Department of English


Admission to the MA program is competitive. In considering applicants, the English faculty looks for students who will benefit from and succeed in the program and who will add vitality and diversity to the intellectual community of the English department. The faculty takes care to look at the whole application, basing its decisions on several kinds of information: academic grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample. Highly ranked candidates for the MA program usually present the following:

  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (not necessarily in English or writing)
  • good scores on the general portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as determined by the standards of the English faculty
  • an excellent academic record
  • excellent writing skills, as demonstrated by an academic writing sample and by work in undergraduate writing courses
  • strong letters of recommendation
  • clear statement of purpose for applying to the MA program

How to Apply and What to Submit

Applications to the MA and PhD programs are accepted for Fall term only, and to be considered for admission, your completed application must be received by the first business day after January 15.  If positions remain available after the first round of admissions review, we will consider applications submitted later:  please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Christopher Keirstead, if the deadline has passed and you would still like to apply to the program.  All applicants are automatically considered for financial aid in the form of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA); there is no separate application or deadline for the GTA.   

Materials submitted for the MA and PhD applications are the same:  transcripts for all prior degrees; GRE General Test scores (the GRE Subject Test in English is no longer required for PhD applications, effective Fall 2011); a statement of purpose; a writing sample; and three confidential letters of recommendation.   These materials are described in more detail below. 

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose, about 1-to-2 single-spaced pages, describes your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in English at Auburn and tells us something about your academic background, experience, and long-term goals.  PhD applicants should describe how they plan to build on the skills and interests they developed at the master’s level.  MA applicants may wish to indicate which of our three concentrations they plan to pursue (Literary Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, Creative Writing), although a concentration does not have to be declared officially until the second year of study.  We would also be happy to know if you are considering more than one concentration at this stage. 

Writing Sample

Your writing sample should take the form an analytical essay submitted for an English class or closely related field of study.   A writing sample submitted with an MA application should range from about 10-15 pages; PhD writing samples can be longer, but generally not more than 25 pages.  Include a bibliography of all sources.  Overall, the topic of the paper is less important than the potential it reveals for successful writing at the graduate level, and we encourage you to consult with a faculty member at your previous or current department for guidance about what to submit.   MA applicants planning to concentrate in Creative Writing should submit a sample of creative writing along with an analytical essay.

Letters of Recommendation

Your application should also include three confidential letters of recommendation from current or former professors who can comment in detail on your academic work and potential for success as a graduate student and GTA.  Letters should be mailed directly to the English Department at the address below.  If mailed by the applicant, the letter should be placed in a sealed envelope signed by the recommender across the flap.  Letters should be addressed to the Graduate Studies Committee.

Applicants are also strongly encouraged (but not required) to ask their recommenders to complete the ETS Personal Potential Index (PPI) in addition to writing letters of recommendationIf you registered for the GRE on or after May 1, 2009, or have registered to take the GRE, you can send up to four evaluation reports free as part of your test fee.  Please enter your name exactly as it appears in your registration.  To sign up for the PPI, create an ETS PPI applicant account. 

The application process has two parts:

Part 1: Start on line at the Auburn University Graduate School.

  1. Complete the online application form and pay the application fee at  Your application does not become official until the fee has been paid.  
  2. Request that official transcripts for all prior degrees be sent to the Graduate School. 
  3. Take the GRE General Test and request that scores be sent to the Graduate School (ETS Institution Code 1005).  Do not send scores to the English Department. Be aware that it sometimes takes up to six weeks for GRE scores to be received and processed.  Note as well that GRE scores expire after five years, so you may need to retake the exam before applying.  We will accept scores in the new exam format instituted by ETS in 2011 and in the old format, as long as they have not expired. 

Part 2:  Complete your application through the mail
Letters of recommendation, the writing sample, and statement of purpose should be submitted to the English Department at the address below.     

Teresa Peppers
Office Associate
Department of English
9030 Haley Center
Auburn University, AL 36849-5203

If you have additional questions about applying, please check out our FAQ page

Last Updated: September 19, 2013