“Curiosity is one of the most permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” – Samuel Johnson

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

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

  • What are the requirements for admission to the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature?

    The university requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale in which A=4.0). Requirements for admission to study in the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program include the following:

    • Bachelor’s degree in any area of study
    • GPA, undergraduate and graduate (if applicable)
    • GRE General Test score
    • creative writing sample
    • critical writing sample
    • statement of purpose
    • statement of diversity, inclusion and access (optional)
    • unofficial & official transcripts of all undergraduate and graduate coursework
    • letters of recommendation from at least three academic referees; students may include additional letters from other sources

    Do I need to have an undergraduate degree in English or Creative Writing to be eligible to apply?

    We welcome applications from students with all kinds of academic backgrounds.  Your undergraduate (or graduate) degree need not be in Creative Writing or English.

    Regardless of educational background, we expect our applicants will be accomplished creative writers, who are actively practicing the craft, and apt scholars, who have a keen interest in literature. To meet the demands of the Ph.D. program in Creative Writing & Literature you should be writing creatively with consistency. You should also be able to conduct scholarly research and write critically about literature, a factor which your critical writing sample should exhibit in order for your application to be competitive, no matter your academic background.

    Do I need a Master’s Degree in English or Creative Writing to be eligible to apply to the program?

    No. The only educational requirement is that you have a Bachelor’s degree. If you have a Master’s in English, or an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, you may transfer the equivalent of 12 units to the coursework requirement for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature.

  • How will I find out if I am admitted? / How long does it take to process my application?
    Applicants are notified of their admission status via email. Offers of admission usually go out in the month of March.

    How many students are admitted each year?
    The program is small and, therefore, competitive. We usually accept 8-10 students each year, out of approximately 150 applicants.

    May I be admitted in spring or summer?
    Unfortunately, we only offer one application cycle per year. All applications must be submitted by Dec 1.

    Where do I send my materials?
    The application is entirely online.  The only items you need to send in hard copies are your transcripts and GRE scores–your transcripts will be sent directly from your previously attended institutions, and GRE scores will be sent from ETS. Please request that these items be sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admission:

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

    Please note: this is a separate address from our office address. We cannot guarantee that any hard copy additional materials you send to our office will be included with your application materials. Therefore, make sure to upload all of the necessary documents for the application, such as your writing samples, statement of purpose and your recommendations.

  • Can I apply to the program in more than one genre?

    You must apply to the program in one genre only: fiction, nonfiction or poetry. We recommend that applicants apply to their strongest genre, even if they are multi-genre writers.

    Will there be opportunities to take coursework in other literary genres?

    While the majority of your creative coursework will be in your primary genre, and your creative dissertation must be written in your genre as well, you will have opportunities to take creative writing classes outside of your primary genre, in addition to your normal coursework.

    Is there a nonfiction degree track?

    Yes! We welcome applications from writers of nonfiction.

  • How long does it take to earn a Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature?

    The program is designed to be completed in five years.

    Can I finish more quickly if I have a Master’s degree in Creative Writing or Literature?

    You may transfer up to 12 units of similar coursework from a related degree, but this will not significantly reduce the number of years to earn the Ph.D. You should still plan to spend 5 years completing the program.

    Does the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program offer an online or low-residency option?

    No, the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program at USC is a full time, in-residence program. We do not offer a low-residency or online option.

    When do the academic sessions begin?

    The USC academic calendar is divided into two terms: fall and spring. The fall semester begins in late August and ends in mid-December. The spring semester begins in early January and ends in mid-May. There are also summer sessions with six-week classes, but not all courses are offered during the summer. The academic calendar can be found on USC’s website: http://academics.usc.edu/calendar/.

    Can I transfer units from my Master’s to the course work requirement for the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature?

    You may transfer up to 12 units from an M.F.A. or a Master’s in English to your coursework requirement in the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature, which would reduce the total units needed from 64 to 52.  Your academic advisors will help you decide the best transfer strategy for your individual needs.

    What are the course work requirements for the Ph.D. program?

    The program consists of 56 units of coursework: 32 in Literature, 24 in Creative Writing, and 8 units of dissertation work. Only one class is required: ENGL 501, History of Literary and Cultural Theory.  Beyond that, each student crafts an individualized course of study under the guidance of her or his academic advisors to meet the unit requirements.

  • Is the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program at USC associated with any magazine, literary journal or literary review?

    The program is not associated with a magazine or literary journal, however, the students in our program run a small press, publishing chapbooks and full-length books: http://goldlinepress.com/.

    Is there a language requirement?

    Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature students are required to demonstrate translation proficiency in at least one foreign language. This may be demonstrated by completing a course in the literature of that language at the 400 or 500 level (with a grade of B [3.0] or better) or by passing a foreign language exam that tests proficiency in reading comprehension and translation. Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature students may also demonstrate proficiency by completing a creative translation project in their primary genre, under the guidance of a professor whose areas of expertise include that specific language.

    Do you offer an M.F.A. in Creative Writing? Do I obtain a Master’s degree while earning the Ph.D.?

    Our program is strictly a Ph.D. program—we do not offer a Master’s degree.

  • Is funding available to students admitted to the Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature program at USC?

    All applicants who are offered admission into the program are also offered funding in the form of fellowships and assistantships, which offer tuition remission, year-round health insurance coverage and a modest stipend. Because all admitted students receive fellowship, they are expected to devote full-time study towards the Ph.D. and are not allowed to take on contemporaneous employment or equivalent external commitments during the academic year.

  • As of August 15, 2022, the GRE General Test is no longer required!

  • If my recommender does not want to upload a recommendation to the online system, is it possible for them to send a hard copy?

    Our application is entirely online. Therefore, your letters of recommendation must be submitted online.  Hard copies of materials that are sent to our office will not be included in your application file.

    Do all of my recommendations have to be from academic sources?

    While we prefer to receive recommendations from academic sources, we will accept recommendations from people other than your previous professors. If writing mentors, publishers, editors or employers (especially if writing is a part of your job) can attest to your ability to write creatively, show your experience in the writing world, or can explain to the admissions committee that you have the critical thinking abilities necessary to be in a Ph.D. program, we would be happy to receive their letters.

    Is it possible to submit my letters of recommendation through an online system like Interfolio?

    It is possible to submit letters using Interfolio. However, please note that our application is completely electronic–during the application process online you will be prompted to enter the email addresses of your recommenders. If you are using Interfolio, please submit the email address the Interfolio service provides to send out electronic letters of recommendation, rather than the email addresses of your individual recommenders.

  • Do you conduct face-to-face interviews with applicants?

    We do not require nor offer any face-to-face interviews with applicants as part of the admissions process.

    Can I sit in on a class?

    Unfortunately, creative writing classes are closed to visitors.

  • What does it mean that I am required to write a “critical” and “creative” component to my dissertation?

    The dissertation consists of both critical and creative components. The creative component should be a book-length manuscript and the critical component will be a document of approximately 60 pages. While the creative and critical components often work in conversation with one another, the critical aspect is not a “foreword” to the manuscript.

Contact Us

Ph.D. in Creative Writing & Literature

3501 Trousdale Parkway

Taper Hall of Humanities 431

Los Angeles, CA  90089-0354


Office Hours

Monday Friday

8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m.

Times may adjust in accordance with university holidays.

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