Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

PhD and MA Graduate Admissions

Our application deadline is December 15th at 11:59 pm. Due to our application portal's technical specifications, the system may allow submission of applications after that deadline. No applications submitted after the December 15th deadline will be reviewed.

Application Procedures

Applicants to all graduate degree programs should apply online through ApplyWeb. We do not accept paper applications.

For both the terminal M.A. and Ph.D. programs, the application portal opens on October 2nd and closes on December 15th of each year. There is a short grace period after December 15th in which we will still accept letters of recommendation and official test scores. The Graduate Coordinator will follow up with you after December 15th if you are missing any of these elements and will provide a need-by date. Please note that the grace period is meant to allow recommenders to be a little late without negatively affecting your application, and should not be considered an alternate due date. Applicants should provide the December 15th due date to their recommenders. Applicants are ultimately responsible for ensuring that we receive their letters of recommendation.

Applications for submatriculation are accepted until February 10th of each year. Students interested in submatriculating should be in touch with the Undergraduate Chair, the Graduate Chair, and their College contact (assigned and listed in Path@Penn) before or during the application process. Each of these contacts provide important information about the submatriculation process.

We only accept full-time students for the M.A. and Ph.D. program, and do not offer part-time options for either program. All applicants are applying to begin in the fall semester of the following year. We do not accept applications for spring admission.

The application fee is $90, payable via credit or debit card at the time of submission. 

NOTE: Application fee waivers are managed entirely by the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences, and individual departments do not have the power to grant them. To apply for a fee waiver, applicants should send a brief letter to Patricia Rea, Associate Director for Admissions, at, stating the reason for the request. This letter should be sent no later than December 1st. Please be advised that the applicant must demonstrate a clear and compelling case of financial hardship.

Technical isues with ApplyWeb should be addressed to Technical Support (



Elements of the Application

In addition to your application form, which you will complete via ApplyWeb, we ask that you attach the following supporting documents to your application.

  1. A personal statement.* In the personal statement, all M.A. and Ph.D. applications within the Graduate Division of Arts & Sciences should address the following: Please describe how your background and academic experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree and led you to apply to Penn. Your essay should detail your specific research interests and intellectual goals within your chosen field. Please provide information about your educational trajectory, intellectual curiosity and academic ambitions. If you have overcome adversity and/or experienced limited access to resources or opportunities in your field of study, please feel free to share how that has affected the course of your education. We are interested in your lived experiences and how your particular perspective might contribute to the inclusive and dynamic learning community that Penn values and strives to create. In the English Graduate Group, we ask that you discuss in this same personal statement your particular interest in our program, including why it is a good fit for your goals in graduate school. Your personal statement should not exceed 1200 words.

  1. A critical writing sample.* This should be approximately 20 double-spaced pages long and should reflect your writing abilities and most up-to-date critical thinking. The writing sample must match one of your field interests or concentrations. We strongly prefer a single, 20-page paper over two shorter papers that add up to 20 pages.

  2. Three letters of recommendation. These should be written by professors who know your work and can attest to your academic ability. Personal and other non-academic recommendation letters are strongly discouraged. Applicants should use the ApplyWeb system to submit letters. Applicants will submit the names, titles, and contact information of their recommenders, who will receive an emailed invitation to submit a letter on the applicant's behalf. If you or your recommenders have issues with this system, please email Meghan Hall ( for troubleshooting. Please do not submit more than four recommendation letters. 

  3. Electronic versions of your academic transcripts. These do not have to be official transcripts, but can either be a pdf downloaded from your student portal or a scanned copy of a paper transcript. If accepted, you will need to provide a final, official paper copy of your transcript before you matriculate.

  4. Proof of English Proficiency. Applicants with citizenship or permanent resident status in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, or New Zealand are not required to provide this, and their applications will automatically waive the requirement. Citizens of other countries may satisfy this requirement by either 1) submitting proof of having graduated from an institution where English was the primary language of instruction to Meghan Hall, Graduate Coordinator (in most cases, your transcripts will suffice), or 2) submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores. Our TOEFL code is 2986. IELTS scores must be sent via mail to University of Pennsylvania, Department of English, 3340 Walnut Street, Rm 127, Philadelphia, PA 19104, Attn: Meghan Hall, Graduate Coordinator. The University of Pennsylvania only accepts hard copies of IELTS scores. Questions about individual cases should be directed to Meghan Hall (

For both your personal statement and critical writing sample, please include 1 primary field of interest and up to 2 additional fields of interest at the top of the first page, or in the page's header. Your primary field of interest should match your selection of concentration on the ApplyWeb application form. Please choose from the following list:

  1. Medieval Literature
  2. Early Modern/Renaissance Literature
  3. Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British Literature (includes Restoration, Eighteenth Century, Early Romanticism, British Empire Studies)
  4. Nineteenth-Century British Literature (includes Later Romanticism, Victorianism, British Empire Studies)
  5. Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century British Literature (includes British Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary, British Empire Studies)
  6. American Literature through the Nineteenth Century
  7. Twentieth- and Twenty-First-Century American Literature (includes American Modernism, Postwar, Contemporary)
  8. American Studies/Ethnic Studies (Asian American, Latino/a, Native American, Critical Race Studies, Transnational Americas)
  9. African American and Afro-diaspora Literature
  10. Contemporary Poetry & Poetics
  11. Postcolonial Studies (Global South: South Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America, East Asia)
  12. Film, Television, and New Media
  13. Gender & Sexuality Studies
  14. Material Texts and Digital Humanities

Example: a student interested in the 18th-century British Novel, colonial discourse, and feminism would include at the top of their personal statement, “Primary: 18th-Century British Literature, Additional: British Empire Studies, Gender & Sexuality Studies”

Example: a student interested in studying Latino/a literature, Latin American Literature, and Film would include at the top of their personal statement, "Primary: American/Ethnic Studies; Additional: Postcolonial-Latin America and Film, Television, and New Media." 


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.


Questions about the admission process? See our Frequently Asked Questions or contact Meghan Hall, Graduate Coordinator (