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Applications are accepted for entrance in fall semester only. The application portal is available online. The following should be submitted along with the appropriate application forms and transcripts:

  1. A 1500-word statement of the applicant’s plan of study and how the PhD in English will contribute to the achievement of the applicant’s professional goals (please also identify which two concentrations you plan to pursue; whether you will take courses on campus or at a distance; and whether you will be full time or part time)
  2. Three letters of reference from sources capable of commenting on the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study in English
  3. A writing sample of between 15-20 double-spaced pages on a topic related to the applicant’s expertise and, preferably the applicant’s plan of study (this should be a single piece of writing)
  4. GRE general exam scores (within the last five years)
  5. A resume or curriculum vitae
  6. Appropriate transcripts

The PhD Advisory Council makes decisions on admission, which are final. The Council also determines the size of each year’s cohort, based upon faculty and course availability, the quality of the pool, and externally generated factors, such as finances. Currently, a typical entering class might be 8 to 12 persons, but the actual number of admitted students depends on a variety of factors. Decisions on admission will be based on academic merit and quality of match between student-declared interests and the program, but the Council reserves the right to allocate a certain number of slots for part-time and full-time students, as well as slots for particular fields, and to take those factors into account when selecting applicants for admission.


PhD students will be graded in all content courses with the traditional A, B, C, F scale and with pluses and minuses (there is no A+). Pass/Fail evaluations will be utilized only in the case of registration for internships or dissertation research, for the Dissertation Seminar, or when specifically approved by the GPD. Graduate students whose grade point averages fall below 3.00 (B) will be placed on a probationary status. After two consecutive semesters below this average or the accumulation of two grades of C or below, the student will be dismissed from the doctoral program.

Enrollment requirements

Students should stay registered continuously for every major academic term (fall, spring) during their enrollment in the program; however, a student may take time off during the pre-candidacy period without penalty, provided all other guidelines are met (see university Graduate Catalog). However, once past the candidacy exams, a student (by university rules) must stay continuously enrolled for every major academic term (including summer terms) or be dismissed from the program. The doctoral program must be completed within eight years of entry into PhD coursework.

Admission standards

Admission standards include the following, which are required, unless otherwise stated:

  1. A completed master’s degree (or its equivalent) in English or in an appropriate field (such as rhetoric, composition, English education, communications, journalism, linguistics, science, or technology) from a regionally accredited institution of higher education;
  2. A minimum grade point average of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) overall for the master’s degree;
  3. A score above the 70th percentile on the verbal and writing sections of the GRE General Exam (recommended);
  4. For students whose first language is not English, a current score for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of at least 600 on the paper version, 250 on the computer-based version, or 80 on the iBT version.

Note: Students without at least some significant background in an English-related field are encouraged to take master’s level coursework in English before applying. Students can enroll in some ODU graduate courses as non-degree seeking MA students; please contact the English PhD GPD for more information.