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PhD and MA Graduate Admissions

Questions about the admission process?  See the FAQ or contact the Graduate Coordinator (


The Ph.D. Program
The Graduate Group in English offers a flexible five- to six-year Ph.D. program that combines broad coverage of English and American literature with concentrations shaped by student interests. We have students focusing on historical periods, genres, or authors; devising interdisciplinary programs; or concentrating in feminism, postcolonialism, or African American literature. Students typically elect a wide range of courses during the first two years and then begin to specialize in the third year. In the fourth and fifth years they write their dissertations.

All Ph.D. students accepted to the program receive the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship, which covers tuition, general fees, and health insurance for 5 years. 

The Master of Arts Program
We offer a terminal Masters program which can normally be completed in one year. This is a challenging degree program, well-suited for students who want to undertake graduate-level study in the discipline with a first-rate graduate faculty, but who are not ready to make the five- or six-year commitment required for a Ph.D. M.A. students must complete eight graduate courses, one of which is an upper-level seminar, and pass one language exam. 

Because the M.A. program is a 1-year degree, students must provide their own funding.


TheSubmatriculant Degree allows eligible undergraduates already enrolled at Penn to obtain both a B.A. and an M.A. simultaneously. The Submatriculant Degree application webpage for SAS is located here:


Application to the English Ph.D. Program is done on-line through CollegeNet. Applications are only accepted beginning on October 1 and ending on December 15 each year. 


  • CollegeNet (Electronic Application Only)
  • Contact Technical Support on the CollegeNet application system and not to the Graduate English Department or Graduate School with any problems in submitting your application.


Elements of the Application

1. A personal statement of approximately 1,000 words. The statement should: 1) tell us about your reasons for applying and your relevant prior experience; 2) describe the area(s) of study and debate in which you are interested; and 3) address your particular interest in our program, including professors with whom you would hope to work.

***Note: when completing the online application, please include 1 primary field of study and up to 2 additional fields of interest on the top of the personal statement  from the following list. This designation will ensure that faculty with expertise in your intended field of study evaluate your application materials.***

Medieval Literature

Early Modern/Renaissance Literature

Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature (includes Restoration, Eighteenth Century, Early Romanticism, British Empire Studies)

Nineteenth-Century British Literature (includes Later Romanticism, Victorianism, British Empire Studies)

Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century British Literature (includes British Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary, British Empire Studies)

American Literature through the Nineteenth Century

Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century American Literature (includes American Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary)

American Studies/Ethnic Studies (Asian American, Latino/a, Native American, Critical Race Studies, Transnational Americas)

African American and Afro-diaspora Literature

Contemporary Poetry & Poetics

Postcolonial Studies (Global South: South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, East Asia)

Film, Television, and New Media

Gender & Sexuality Studies

Material Texts and Digital Humanities

So, for example, a student interested in the 18th-century British novel, colonial discourse, and feminism  would place the following words on the top of her personal statement: "Primary: 18th-Century British Literature-British Empire Studies; Additional: Gender & Sexuality Studies." To take another example, a student interested in studying Latino/a literature, Latin American Literature, and Film would put the following words on the top of her personal statement: "Primary: American Ethnic Studies-Latino/a; Additional: Postcolonial-Latin America and Film/TV/New Media."

Your personal statement will provide specifics, but this general field-of-interest facilitates with the initial evaluation process. If your interest is not among the listed rubrics, please go ahead and list it on the top of your personal statement nonetheless.


2. A critical writing sample of approximately 20 double-spaced pages is required of both Ph.D. and M.A. applicants. The writing sample must match one of your field interests/concentrations. Although we will accept two papers adding up to 20 pages, we strongly prefer a single, 20-page paper. Font size and style do not matter. Please make sure your name is on each page. Writing samples may be uploaded online via College Net.


3. Three letters of recommendation. These should be written by professors who know your work and can attest to your academic ability. Please do not submit more than four recommendation letters; personal recommendation letters are strongly discouraged. Three letters of recommendation may be uploaded via College Net. Alternately, hardcopies can be mailed to: The University of Pennsylvania, Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences Admissions, 3401 Walnut Street, Suite 322A, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228. Note: your recommenders will be able to upload or mail their letters for a brief grace period after the December 15 deadline for the main application.


4. Electronic versions of your academic transcripts must be submitted with your application. You can scan an unofficial copy of your transcript to the application. If accepted, you will then need to provide a final, official paper copy of your transcript before you matriculate.


There is no foreign language requirement for admission. Once accepted to the program, though, M.A. students must pass one language translation exam, and Ph.D. students two such exams, before before graduating from their respective programs.

Do not email the department if you send your information to the wrong place: Both the Graduate Admissions and Graduate English Departments copy all information received for each other's files so we will be sharing any documents received. 


More About Graduate Admissions and the Application

Applications are accepted only for full-time work in the M.A. or Ph.D. programs beginning in the Fall semester. We do not offer part-time programs, nor do we offer Spring admission. Ph.D. applicants with an M.A. will have an opportunity to transfer a limited number of their M.A. credits once they have been accepted to the program. These credit transfers will need to be approved by the Graduate Chair and the Dean.

Any technical issues with the online ApplyYourself application should be addressed to Technical Support on the ApplyYourself application system and not to the Graduate English Department.

The application fee is $90. We do not have paper applications—all applications are submitted online.

Please note: the Graduate English Department does not conduct interviews for prospective students, nor do we send out information regarding our program to prospective students. Admissions questions that are not answered by this web page should be directed to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Admissions Department at (215) 573-5816.

The Graduate School of Arts and Science Web link is:  Note: Individuals who are abroad and all application fess are payable bu credit card online.

Fee waiver: Per School of Arts and Sciences policy, fee waivers may be considered for U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. In order to apply for a fee waiver, the applicant should enclose a brief letter stating the reason for the request. This letter should be sent to Patricia Rea, Associated Director for Admissions,, no later than December 1. Please be advised that the applicant must demonstrate a clear and compelling case of financial hardship.


For International Applicants & Admittees

NOTE TO APPLICANTS FROM THE UK: we encourage UK applicants to apply for a Thouron Fellowship. The Thouron is a 1-2 year fellowship that pays for a Masters degree. Fellows who are admitted to our Ph.D. program may then continue with fellowship support from Penn. Note that the Thouron deadline is in November. Information and application materials are available on the website.

International Students admitted into the program should apply for their Social Security number as soon as possible so that they don't experience a delay in receiving their stipend.