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Ph.D. Admissions FAQs

The Graduate Program

What graduate degrees does Stanford offer in English?

The English department offers both the Ph.D. and MA degree, but the graduate program is primarily oriented towards the Ph.D. degree.  MA degrees are awarded to Stanford coterminal BA students or en route to the Ph.D.  We do not accept external applicants directly to the MA program.

How long does it take to take to earn a Ph.D. in English at Stanford?

The typical time to degree is 6 years, although it is quite possible to complete all the requirements in 5 years. Most of the first two years are spent in coursework and the qualifying examination. The end of the second year and the beginning of the third year are spent preparing for the oral exam which is usually taken by the end of autumn quarter of the third year. By the beginning of the fourth year students have defined a research project and present this proposal to their committee. The remaining time is spent researching and writing the dissertation

What financial support is available? Are international students eligible for financial support?

All students admitted to the English Ph.D. program receive five years of 12-month funding. Financial support is provided through a combination of fellowship stipend and tuition, and assistantship salaray and tuition allowance. Students in good academic standing also receive funding in the sixth year of the program. Additional funding is provided to support academic and research expenses such as conference attendance and travel.

Stanford's Knight-Hennessy Scholars program also awards up to 100 graduate students every year with full funding. Please refer to the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program page for important information.

What are the language requirements for the program?

Ph.D. candidates must prove reading knowledge of two foreign languages. Ideally, applicants will have language proficiency before admission, as it is not practical to acquire two languages from scratch given the rigors of the program.

Will I have opportunities to teach during the program?

Pedagogy is an integral part of our program and we require students to participate in a pedagogical seminar in the first year.  Typically a student will teach three times as a teaching assistant in a literature course. For the fourth course, students will have the option of applying to design and teach a tutorial for undergraduate English majors or teaching a fourth quarter as a T.A.. 

How can I find faculty in my field of interest?  Is it important that I contact a specific professor prior to applying?

The faculty profiles are categorized by field of interest. Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty directly regarding research interests. However, faculty members do not admit students directly as “their own”.  Students are not admitted to work with particular faculty members; rather, we admit the set of students who we feel are the strongest and would benefit the most from the kind of graduate education that we provide.  That is, admissions decisions are not made by individual faculty members, but rather are made by the English Graduate Admissions Committee which includes a subset of the faculty and graduate students.

Is an online program of study or are online courses in English available?

The department does not offer online or distance learning instruction in English.  Students in an English degree program are expected to be in residence.

Can I attend the Ph.D. or MA program part-time?

No, these programs are designed with the expectation that students will be devoting all their time to their graduate study.

Can I start the graduate program in the winter or spring quarter?

No, the department admits applicants to the autumn quarter only.

Can I be a visiting student in the Stanford English department?

Students enrolled as Ph.D. students at other Universities may apply to visit the English department for periods ranging from one quarter to an academic year.  For information, deadlines and fees involved see Research Policy Handbook.

Is it possible to transfer into the Stanford graduate program from another graduate program?

We do not accept transfer students per se.  Students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program elsewhere must apply through the regular admissions process.  Up to 45 quarter units of graduate coursework previously taken towards a graduate degree may be transferred towards the Ph.D. degree at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies after the first year of study. Typically this does not lessen the time to degree since students are expected to complete all Ph.D. requirements (qualifying exam, language requirements, dissertation proposal, dissertation, etc.), though some slight adjustments might be made to how they fulfill some of the course requirements.  

Prior to Applying

May I request information about your program?

The most up-to-date information about English at Stanford can be found on our web site:  individual faculty and graduate student interests, courses currently offered and degree requirements.  If you have specific questions after perusing our pages, please email us at englishadmissions [at] (englishadmissions[at]lists[dot]stanford[dot]edu) .

Will you mail me application materials?

Stanford’s graduate admissions application is found on-line at:

Can I arrange a visit to the English department?

Prior to visiting, prospective applicants are encouraged to contact the department’s student services manager and specific faculty to arrange individual appointments.  It is helpful to include a little about your background and interests in English in your email.  We do not recommend visiting the department without an appointment as faculty may be busy with prior commitments.  We ask that you do not visit while applications are under review in January and February.

The Application Process

When is the application deadline?

The deadline for admission for the 2025-26 academic year is December 1, 2024.

Am I eligible to apply for the Ph.D. program in English?

You are eligible for admission to graduate programs at Stanford as long as you have either completed a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university accredited by a regional accrediting association; or completed an international degree that is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree from a college or university of recognized standing.

How selective is the admissions process for the Ph.D. program?

We are able to matriculate about 4-6 students with funding from an applicant pool of 200+.

What does the admissions committee look for when reviewing applications?

In reviewing applications for our Ph.D. program, we look for evidence that the applicant not only will thrive in our graduate program, but will go on to put the training we offer to fruitful use in an academic or a non-academic career.  We look for evidence of:

  • academic potential as evidenced in past academic achievement
  • an understanding of, and passion for, research
  • a good fit between the applicant’s interests and the interests and capabilities of our faculty

What kind of writing sample should I submit with my application?

A sample of critical or scholarly writing, 12-25 pages in length (not including references). This may be an excerpt from a longer work, such as a senior thesis. It should, however, be clear of grading comments and should preferably be in your expressed field of interest.

What kind of information should I include in my statement of purpose?

The statement of purpose should be designed as a narrative presentation of yourself.  We want to know what you’ve done in English or in related fields, why you want to study English and particularly why you think Stanford is an appropriate place for you to do it.  We want to know what your literary interests are.  If you aren’t sure yet what you plan to do in English, that’s fine, but we want to know that you have some idea of the possibilities.  Don’t repeat things that we will learn from other parts of your application, such as your transcript, but do highlight things you think are particularly important, and do feel free to explain any things in your other materials that you are less proud of.  Caution:  avoid telling us too much about your childhood and your fascination with literature.  The statement of purpose should be ideally 500-600 words, maximum 1000, double spaced.

Do I need to take the GRE?

No, the GRE General and Subject Tests are not required for the Autumn 2023 admissions cycle.

I am an International applicant who speaks and reads English. Do I need to take the TOEFL?

Possibly. If you have a degree from an English-speaking institution, you may not have to take the TOEFL.   Please refer to the Graduate Admissions web page for queries regarding the TOEFL.

Do I need to have an MA before I apply to the Ph.D. program?

No. Only about 25% of our graduate students had earned an MA before being admitted to the Ph.D. program.

My undergraduate degree is not in English? Does that matter?

While the majority of our degree candidates have an undergraduate degree in English, we have admitted students from other disciplines, such as Art History, Philosophy and even Astrophysics! However, these students had taken an exceptional number of undergraduate courses in English and were extremely well-prepared for a doctoral program in English.

Will you accept recommendation letters from private credentialing services, such as Interfolio?

Unfortunately, our application system does not work directly with the letter service (such as Interfolio) process. Letters of recommendation must be submitted via the Stanford application system. 

Can letters of recommendation be uploaded before I submit my on-line application?

Your recommenders may upload their letters as soon as you name them in the application process and they receive the instruction email and password.  The letters will then be electronically stored until you submit your application.

My test scores, letters of recommendation, transcripts, or writing sample will be late. What do I do?

All materials for admission to the doctoral program, including letter of recommendation, must be submitted electronically by December 1, 2023. Applicants will be notified of the status of their application materials by mid January.

I have been out of school for several years and there is no one left who can write an academic recommendation for me. May my employer write one?

The purpose of submitting letters of recommendation is to give program faculty an indication of your ability to do scholarly research. It is recommended that current or former professors in your major-field courses be asked by you to submit letters, as they would have the best idea of your research potential. If, however, such persons are no longer available to ask, anyone who you think can best assess your potential for graduate study can be asked to write the letter.

I want to send more than the required number of letters of recommendation because I feel this will enhance my chances of being offered admission. Is this true?

It is not the quantity of letters, rather the quality. You should submit no more than three letters.

Can I apply to more than one department?

Stanford policy allows applicants to apply for only (1) one graduate program per year. However, if the department reviewing your application feels you are better suited to another program, they can opt to transfer your file to another department if you authorize this action on your application.

How much does it cost to apply?

Stanford uses an online application and the fee is $125. This method allows applicants to save data and work on their application from any computer on multiple occasions.

Are there any fee waivers for the $125 fee?

For information on eligibility for fee waivers please refer to Graduate Application Fee Waiver.

After the Application is Submitted

What is the status of my application?

Please check the Graduate Application Status Page in the application portal for updates to your application. 

How are applications reviewed?

Applications are reviewed holistically to assess their promise for teaching and research careers. Heavier emphasis is placed on the writing sample and letters of recommendation.

When do you make decisions?

We make every effort to make offers of admission by the last week in February. Notices of admissions status are delivered at that time via the online application system.  Once decisions have been made, you will receive an email alerting you to check your status.

If I am not accepted, can I receive feedback?

We recognize that a great deal of time and effort is devoted to the application and that applicants may wish to receive feedback on how it could have been improved. Unfortunately, due to many constraints, the Department of English does not provide feedback to applicants denied admission. We wish you every success in your future academic endeavors. 

If I am not accepted, can I reapply?

You are required to complete the online application again, which incurs an application fee. Your application should include a revised Statement of Purpose. We can reuse your transcripts, and Letters of Recommendation if you wish; however, if any changes to these documents attest to your improved suitability to the program, they should be resubmitted. We are unable to access documents from other Stanford departments you have applied to previously.