Applying to Graduate School

I am happy to discuss the graduate school application process, provide feedback on application materials, and write letters of recommendation for those who have taken classes with me.


The following timeline assumes graduate school application due dates between December 15 and February 15.

Spring: Deciding

In the spring of your junior year, you should begin thinking about whether or not you want to go to graduate school. I encourage you to meet with me and other professors to discuss your decision and the process.

Summer: Researching Schools and Studying for Tests

In the summer between your junior and senior years, you should research potential graduate schools. Think about where you want to live, what you want to study, whether your interests match those of the faculty, whether you want to earn an MA or a PhD, tuition costs and living expenses, what funding opportunities you can apply for, acceptance rates, language requirements, and so forth. For those who know for sure that they want to pursue a doctorate, I recommend applying to 10-15 graduate schools, composed of dream schools, match schools, and safety schools because the number of slots available is much lower than the number of applicants. I recommend the following resources as a starting point to help you with your graduate school search:

You should also study for and register for the GRE. If any of the schools you might apply to require the GRE Subject Test in Literature, you should study for and register for that exam as well. Ask your professors for recommendations on how to study for the GRE and GRE Subject Test.

Fall: Taking Tests, Writing Materials, Requesting Recommendations

In August, take the GRE Test.


In September and October, compose your résumé and statement of purpose, and then share them with professors and peers to get feedback for revision. Here are resources on writing application materials:

Decide upon the writing sample or samples you plan to submit. If the sample is a class research paper, ask a professor or two for feedback on how it needs to be revised and/or expanded for submission as a writing sample. If the sample is a chapter of your senior thesis, ask a professor or two for feedback on which part of your thesis is best adapted to a standalone writing sample.


In October, request letters of recommendation from professors. Provide them the following materials:

  1. Résumé
  2. Statement of Purpose
  3. 1-2 Writing Samples
  4. Recommendation Forms
    • Provide the physical forms to be completed by your recommender, if any.
  5. List of Schools and Due Dates
    • Provide a list of schools and dues dates of programs to which you plan to apply. If physical letters are required, provide addresses and your recommender will print your letter on letterhead and mail it using university mail.

In November, order transcripts from the Registrar to be sent directly to the graduate schools. If necessary, take the GRE Subject Test.

Winter: Submitting Applications

Over winter break, finalize your statement of purpose and writing samples and complete your applications. Remind your recommenders of the deadline about two weeks before the application is due.