Department of English at Illinois State University

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

Admission to the Ph.D. program requires both a strong commitment to teaching and distinguished academic achievement. Applicants provide three letters of recommendation which attest both to their aptitude for teaching and to their academic abilities. We also ask for a sample of analytic academic writing, a statement of academic goals, all transcripts, and the general scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). More information appears below about each of these aspects of the student’s admissions portfolio.

Complete applications are due by January 15 for fall admission consideration. Ph.D. applications will only be accepted for fall admissions.

The completed application, application fee, transcripts, test scores, academic writing sample, personal statement and vita/resume should be submitted using the online admissions process at the University Admissions web site. The three letters of recommendation should be mailed to Professor K. Aaron Smith, Coordinator of Graduate Studies, English Department, Campus Box 4240, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240.

Requested materials for Admission to the Ph.D. Program:

  • A completed Graduate Admission Application (application fee of $40 required).
  • A two-page statement of purpose describing your career goals in terms of English Studies – In this statement, please indicate how this degree will help you achieve your career goals and how our department can help to meet your intellectual goals. If you choose, you may cast some of this statement as an intellectual autobiography describing your reading, writing, and scholarly interests through your undergraduate studies, explaining how those experiences have led you to apply to our program. The statement should discuss your scholarly and career interests (what areas of English studies would you like to study and why?), and it should describe your goals following completion of the degree. Since the Ph.D. in English Studies requires that students be aware of both pedagogical theory and the intersections of the subfields of English Studies (composition/rhetoric, linguistics, literary and cultural studies), successful applicants will demonstrate their awareness of and interest in both pedagogy and English Studies. Successful applicants will also demonstrate how their credentials fit with this Department’s particular set of faculty expertise.
  • Note: We use the statement of purpose to assess how well students understand our department’s mission as an English Studies department, and we also use this statement to assess students’ commitment to the professionalization of their chosen field.
  • A sample of your academic writing – Please submit a writing sample that reflects your best analytical writing skills in the subdiscipline for which you are applying. (For example, if you are applying in children’s literature, please include an example of your scholarly ability to analyze children’s literature.) This sample should be at least ten to fifteen pages long, although if it will best illustrate your abilities, longer papers may be included. The writing sample should demonstrate your analytic abilities and writing skills. (Note: Admission into the Creative Writing Option is granted upon approval of an additional writing sample called the “creative writing portfolio.” Students applying for the creative writing program should send both an analytical paper and a creative writing portfolio. Creative writing portfolios should include 15-20 pages of the student’s best writing in the genre for which the student hopes to be admitted: poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or mixed genre writing.)
  • One official transcript from each school attended.
  • Three letters of recommendation - These letters will be most effective if they come from people who have earned the degree that you are seeking and/or who hold academic positions. Letter writers should mail their letters directly to Professor K. Aaron Smith, Coordinator of Graduate Studies, English Department, Campus Box 4240, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240.
  • GRE scores from the verbal, quantitative, and analytic sections. (Please be aware that we prioritize the verbal and the analytic sections of the GRE. While GRE scores matter to us, other aspects of the portfolio are weighted equally in our decision-making.)
  • International students are required to submit scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum TOEFL score required for graduate admission is 100 (internet-based testing), or 250 (computer-based testing), or 600-603 (paper-based testing). For International students interested in being awarded a teaching assistantship, a TOEFL iBT speaking score of 27 or higher, or the Test of Spoken English (TSE), is required.
  • A curriculum vita or resume.
  • Complete Area of Study section of application.
  • A completed online Application for Assistantship (if you would like a Graduate Assistantship). You must have a University Identification number (UID) to apply for an assistantship. After you have applied for admission, in one or two weeks, the University will send you a UID number. Alternatively, you can check your admission status and find your UID number by logging on to Welcome2ISU and checking "check application status". Almost all of our assistantships are for teaching, so an aptitude for teaching is crucial to qualify for support. We strongly encourage Ph.D. students to address their aptitude for teaching in their personal statement.
  • Note: Normally, assistantships/stipends are only available in the fall and spring semesters; students should plan accordingly to cover summer financial needs.