Preparation Suggestions

Since most candidates for admission have strong GRE scores and GPAs above the minimum required, and since most have equally-impressive letters of recommendation, the decisive factors in admission are often the Statement of Purpose and, above all, the Writing Sample. This sample of scholarly prose or creative writing provides the single best indication of an applicant’s ability to do graduate-level work.

IF you are applying to our Ph.D. programs in Literature or Writing Studies and if you have not completed a Masters degree in English elsewhere, THEN you should indicate on your application form that you are applying for the M.A.  Most of our M.A. applicants, however, intend to continue studying for the Ph.D.  You may note your intention to do so (“M.A., then Ph.D.”) on the appropriate form as well as elsewhere in your application materials.


The Statement of Purpose

This statement (300-500 words) should be a precise and powerfully-written intellectual biography. What writers or authors, courses, literary works, critical texts have influenced you? What critical questions, historical or national issues, disciplinary or interdisciplinary interests do you hope to pursue in graduate school and beyond? Why? Why at Illinois in particular?


The Writing Sample

For Literature or Writing Studies applicants, the writing sample can be a revised class paper or a section of an honors thesis or longer project.  It should demonstrate your ability to write lucidly and originally, to analyze skillfully literary or cultural texts, to use and cite recent secondary sources, and to engage with the languages and issues of contemporary criticism.  If possible, you should choose an essay that addresses the interests or issues identified in your Statement of Purpose.  The length of your Writing Sample should be 15-20 pages.

For M.F.A. applicants, the writing sample should include the material that best represents the strength and range of their creative work. The length of your Writing Sample should vary by the genre you intend to study: poets should submit 15 pages of poetry and fiction writers should submit 20-25 pages of fiction.



In addition to the information included in the Statement of Purpose and on the application form, you are encouraged to send a concise résumé which indicates your academic honors, your participation in department and university communities, your teaching or tutoring experience, and your work and volunteer experience.  If you are currently enrolled in school, you may want to note the courses you are currently taking and plan to take in the following semester since these will not appear on your transcript.



All applications must be submitted by 12 NOON (EST), December 1.
All supporting material must be received in our office, December 1.

We admit students for the Fall semester only.

It is your responsibility to certify that your application is complete.
You may call us to check on materials at (217) 333-3646 or e-mail us at

Get in Touch

Cookie Settings