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University of Massachusetts Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst

English Department


Important note: Nearly everyone in our MA/PhD program receives a teaching assistantship with the University Writing Program. To apply, you need to go the Writing Program website. Applying to the MA/PhD program, and applying for funding, are two separate processes. MA-only applicants are not eligible for teaching assistantships in the department.



What are the most important elements of the application?

Personal Statement – We place great weight on your personal statement. This statement is your opportunity to articulate your interests and get the committee interested in you, in your potential as a professional, and as a human being.
Writing Sample – We require a writing sample which demonstrates your ability to do critical work in literature. It should be no more than 20 pages long.
Recommendations – Excellent recommendations by your professors (a minimum of two) are essential. You may want to provide your recommenders with copies of your college or university transcripts, of the papers you wrote for their course(s), and a brief résumé of your accomplishments, both academic and professional.
GPA and Transcripts – We look carefully at your course preparation and GPA. Nearly all of the students we accept have an undergraduate GPA of 3.3 or better. Students entering with a Master’s degree are expected to have attained a high GPA (3.75 or better) for their graduate work.

What about the GREs? Do I have to take the subject test?

The Graduate School requires that MA/PhD and PhD applicants take the GRE general test. The English Department requires in addition that all MA/PhD and PhD applicants also take the subject test, except for those applying in either American Studies or Composition and Rhetoric concentrations. Students applying for the terminal MA degree do not need to take the GRE.
We do not require a minimum score on the GRE. Many of the students we accept into our program have earned GRE scores above the 75th percentile. However, we do not consider this a “minimum” standard because many otherwise excellent students fare poorly on standardized tests. Conversely, extremely high GRE scores do not guarantee admission.

If I am an international student, do I need to take the TOEFL?

Yes. For international students, a TOEFL score of 80 or better (on the internet-based test) is required by the Graduate School for admission to any graduate program.

How selective is your program?

Admission to the UMass English graduate program is highly competitive. In recent years we have usually had about 200 applicants for 12-15 available spots per year. One of the grounds on we make our final choices is the need to balance areas of student interest with faculty resources.

What are the costs of your program?

For the most current costs and fees see the website from the University bursar:

What are your program’s strongest areas of study?

Our program has special strengths in American literature and American Studies; Colonial, Post-colonial, and Transnational Studies; Composition and Rhetoric; and Renaissance British literature and culture.

How do most of your students support themselves during graduate school?

Teaching Assistantships are the principal source of support for English graduate students. TAs are awarded by the Writing Program to teach composition, and by the English Department primarily to teach course sections in large general education classes and a handful of smaller literature classes. Students entering the program are required to apply directly to the Writing Program for an assistantship. If you have applied for funding, once you are admitted, you will be interviewed by the Writing Program. Nearly everyone in our MA/PhD program receives a teaching assistantship. Assistantships, which are limited, are awarded according to the following criteria: 1) the student is entering the program with a guarantee of support, 2) the student shows progress toward the degree, 3) the student has taught successfully in the past. Most students teach in the Writing Program for at least two years of their guaranteed support and must do so before being eligible to TA in a literature lecture course. Students are guaranteed at least one literature course before graduating. At least one semester before graduating, students specializing in literary areas may be eligible to teach their own general education literature class. Students must re-apply for assistantships each year.
Please note: A full TA includes a stipend and comes with tuition and fee waivers and health insurance.
Students in the MA-only program are not eligible for assistantships in the department.

What is the deadline for the application?

The deadline is December 15.

What is the application fee?

The application fee is $75.00

How do I apply?

You must apply online to the UMass Graduate School.
All accompanying materials should be mailed directly to the Graduate School.
Graduate Admissions
530 Goodell Building
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003

How do I contact the English Department’s graduate program?

Graduate Administrator:
Wanda Bak
Fax: 413.545.3880
Graduate Studies in English
452 Bartlett Hall
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003