Department of English

Graduate Admission FAQ

We receive approximately three hundred and fifty applications each year, and are able to offer admission to only a select handful of prospective students. Our faculty weigh a number of factors when considering candidates.

The department places the most importance on a candidate's personal statement and writing sample.

  • These pieces of writing must show, first of all, that the applicant would like to be a part of and is capable of succeeding in a graduate program whose goal is to train students to be professional literary scholars. We look for applicants who are asking provocative and potentially productive literary questions and who are interested in exploring such questions in a rigorous intellectual environment.
  • The personal statement and writing sample must also demonstrate that the candidate would fit in well with our program's strengths.
  • Third, they must show that the candidate has the skills and abilities required for those who are to be trained in literary studies.

Of course, a candidate's undergraduate and—if applicable—graduate record as well as letters of recommendation are integral to determining admission.

Length and Evaluation Criteria

We have no official requirement regarding the length of the writing sample. We ask that you send us a piece or pieces of your writing so that we can determine from this material if you have the necessary skills to succeed as a graduate student in English and, ultimately, a professional literary scholar at a major university. Such skills would include an ability to produce close, careful readings of texts as well as the ability to situate those readings in the context of a challenging and focused argument. Twenty-five pages would not be too much to send. A four-five page analytical paper would be far too short. Whatever you send, we strongly recommend that you seek the counsel of a faculty member at your present school (if you are currently attending one) or one of your previous institutions who has some familiarity with the current state of debates in literary studies.

Personal Statement

We have no official requirement regarding the length of the personal statement, although the typical length is between one and three pages.

Financial Support

The University offers incoming graduate students six years of guaranteed financial support, including a stipend, tuition remission, a health services fee, a health and dental insurance subsidy, and four years of summer support.  Students are supported by a fellowship in the first year. In years two, three, five and six, students are supported by a teaching assistantship, and in year four by a dissertation fellowship. Financial support is contingent upon students remaining in good standing in the program and making good progress toward the doctoral degree.

General Questions

As a rule, the Associate Director of Graduate Studies/Director of Graduate Admissions meets with students after they have applied and been accepted into the graduate program.

We require three letters of recommendation and you should ask the faculty who both know your work best and are enthusiastic about your work to write for you.

The GRE general and subject tests are not required.

Yes. Brown University requires this exam. Further information can be found on the Graduate School's website.

Yes. Your record, however, must demonstrate substantial coursework and research ability in literary studies.

Yes. However, you must submit electronically two applications and two sets of materials as well as pay two application fees. If you are accepted into both programs, you will only be allowed to matriculate in one or the other.

No. The M.A. program has been indefinitely suspended; however, a transitional M.A., the B.A./M.A. program, and the Open Graduate M.A. program are available to in-house Brown students.

We do not have a Film/Media Studies track within the Ph.D. program. The Department of Modern Culture and Media offers a doctoral program in Modern Culture & Media.

No. Acceptance into the Ph.D. program cannot be deferred from one year to another. If you are unable to begin graduate studies in September, you will need to reapply.

Applications and supporting materials cannot be reactivated from one year to the next.

The deadline to submit an application in CollegeNET is December 15, 2024.

Detailed information and the online application is available on the Graduate School's website.

Email the Graduate School admission staff at to avoid any mishaps with admission materials