Advice for Prospective PhD Applicants

In recent years the pool of applicants for our PhD programs has become highly competitive. This is in a large part a result of our innovative open curriculum, the diverse strengths of our respected and internationally recognized faculty, our fine job placement rate for completed PhDs, and our commitment to funding all of our graduate students for the years needed to complete the degree. Those who are most successful in the application process have demonstrated their readiness for the demands of advanced scholarly and academic work. The most successful candidates are those who have:

1. Taken the undergraduate and/or Masters-level course work necessary to prepare themselves for graduate study in literature, theory, media and cultural studies. Although we do not require an undergraduate or Masters degree in the specific field of PhD study, successful candidates need to demonstrate that their previous studies have given them the tools needed to successfully complete graduate level work. In some cases, it may benecessary to take additional course work before you may successfully apply to our program.

2. Written a clear and precise personal statement. Your statement should at the minimum make clear: that your previous studies have prepared you for graduate degree work; your future research and professional goals; and the reasons why you have applied to our programs in particular, including the faculty with whom you might be interested in working. In order to properly address this last issue, you should familiarize yourself with our programs as described in our web site. Our programs have specific and unique strengths, and our most successful candidates apply with a full awareness of these. It can also be valuable to contact directly any faculty whose work you especially respect or with whom you may be interested in working. Finally, you should use your statement of purpose to make clear any special preparation you have – presentations, publications, teaching experiences, and so forth – or to explain any special circumstances that might on the surface appear to work against your application. Please note: this is not a “personal statement” about your past experiences or desires as some applications (like undergraduate applications, for instance) may request. Instead, you should approach writing this statement by thinking of it as a response to the questions, “what would be my reason for enrolling in UF’s PhD in English specifically, and how am I qualified for that program?“

3. Submitted a strong sample of scholarly writing. Along with the statement of purpose, the writing sample you submit is the most important document in your application. Your writing sample should demonstrate skills necessary for engaging and producing independent and original scholarship required in an advanced field of study. We consider all of those in our programs scholars as much as students and teachers. Your writing sample is the best place to demonstrate your preparation to produce this caliber of work. Although you may send shorter samples, many of our most successful candidates send samples that are excerpted from longer project, such as honors theses, masters’ theses, or faculty mentored independent research projects. These kinds of samples best demonstrate at once your facility as a writer, the quality of your critical intellect, and your abilities to conduct research and to work independently. Moreover, while we do not require that you send a writing sample directly connected to your proposed field(s) of study, doing so is definitely beneficial as it enables the admissions committee to most effectively evaluate your scholarly potential in your proposed field(s).

4. Submitted strong supporting letters of recommendation from faculty with whom you have worked in the past. The best letters are those written by faculty members with whom you have worked closely and who most enthusiastically support your scholarship. They can write specifically about your strengths as a student and a scholar. We strongly advise against sending letters from people you have worked with in other, non-academic, contexts, such as employers, friends, or family. Again, the most important thing we take into consideration is your preparation and fit for graduate study in our programs. Your previous professors can address this most effectively.

While we have no specific thresholds for GRE and GPA scores, these are taken into consideration as part of a holistic evaluation and generally carry less weight than the above components. A candidate with a clear and focused statement of purpose, a significant writing sample, excellent supporting letters, and slightly lower scores will likely be more successful than one with exceptionally high scores and a weak, unfocused, or overly general statement, a short or unscholarly writing sample, and tepid letters.

We hope that these recommendations will assist you in compiling an application that best represents your strengths and interests in our programs. If you have further questions after carefully reviewing the Department of English and University web sites, please feel free to contact us

Good luck in your application and in all of your future studies.