Frequently Asked Questions
Below find the answers to some common questions regarding the Ph.D. in Literature program.
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, a personal statement (statement of purpose), one or two writing samples totaling no more than 20 pages, your CV, an optional statement about diversity, inclusion, and access,* and three letters of recommendation. The optional statement about diversity, inclusion and access may be uploaded under supplemental materials.
*Optional statement about diversity, inclusion, and access: Diversity presents itself in many different forms, and it is our goal to cultivate an environment that values diverse backgrounds, approaches, and perspectives. Feel free to provide a statement (no more than one page) about how your perspective may contribute to the synergy of a diverse learning community.
Official transcripts of all undergraduate- and graduate-level work should be sent to the USC Office of Graduate Admission.
Is the GRE required?
How do I apply?
Please apply online at the USC Graduate Admissions website.
When is the application to the Ph.D. in Literature due?
The application to the Ph.D. in Literature program is due December 1. The application portal recognizes that under certain time zones, 11:59 PST is December 2, which is why you might see a due date in the portal of December 2.
Does the department offer Fee Waivers?
While the department does not offer fee waivers, USC’s Graduate School does in certain cases. For information on Graduate Admission fee waivers please see https://gradadm.usc.edu/lightboxes/us-students-fee-waivers/.
Does an annotated bibliography count towards the 20 page maximum?
An annotated bibliography does not count towards the 20 page maximum. The 20 pages only applies to the actual text of the writing sample(s).
Will my application be reviewed if I am missing a component?
Any application with a missing component will be flagged as “incomplete” and will not be reviewed by the admissions committee.
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.
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 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.
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 admissions 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.
Where do I send my materials?
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:
Jeanne Weiss, 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 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, writing sample(s), statement of purpose, CV, and statement about diversity, inclusion, and access (optional).
Where can I find additional information about the application process?
Applicants are urged to explore https://gradadm.usc.edu/ for further information about the application process. Click on the three lines at the top right of the page to access additional information about fee waivers, transcript requirements, country requirements (for international students), English proficiency, and financial documentation.
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 coursework, exams, and the 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 who 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.
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 prior to registration each semester. A student from outside the English department who wishes to receive D-clearance should contact Jeanne Weiss directly at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 prescribed selection of courses. Instead, course plans are developed 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 from seminars offered by departments such as Comparative Literature, History, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Critical Studies, Philosophy, and American Studies & 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, such as through 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.”
Because all admitted students receive fellowships, 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.
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 that are guaranteed to domestic students. These packages are comprised of fellowships and teaching assistantships.