How do I apply?
What are the admission requirements?
What kind of references will help my application stand out?
What about grades and board scores? Is there a minimum?
Is there a foreign language requirement?
What are the course, comprehensive exam, and dissertation requirements?
How do I become a distance student?
Applications are accepted for entrance in fall semester only. Late applicants not applying for financial assistance may be considered, but only if openings remain after the first round of decisions on those who submitted on time. Applicants residing in other countries should mail materials well in advance. All required forms and documents should be sent directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions. Applications packets are available online at the Office of Graduate Admissions website. The following should be submitted along with the appropriate applications forms:
- a 1500-word statement of the applicant’s academic and professional goals and discussion of how the PhD in English will contribute to the achievement of those goals;
- three letters of reference from sources capable of commenting on the applicant’s readiness for advanced graduate study in English;
- a writing sample of at least 20 double-spaced pages on a topic related to the applicant’s expertise (we prefer a single piece of writing but will accept two shorter pieces that total 20 pages);
- GRE general exam (taken within the last five years). The GRE score is not optional nor can it be substituted with another test.
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 10 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.
Admission standards include the following, which are required, unless otherwise stated:
- 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;
- A minimum grade point average of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) overall for the master’s degree;
- A score above the 70th percentile on the verbal and writing sections of the GRE General Exam (recommended);
- 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.
The best reference writers provide a letter (in addition to the reference form) in which they outline how they know a candidate, the kind of work that the candidate has produced or exhibited under their supervision, and the details of that work that indicate the candidate is ready and able to engage in the rigors of a doctoral program. Such references ideally would come from professors or work supervisors who have an opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s written or digital work; occasionally, peer colleagues can provide similar information. Although character is often a part of an overall reference, character references alone do not give us the fullest picture of a candidate’s appropriateness. For candidates who have been away from school or a work environment in which text production is crucial may wish to enroll in graduate English courses ahead of applying for the PhD in order to update credentials and to seek potential references.
The established minimum grade point average for a candidate’s master’s degree work is 3.5. Candidates who apply with a GPA less than 3.5 will only be considered in unusual circumstances. Although we do not have a stated minimum GRE, we hope to see candidates with a 1100 or above combined score on the verbal and quantitative portions and 5.0 or above on the analytic. Our practice is to consider the whole application, including writing samples and references, and look for students with the best combination of positive indicators for success.
Because the PhD is a research degree, all students are expected to present evidence of mastery of a basic research competency over and above the usual English or related-field course work. This is most readily achieved through demonstration of expertise in a foreign language. However, the program also offers other options. Please see the Foreign Language section of the Admissions page for more information.
Information about courses, exams and dissertation requirements can be found in the Program section.
Distance students apply the same way as prospective on-campus students. Once accepted, a distance student must establish a link with the Norfolk campus via home-installed equipment that allows for two-way video or make arrangements to attend video classes at a designated Old Dominion University distance site, usually found at one of several Virginia community college campuses. Because most of our distance courses are live, distance students should calculate the time differential, if any, to determine if they can meet classes that begin at 4:20 or 7:10 p.m. Eastern time.