Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the most common questions from prospective students interested in applying to one of our Department's graduate programs. If you have questions that are not answered here, on our Department site, or on the Graduate School's website, please contact our graduate studies administrator, Robyn Shanahan.

My undergraduate degree is not in English. May I still apply?

Yes, by all means. Our program is committed to the study of Anglophone literatures both in their particular national and linguistic context, and in their relation to other contexts, linguistic, national, disciplinary, and so forth. We are happy to welcome students whose undergraduate or graduate degrees are in such fields. Do note that because we also stress the comprehensive coverage of Anglophone literatures, you may find that you have to fill in some gaps, either before enrolling (summer courses, etc.) or during your first and second years. If you have had very few courses in English or other Anglophone literatures, we may reckon that you would find it impossible to fill in these gaps adequately — and this could affect our admissions decision. If you feel that you have a strong background in English, and that this is not represented by your coursework, please be sure to explain the circumstance as specifically as you can in your application.

Where can I get an application?

The Graduate School is now requiring that all application forms be completed online. You will need to choose "Creative Writing" if you are applying to the MFA, and "English" for all other program areas in the Department of English. Paper application forms are no longer available. If you are unable to apply online, please make your request for alternate arrangements in writing to:

Admissions Office
7195 Helen C. White Hall
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706

What is the deadline for my application?

Your application materials must be uploaded by December 8th. This deadline date applies to each of our graduate programs except Creative Writing whose application deadline is December 15th.

Any application materials sent in hard copy format must be postmarked by December 8th and sent to:

Graduate Admissions
Department of English
7195H Helen C. White Hall
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706

When and how are admissions decisions communicated?

We try to give you as much time as possible to think about your graduate school choices. Admissions decisions will be communicated as soon as possible. Typically students are contacted in late February. Students will be notified via U.S. post, or may also be telephoned or contacted via email.

I'm filling out the online application and my only options for "Intended Field of Study" are English MA and English PhD. Which should I choose?

Applicants to the Graduate Program in Literary Studies should choose the "English MA" option. You will be given the opportunity to indicate your intent to pursue the PhD in a subsequent question. Applicants to the Applied English Linguistics program should choose the "English MA" option. Applicants to the Composition and Rhetoric and the English Language and Linguistics program should indicate the English PhD. Those applicants applying for admission into the Bridge programs from Afro-American Studies to either the Literary Studies or Composition and Rhetoric PhD program should apply for admission to both the MA in Afro-American Studies and the English PhD. If you have questions about this, please contact the Admissions Coordinator listed in the "Contacts" section.

What do I send to the Graduate School and what do I send to the English Department?

Submit all materials via the Graduate School's online application. These items include:

- Reasons for Graduate Study (300 to 500 words) in PDF format
- Names and contact information for three recommenders
- GRE scores
- Transcripts compiled into one PDF document 
- Academic writing sample in PDF format

Materials not uploaded to the Graduate School application should be mailed directly to the Department of English at:

Graduate Admissions
Department of English
7195H Helen C. White Hall
600 N. Park St.
Madison, WI 53706

Are my recommenders required to submit their letters electronically?

If your recommender is unable to submit his or her letter electronically a copy of the appropriate Recommendation Request form may be downloaded, printed, filled in by hand, and mailed to the Recommender. Applicants that utilize a portfolio service should feel free to submit their letters of recommendation in paper form using that service. Recommenders should be people who have taught the applicant rather than employers or others who know the applicant in non-academic contexts.


May I use a college or university recommendation service?

We expect that your recommenders will submit their letters of recommendation electronically. With prior arrangements we will accept letters from a college or university recommendation service.

May I reuse old letters of recommendation?

It is in your best interest to refresh your letters of recommendation, if possible, so they carry a date of the year in which you apply for admission.

Do you accept faxed transcripts or letters of recommendation?

Faxed letters of recommendation and transcripts are not considered official documents. Transcripts must be mailed in signed and sealed envelopes to be considered official. Letters of recommendation must be submitted electronically unless prior arrangements have been made through the Admissions Office. Your file must contain official letters of recommendation and official transcripts to be considered complete. A faxed letter or transcript may be used on occasion in place of a forthcoming, official letter but only at the discretion of the Admissions Committee(s).

Do I need an official transcript from every school I attended, including study abroad?

Until the point at which you are recommended for admission, an uploaded copy of transcripts from each institution you have attended is all that is required. Transcripts from international schools must be submitted as part of your application materials unless full information of your course of study – including course titles in English and grades received – are in evidence on any other official higher education transcript.

If recommended for admission, we will need an official record of all post-secondary coursework you have taken. This means that you will need to submit two transcripts in the original, sealed envelope from the institutions you have attended. If you transferred from school A to school B, and your transcript from school B reads only "24 credits transferred from school A," then we will require two transcripts from school A (we need to know what courses you took, and how you did in those courses). If your transcript from school B details the courses and grades from school A, then we do not need a separate transcript from school A. If you attended school C over the summer, say, or after graduating from school B (where you got your degree), and would like us to know about the course work that you did at school C, then we will require an official transcript from that school.

International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation. Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signatures.

Do I have to send everything in one packet?

We prefer getting all mailed application materials in one packet but understand that sometimes this is not possible.

May I defer my admission, if necessary?

No, we're sorry but it is not possible to defer admission. Should you be accepted and find yourself unable to attend, you will have to reapply to the Graduate School, pay the application fee, and resubmit most of your application materials.

You will need to resubmit transcripts, including any transcripts from institutions you have attended since your initial application. It is in your best interest to have fresh letters of recommendation – even if this means only that you ask your recommenders to resend earlier letters with a current date. (MFA applicants are required to submit new letters of recommendation with every application.) You may reuse your statement of purpose and your writing sample, but you are advised to think carefully about whether these reflect your current abilities and academic interests.

Can I apply to begin my graduate English program during the Spring semester?

No, all English graduate programs accept students to begin only during the Fall semester.

Do you have any advice about what to put into my "Reasons for Graduate Study"?

This is your opportunity to discuss your distinct reasons for graduate study. Students often include items such as: what prompted the decision to study English at the graduate level; background (life and education); real life literary experiences; academic interests and research; sources of inspiration, etc. If you have specific academic reasons for choosing the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of English, please articulate those. Statements should be 300 to 500 words and should be written in your distinctive voice.

May I use the same reasons for graduate study for the English Department as I did for the Graduate School application?

Yes. However, if you are applying for two different academic programs with one application, your reasons for study will differ and the statement you submit directly for each department will differ.

How might I arrange to visit the English Department?

The Campus Information and Visitor Center has a wealth of information to help you plan your trip to campus, including maps, campus and library tours, suggestions on where to stay, and local weather. If you'd like to sit in on a class, you are welcome to send an email directly to the professor with your request. This is typically not a problem. Otherwise, we are not able to provide an official tour of the English Department; however, if you'd like to contact a current graduate student to meet for coffee, you are welcome to send an email to the Admissions Coordinator who will help put you in touch.