Frequently Asked Questions

Below find the answers to some common questions regarding the Ph.D. in Literature program. The links below will help you skip to the topic in which you are interested.

Admissions
Degree Requirements
Registration
Funding & Financial Aid

  • Admissions


    What are the requirements for admission to the Ph.D. in Literature?
    Applicants to the Ph.D. in Literature program use the USC Graduate Admissions online application, and must include unofficial transcripts, unofficial GRE General Test and Subject Test in Literature score reports, a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, two writing samples (or one writing sample) totaling no more than 20 pages, and a one-page resume. All may be uploaded as supplemental materials.

    Official transcripts of all undergraduate- and graduate-level work and official GRE score reports should be sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admission.

    What is the minimum undergraduate G.P.A. required for admission?
    Although the English department does not specify a minimum undergraduate grade point average for acceptance to the Ph.D. in Literature program, the university requires a minimum undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.0 (on a scale in which A=4.0) for all admitted graduate students.

    An undergraduate G.P.A. higher than 3.7 is required for fellowship consideration.

    Do I need a Master’s Degree in English to be eligible for admission?
    Potential applicants do not need a master’s degree (in any field) in order to be considered for acceptance to the Ph.D. program in Literature.

    Do I need an undergraduate degree in English to be eligible for admission?
    A strong interest in literature and critical analysis is expected of all applicants to the Ph.D. in Literature program. However, an undergraduate degree in English is not required for consideration for admission to the Ph.D. program.

    Is a foreign language required for admission to the Ph.D. program?
    No, proficiency in a foreign language is not required in order to be considered for admission to the Ph.D. in Literature program. However, students admitted to the program will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language, either through a graduate-level language course or a translation exam, upon completion of coursework before taking the field exams.

    Do you have a terminal/stand-alone M.A. program?
    The department does not accept applicants for a Master of Arts degree. All graduate work in English at USC is taken as part of a Ph.D. program, and the M.A. in English is intended only as a transitional degree in the process of completing requirements for the Ph.D.

    When is the application to the Ph.D. in Literature due?
    The application to the Ph.D. in Literature program is due December 1.

    How will I find out if I am admitted?
    The admissions committee will notify applicants of its decisions by late February.

    How many students are admitted each year?
    Admission to the Ph.D. program is competitive. Out of over 100 applicants the admission committee reviews each year—many of whom are well-qualified—it is only able to accept between four and six students.

    Can I apply for spring admission?
    No, admission to the Ph.D. program in Literature is only for the fall semester.

    How do I apply?
    Please apply online at the USC Graduate Admissions website.

    Where do I send my materials?
    The online application should be completed at the Graduate School. Official transcripts and GRE score reports should be sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admission. Supplemental materials required by the English department should be uploaded to the “Supplemental Materials” section of ApplyYourself.

    Can I combine the scores for Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical GRE General Test sections taken on separate sittings?
    Yes, the admissions committee will consider your highest scores for each section of the GRE General Test, regardless of whether they were received during the same or separate sittings. However, keep in mind that scores older than five years will not be accepted by the English Graduate Program.

    What is the minimum GRE score required for admission?
    Although the Department of English does not specify minimum test scores for admission to the Ph.D. program, the university requires a minimum Verbal GRE score of 153 and a minimum Quantitative GRE score of 144. There is not a minimum test score stipulated by the department for the GRE Subject Test in Literature. The average of Subject Test score for the admitted students for the most recent year was 655.

    When is the latest date I can take the GRE General Test and GRE Subject Test in order to apply to the Ph.D. program?
    You must take the GREs in time to meet the application deadline of December 1. Your score reports will be sent to recipient institutions approximately 10 to 15 days after your test date or after you ordered score reports. However, you are strongly encouraged to take the exam as early as possible.

    Where do I send my GRE scores?
    The GRE code for the USC Graduate School is 4852, and the code for the Ph.D. in Literature program is 2501. Official test scores may be sent to:

    University of Southern California
    USC Office of Graduate Admission
    3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915


    Can my recommender send a hard copy of the letter of recommendation?
    Upon submitting your online application, an email is sent directly to each individual you have listed to write a letter of recommendation. Specific instructions are given in the email on how to upload each letter of recommendation to the online application on ApplyYourself.

    If your recommender would prefer to send a hard copy, the letter can be mailed to:

    Flora Ruiz, Graduate Coordinator
    University of Southern California
    Department of English
    3501 Trousdale Parkway
    Taper Hall 404
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354


    Do my letters of recommendation have to be from academic sources?
    The admissions committee recommends that at least two letters should be from professors who have taught you in English courses or courses in closely related fields.

    Is an interview required for admission to the Ph.D. program?
    No, an interview is not required for admission to the Ph.D. in Literature program.

    Can I sit in on a class?
    The English Graduate Program can only allow graduate students to sit in on classes for which they are registered.

    Have my application materials been received?
    The Graduate Coordinator will process your application and contact you if any documents are missing. Your application will be considered on time if the online application is submitted by the deadline, as well as your letters of recommendation, unofficial transcripts, GRE scores, writing samples, and statement of purpose.

  • Degree Requirements


    Can I complete the Ph.D. program part-time?
    The Ph.D. in Literature is a full-time, in-residence program. If admitted, applicants from outside the Los Angeles area would be expected to move locally in order to complete coursework and fulfill assistantship requirements. There are no online courses.

    How long does it take to earn a Ph.D. in Literature?
    The Graduate School and the English department’s Graduate Studies Committee encourage students to complete their coursework, exams, and dissertation (including defense) within a five-year timeframe.

    Can I transfer units from my M.A. to the Ph.D. course requirements?
    Up to 12 units of graduate-level coursework may be transferred for credit. This process can be completed after successfully passing the screening exam.

    What are the course requirements for the Ph.D. program?
    Students in the Ph.D. in Literature program will complete 56 units of coursework plus eight units of dissertation credit. Students that have transferred the maximum of 12 units of graduate-level coursework will need to complete 44 units of coursework before enrolling in the eight units of dissertation credit.

    Is there a language requirement?
    Students in the Ph.D. in Literature program must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language, either through a graduate-level language course or a translation exam, before taking the field exams.

    Where do I find forms?
    The Field Examination form and Appointment/Change of Qualifying/Dissertation Committee form can be found on the Documents page.

  • Registration


    How do I get D-clearance (departmental clearance) for a graduate-level course offered by the English department?
    Graduate students in the Ph.D. in Literature program will receive departmental clearance during their advisement meetings with the Graduate Coordinator of Student Affairs prior to registration each semester. A student from outside the English department who wishes to receive D-clearance should contact the Flora Ruiz directly at fruiz@dornsife.usc.edu and include his or her USC ID number and desired section number.

    Can I take graduate courses outside of the English department if I am in the Ph.D. in Literature program?
    Students in the Ph.D. in Literature program do not take a proscribed selection of courses, rather developing course plans through faculty guidance rather than formal requirements. Students may select from the 15 to 18 graduate seminars offered each year in English, as well as seminars offered by programs such as Comparative Literature, History, Gender Studies, Critical Studies, and American Studies and Ethnicity.

  • Funding & Financial Aid


    What funding is available for Ph.D. students?
    Ph.D. in Literature students are guaranteed five years of funding through a combination of fellowships and teaching assistantships in the university’s Writing Program. This funding covers the cost of tuition, health insurance, health center fees, and also provides a modest stipend for living expenses. Funding cannot be guaranteed after five years.

    External scholarships, fellowships, and prizes are also available. More information about these can be found under “Fellowships & Prizes.”

    What about travel funds?
    Travel and research funds are available through the Department of English and the Graduate School, as well as through outside agencies.

    What funding is available for international students?
    International students accepted into the Ph.D. in Literature program are guaranteed the same five-year funding packages, through a combination of fellowships and teaching assistantships, as domestic students.


  • USC Dornsife Department of English
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 404
  • University Park
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0354
  • Fax: (213) 741-0377