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Comparative Literature Prospective Student FAQ

Because many of our applicants share general questions about the application process, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions to make applying a bit easier. If you have a question that isn't answered on this list, please contact

For all Prospective Applicants

If I do not hold a Master’s degree, can I apply directly to the PhD program?

Yes, we do accept students with a BA directly to our program. We do not grant a CMLT MA degree as part of the program.

Does the Comparative Literature graduate program require GRE subject tests?

No. Although the admissions committee will consider submitted subject test scores as part of a complete application, you are not required to take it and submission of such scores are unlikely to be a deciding factor in your admission.

What GRE scores do I need to qualify for admission to the program?

Although we pay close attention to GRE scores, we do not specify particular scores as a requirement for admission. Strong GRE scores are obviously an asset to an application; low GRE scores need to be offset by other strengths in an application (see next question).

I took the GREs seven years ago. Can I submit those scores for consideration in my application?

We do not accept GRE scores older than four years.

What makes an application successful in the admissions process?

The admissions committee looks closely at all the materials in an application: GRE scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and writing sample. The critical writing sample, however, is probably the single most important element of a successful application.

What makes a strong writing sample? What should I use as a writing sample?

In evaluating writing samples for the PhD programs, we look for clarity and detail of argument; familiarity with literary, critical, and theoretical concepts; familiarity with literary research; and engaging ideas. We expect writing samples submitted by applicants to demonstrate an accomplished, focused presentation of these elements appropriate to advanced graduate study. Generally an applicant submits as a writing sample a paper originally completed for an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course and revised for the application process. We prefer that the writing sample be in the intended area of study. Samples of non-academic writing are not acceptable for this purpose.

I have a transcript from my institution that is encrypted. What should I do? Should I still upload it to the application?

No, do not upload an encrypted transcript to the application. It will upload as a blank document. The program will not be able to use it for its evaluation. Please print the document out, scan it, then upload a scanned version.

How will I know that my application is complete?

You can check on the status of your application by logging on to your online application. Admissions decisions are generally made by no later than the end of February. We typically have spaces for 2 entering PhD students.

What are the strengths of your faculty?

The Department of English and the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures both have distinguished faculty in all areas of curriculum. For details see Faculty List by Area of Specialization for English and the individual departments for School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.

What forms of financial aid do you offer and how do I apply for them?

We provide funding in the form of fellowships and teaching assistantships. We also have a limited number of fellowships that we distribute for recruitment. A larger portion of financial aid is in the form of teaching assistantships. All students will have their aid structured so that they will not have to teach the first semester, and most teaching assistantships will be structured to require teaching two courses in your remaining years. Both TA-ships and fellowships carry a full tuition waiver (10 credits/semester). All applicants to the program are automatically considered for financial aid, which is awarded solely on the basis of academic merit.

How long will it take me to finish the program?

The program is designed to be completed within five years of initial enrollment. Progress to degree will vary depending upon an individual's circumstances. The Graduate Office is committed to facilitating students' progress to degree. The expected progress to degree schedule for the PhD program can be found here.

Can I work on a degree part-time?

As with the English department, all those working toward a PhD must be full-time students.

My GPA is not especially competitive. Can I still apply?

Yes. We realize that occasionally an applicant's GPA, especially for the BA degree, will not accurately reflect an individual's ability to perform successfully in a graduate program. In a case where an applicant has a gpa lower than that specified, we look all the more closely at other elements of the application. Please note that the Graduate School of the University of Maryland does stipulate 3.0 as the minimum GPA required for admission to any to any graduate program.

For International Applicants

How many international students do you admit each year?

Admission to the Comparative Literature PhD program is exceptionally competitive and is based on the entire application.

If I am admitted, what are my chances of receiving financial aid?

International students are evaluated equally with domestic applicants and all admitted students receive a 5 year financial aid package. We do pay careful attention to the financial requirements associated with a student visa.

What additional steps do I need to take in my application process?

Please consult the website for the Office of International Student and Scholar Services for a comprehensive overview.