Financing Your Graduate Education

Students pursuing graduate degrees through the English Department, especially those in doctoral programs, typically receive a teaching assistantship, research assistantship, or fellowship to support their course of study. As a major research institution, though, the University of Wisconsin-Madison also offers a wide range of funding opportunities for graduate students. Beyond the resources listed here, you can also find out more about funding through these on-campus resources:

Teaching Assistantships in the English Department

Teaching assistant positions provide a salary, health insurance benefits, and full tuition remission. Segregated fees are not covered. Provided that students remain in good academic standing in the Department and teaching or other assigned responsibilities are performed well, this guarantee typically provides support for a period of up to four academic years, with additional semesters of support contingent on both good performance and availability of funding. In past years, graduate students have generally been given a fifth year of support.

Appointments under this guarantee will be at the level of at least one-third time. The expectation for a one-third workload is 13 hours of work per week. The higher the percentage, the greater the salary, up to 60%, which is the maximum. (Anything higher requires special permission of the Graduate Director.) Teaching assistants work in various formats, including leading smaller discussion sections for a large lecture, teaching their own composition courses, and working in the Writing Center.

Each program has its own requirements regarding eligibility for teaching assistantships. In general, though, students must have a Master's degree or have completed a year of Master’s training in our literary studies program in order to teach in our programs. Additionally, in order for International students whose first language is not English to be eligible for a Teaching Assistantship, the English Department requires a score of 60 (a perfect score) on the SPEAK test administered by the ESL program while in residence.

Applied English Linguistics

Students in Applied English Linguistics generally will not teach. However, exceptions are sometimes made for students who have had previous experience teaching ESL.

Composition & Rhetoric

Students are typically awarded a multi-year contract as a Teaching Assistant, including opportunities to teach English 100 and English 201.

Creative Writing

Most MFA students begin teaching in their first year. MFA teacher training includes the Creative Writing Pedagogy Seminar, a non-theoretical 3-credit practicum in which MFA students who are teaching a writing class are provided with supervision, one-on-one mentoring, individual and group support, as well as ideas and techniques to help them structure, conduct, and improve their classes.

English Language & Linguistics

Students are typically awarded a multi-year contract as a Teaching Assistant.

Literary Studies

Students in the Literary Studies program who enter without an MA will usually not teach until they complete their first year in Madison. Students are typically awarded a multi-year contract as a Teaching Assistant to begin after a year of Master’s training. The support is contingent on their satisfactory completion of seven courses during the first (Master's) year. Literary Studies students who enter the program with an MA from another institution are may be eligible for teaching appointments in their first year at Madison.

Research & Project Assistantships

Beyond teaching assistantships, the Department offers individual assistantships to graduate students to assist with research, training, or other academic programs or projects. Most positions are a one-third workload, though some, particularly those that employ late-stage dissertations, may be higher. PAs and RAs are included in a labor agreement between the State of Wisconsin and the Teaching Assistants Association (TAA). Available positions are filled in accordance with the current contract.

A project or research assistant receives a salary, fringe benefits, and full tuition remission. Entering students typically do not apply for assistantships; they are awarded by the Admissions Committee, and often go to students starting the first stage (M.A. level) of the Ph.D. program. Additional assistantships are also available through various faculty members and research groups, and these are advertised to the graduate student body as they become available.

University Funding Sources

The University as a whole offers a tremendous variety of funding opportunities for graduate students outside of the English Department, including teaching and research assistantships in other departments, work study, hourly employment, and university-wide fellowships. Two of the fellowships listed below, the University Fellowship and the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, are specifcally available for incoming graduate students and must be applied for during the application process.

University Fellowships

The English Department nominates incoming students to the Graduate School's University Fellowship Committee, and the Graduate School makes fellowship award decisions. The annual application deadline for University Fellowships is December.

To apply for a University Fellowship, simply check the fellowship box on the Application Form or indicate your interest on the online application and submit on or before December 8. This will automatically enroll you in fellowship competition. You will need three letters of recommendation (the letters which accompany your application for admission will suffice) and GRE scores. Since fellowships are competitive among graduate students from all departments in the University, an applicant should have a strong undergraduate record and all A's or nearly all A's in graduate work. Awards are announced in early March. These awards include a stipend, plus complete tuition remission (tuition is fully covered by the Graduate School and is not taken out of the stipend) and eligibility for health insurance benefits.

For more information, visit the Graduate School's web page on University Fellowships.

Advanced Opportunity Fellowships

Advanced Opportunity Program funds are granted to UW-Madison’s Graduate School by the State of Wisconsin and combined with other graduate education funds to support the recruitment and retention of highly qualified underrepresented students in UW-Madison graduate programs. Fellowships are competitive and merit-based. Advanced Opportunity funding is intended to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population, as well as to support economically disadvantaged and first generation college students.

Awards pay full tuition (including segregated fees) and a stipend for two academic years: the initial year in the program and a year at the dissertation stage. Recipients are eligible for health insurance benefits. Applicants must notify the Graduate Division, 7195 Helen C. White Hall, by December 8 that they are interested in the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship for the following academic year. Awards are made to students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents who qualify under one of the categories. 

For information on these categories and on the award, please consult the Office of Fellowships & Funding Resources page here.

University Dissertator Fellowships

In 2000, Phil Certain, then Dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, in recognition of Professor Nellie McKay’s efforts at recruiting and retaining excellent graduate students, provided a graduate dissertator fellowship to the Department of English for the support of a minority student. To determine who counts as a minority student in this context, the Departmnet will follow the current Advanced Opportunity Fellowship (AOF) guidelines in targeting under-represented minorities. To qualify, an applicant must be a graduate in good standing in the Department of English whose dissertation proposal has been approved by three internal members of his or her dissertation committee. This is a two-semester fellowship that covers tuition, segregated fees, and eligibility for health insurance.

International Research & Travel Grants

The International Fellowships Office maintains a complete list of international travel and research grants, in addition to providing support for students applying for Fulbright and other advanced international fellowships.The IFO also offers the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship, which offers funding for the intensive study of selected languages.

The Vilas Travel Grant, administered by the Graduate Student Collaborative, provides UW dissertators and final-year MA students with support for domestic or international travel for conference or research purposes. You can find out more about the application and deadlines here.

Work Study

Work study is part of a student's financial aid package as determined by the Office of Student Financial Services.It is a government subsidized program where the department pays 50% of the student's salary and the government pays the remaining 50%.

For graduate students who have applied for financial aid and received work study funding, positions are readily available. These positions generally entail working for a faculty member -- checking information at the library, picking up books, making copies, working on bibliographies. For a student with extremely good software skills, faculty members are always looking for assistance with databases, bibliographies, and Web sites. All work-study jobs are advertised on the UW Job Center Web site. Professors generally begin advertising work study positions in July and August.

Please note: You need not have been awarded work-study to obtain a student hourly position. A faculty member with research funding can choose a student without work study funding. However, the faculty member’s  research funds must then pick up 100% of the salary.

Other Research & Teaching Jobs

The UW Job Center maintains a regularly updated list of available positions in and around the University of Wisconsin. Project and teaching assistantships outside of the English Department are often posted here; more applicable positions are often posted to the Department list-serv or forwarded from related faculty. Availability and application procedures differ widely between positions, though such positions can typically only be held by enrolled students only.

External Funding Sources

Graduate students can also seek support from a number of national and federal programs.

Federal Financial Aid

To find out how to apply for financial aid, including loans, please check the UW's information on Financial Aid for Graduate Students. You will want to begin the process as early as January of the year you begin your program.

National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

NEH grants provide support for scholars to undertake full-time independent research and writing in the humanities. Grants are available for a maximum of one year (fellowship) and a maximum of two consecutive months of summer study. Read more about these grant opportunites on the NEH website.

American Association of University Women

American Fellowships support women doctoral candidates completing dissertations or scholars seeking funds for postdoctoral research leave from accredited institutions. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Candidates are evaluated on the basis of scholarly excellence, teaching experience, and active commitment to helping women and girls through service in their communities, professions, or fields of research. Read more about the fellowship here.

Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are designed to encourage original and significant study of ethical or religious values in all fields of the humanities and social sciences. In addition to topics in religious studies or in ethics (philosophical or religious), dissertations might consider the ethical implications of foreign policy, the values influencing political decisions, the moral codes of other cultures, and religious or ethical issues reflected in history or literature. 

Department Awards & Prizes

Joyce M. Melville Memorial Award for Best Scholarly Essay in Composition and Rhetoric
Graduate students in the Ph.D. Program in Composition and Rhetoric are eligible to compete for the Joyce M. Melville Award, a cash prize of $150 given annual for the best scholarly essay written in the previous twenty-four months.

Literary Studies Essay Competition – Chair’s Essay Prize for Master’s and PhD Students
Graduate students in the Ph.D. Program in Literary Studies are invited to compete for monetary prizes at the first-year M.A. level and during the first two years of study at the Ph.D. level, $125 and $250, respectively.  The essays originate from scholarly papers written for graduate English courses during  the corresponding academic year.  Prizes are awarded at the Fall Welcome Reception each fall just prior to the beginning of the next academic year.

Dartmouth Futures of American Studies Institute Fellowship
Each June Dartmouth College hosts a week-long summer institute in American Studies.  The Institute provides research, intellectual, and professional benefits by allowing participants to interact with major figures in the field from a variety of disciplines.  The Department of English funds one or two students in the amount of $100 each to defray the seminar fee as well as travel expenses.  These students are guaranteed admission to the Institute.