do not apply to our program.

Starting Your Application

Applications for fall admission open in September of the previous year. Start your online application as soon as you can, once that application cycle has started. Opening an application allows us to keep in touch with you and to remind you of the deadline. You can work on your application at your own pace; save your application as you go.

We do not require GRE scores.

Our admissions process is holistic, which makes no use of GRE scores. You can apply to our program without taking this test.  Please do not send scores even if you have them. We will not be consulting them.


The deadline for applications is December 14, 2021.

We accept applications to start in the fall quarter only (in this case, Fall 2022).

The Online Application 

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

Application Fee

Please pay the application fee or request a waiver.

To request a fee waiver, before submitting your application, email the Admissions Office at to request the form.


The most important GPA is that determined by your last two years of undergraduate coursework.  We calculate this, but knowing this and signaling a high GPA during this period in your SOP can help make your file stand out. This should be encouraging information for any applicant who had a difficult first year: blips are very common, especially for students who shift majors.


Even if the information is listed on another school’s transcript, list every school you’ve attended since graduating from high school.

Please upload unofficial transcripts with your application (as “additional information”) or send unofficial transcripts to: We require official transcripts only from students admitted to the program. Admission is contingent upon receiving official copies of transcripts for all schools you attended.

Specialization/Research Interest

Select one area specialization that corresponds with your interests as a scholar. This is required.

Select no more than three areas of research interest. More than three suggests a lack of focus.

We revise this list every year to reflect the orientation of the department’s research activity. Select no more than three areas. Educate yourself about the faculty working in these areas: these are the people most likely to read your application.

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 (12-20 pages). We require three letters of recommendation.

Please note our preferred file formats (PDFs titled with your name) and follow our recommendations.

How do I write a good statement of purpose?
  • Describe your main research interests.
  • Connect these interests to the work of faculty in our department and, if appropriate, to faculty in other departments at UCR (for example: Dance, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, History, Media and Cultural Studies).
  • 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 taken or taught, publications, campus/community-based service.
  • Lead your self-statement with where you are in your work now, and where you want to go. Avoid developmental narratives and generalizations.
  • Be specific. Name the kinds of scholars you admire, the texts that most engage you.
  • A good statement of purpose can be up to 3,000 characters (including spaces).  However, if the statement of purpose is slightly longer, upload a pdf copy of the statement when submitting the application.

Identify potential advisors
  • In your application, please identify at least two faculty you see as potential advisors.
  • You can also list potential advisors in the application itself under “previous faculty contacts at UCR” (even if you have not had direct contact with us).
  • Awareness of faculty scholarship is very important. Review faculty profiles on our website. Use google scholar to explore publications by members of the department.
  • Look at our graduate seminar offerings, learn what faculty teach.
  • Think about the different ways faculty interests connect with yours.
  • 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. We read the statement of purpose and the personal history statement 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.

Applicants who have teaching experience are welcome to describe that experience in their personal history or statement of purpose.

Writing Sample
  • Length: 12-20 pages. This is a soft guideline. Do not worry about whether your bibliography or works cited pages count. This should be one essay.
  • Topic: Your topic should reflect your research interests as described in the statement of purpose. Sometimes, however, the best sample for applicants applying especially from BA programs is in another field. This is less than ideal, so 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 program did not offer the chance to work in the area you want to pursue with our department. We find that this situation is sometimes the case for students coming from smaller campuses that do not have enough (or any) faculty working in areas that interest them. Some of the most impressive applications come from students who have had to make their own way. Let us know if this was your experience.
  • Research: We expect incoming graduate students to be comfortable working with scholarship, and to have basic research skills. Your writing sample should show awareness of 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.
  • Sometimes people applying to English Department PhD programs hesitate to share writing not based in literature: if you want to pursue topics in visual art, performance, media or sound studies you should share writing in these areas. We are very interested in applications that engage these kinds of texts.

Letters of Recommendation

Give your recommenders lots of notice. Share 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, we need at least two references to come from people who have been your teacher or know you through another academic context. If you are applying with an MFA, please make sure that most of your letters come from faculty who have taught you in courses/seminars that line up with your research interests.

When you open your online application and list your recommenders they will get a “ping” requesting a letter of recommendation. It is worth doing this as soon as you can.

File format

Upload your Statement of Purpose, Personal History, and Writing Samples PDFs. Please let your recommenders know that we prefer this format.

Please title these files (using your name) in the following manner:

  • LASTNAMEws.pdf
  • LASTNAMEsop.pdf
  • LASTNAMEph.pdf

Attach these documents to the online application.

Supplemental fellowship information

This part of the application form is optional and solicits information about applicants’ backgrounds. We strongly recommend that all applicants fill this section out.

Here, applicants can tell us, for example, if they are a first-generation college 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. Our admissions team enjoys learning about everyone’s pathway into higher education.

UCR’s Graduate Division consults these statements as it distributes 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.”

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 from their host countries. If you are an international student and are considering applying for a Fulbright, please reach out to us for guidance.

All applicants whose first language is not English and who have not earned an advanced degree at an institution where English is the exclusive language of instruction must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the IELTS scores. The TOEFL and IELTS must have been taken within the past two years; these tests cannot be waived. For more information, please consult UCR’s guidelines for English Language Requirements.

Save your work, and DON’T FORGET to hit “SUBMIT” when you are done!

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.

Who to contact

If you have questions about the Ph.D. degree please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Distinguished Professor Steven Axelrod. Any questions regarding the application process and admissions requirements, please contact Graduate Student Services Advisor, Perla Fabelo.