Department of English

Prospective Graduate Students


***The GRE requirement for application to our graduate programs has been waived through the 2021 application season.***

You will find information on Graduate Teaching Assistantships; research and technology support for graduate students; scholarships and awards; and our placement record. You can also explore our current Graduate Faculty and course offerings or even begin the application process.

If you decide you'd like to hear more from Auburn's Graduate Programs in English, please complete our Query Form.

Last Updated: September 09, 2020

Review of applications for Fall semester begins in January. To receive full consideration for admission and financial aid, your completed application must be received in our office by the first business day after January 15.

Admission is competitive for all programs, especially for the PhD. In considering applicants, the Graduate Studies Committee looks for students who will benefit from our programs, who will succeed in our programs, and who will add vitality and diversity to the intellectual community of the English department through their contributions as graduate students and teachers. The Graduate Studies Committee takes care to look at the whole application, basing its decisions on several kinds of information: grades, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, a statement of purpose or professional goals, and a writing sample.

Last Updated: June 06, 2019

Admission to the MA program is competitive. In considering applicants, the English faculty looks for students who will benefit from and succeed in the program and who will add vitality and diversity to the intellectual community of the English department. The faculty takes care to look at the whole application, basing its decisions on several kinds of information: academic grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample. Highly ranked candidates for the MA program usually present the following:

  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (not necessarily in English or writing)
  • good scores on the general portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as determined by the standards of the English faculty
  • an excellent academic record
  • excellent writing skills, as demonstrated by an academic writing sample and by work in undergraduate writing courses
  • strong letters of recommendation
  • clear statement of purpose for applying to the MA program

How to Apply and What to Submit

Applications to the MA and PhD programs are accepted for Fall term only, and to be considered for admission, your completed application must be received by the first business day after January 15.  If positions remain available after the first round of admissions review, we will consider applications submitted later:  please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Jonathan Bolton, if the deadline has passed and you would still like to apply to the program.  All applicants are automatically considered for financial aid in the form of a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA); there is no separate application or deadline for the GTA.   

Materials submitted for the MA and PhD applications are the same:  transcripts for all prior degrees; GRE General Test scores (the GRE Subject Test in English is no longer required for PhD applications, effective Fall 2011); a statement of purpose; a writing sample; and three confidential letters of recommendation.   These materials are described in more detail below. 

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose, about 1-to-2 single-spaced pages, describes your reasons for pursuing a graduate degree in English at Auburn and tells us something about your academic background, experience, and long-term goals.  PhD applicants should describe how they plan to build on the skills and interests they developed at the master’s level.  MA applicants may wish to indicate which of our three concentrations they plan to pursue (Literary Studies, Rhetoric and Composition, Creative Writing), although a concentration does not have to be declared officially until the second year of study.  We would also be happy to know if you are considering more than one concentration at this stage. 

Writing Sample

Your writing sample should take the form an analytical essay submitted for an English class or closely related field of study.   A writing sample submitted with an MA application should range from about 10-15 pages; PhD writing samples can be longer, but generally not more than 25 pages.  Include a bibliography of all sources.  Overall, the topic of the paper is less important than the potential it reveals for successful writing at the graduate level, and we encourage you to consult with a faculty member at your previous or current department for guidance about what to submit.   MA applicants planning to concentrate in Creative Writing should submit a sample of creative writing along with an analytical essay.

Letters of Recommendation

Your application should also include three confidential letters of recommendation from current or former professors who can comment in detail on your academic work and potential for success as a graduate student and GTA.  Letters should be submitted electronically by your referees. The graduate school application form will automatically email them to request a letter.

Application Process

  1. Complete the online application form and pay the application fee at  Your application does not become official until the fee has been paid.  
  2. Request that official transcripts for all prior degrees be sent to the Graduate School. 
  3. Take the GRE General Test and request that scores be sent to the Graduate School (ETS Institution Code 1005).  Do not send scores to the English Department. Be aware that it sometimes takes up to six weeks for GRE scores to be received and processed.  Note as well that GRE scores expire after five years, so you may need to retake the exam before applying.  We will accept scores in the new exam format instituted by ETS in 2011 and in the old format, as long as they have not expired. 

If you have additional questions about applying, please check out our FAQ page.

Last Updated: November 15, 2017

Requirements for Applying

Admission to the MTPC program is competitive. In considering applicants, the Technical and Professional Communication faculty looks for students who will benefit from and succeed in the program and who will add vitality and diversity to the intellectual community of the English Department. The faculty takes care to look at the whole application, basing its decisions on several kinds of information: academic grades, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a writing sample. Highly ranked candidates for the MTPC program usually present the following:

  • a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (not necessarily in English or writing)
  • good scores on the general portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as determined by the standards of the Technical and Professional Communication faculty
  • an excellent academic record
  • excellent writing skills, as demonstrated by academic or professional writing samples and by work in undergraduate writing courses or professional writing experience
  • strong letters of recommendation
  • clear statement of purpose for applying to the MTPC program

Writing sample

The writing sample typically should be an extended piece (8-10 pages) of academic or professional writing. Applicants submitting an academic writing sample should be sure that it includes documentation of sources and a list of references or bibliography. Applicants who have been in the workforce may submit a substantial professional document, such as a proposal or technical manual, with a cover memo explaining their role in preparing the document and the audience and purpose for the document.

Three letters of recommendation

The three letters of recommendation should typically include at least two letters from current or former professors who can comment on the applicant's academic work. The third required letter may be from another faculty member or from a supervisor or employer.

Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose should address in 1 to 2 single-spaced pages the applicant's reasons for choosing to pursue graduate study in technical and professional communication at Auburn University. The statement should briefly discuss the student's academic background and any relevant work experience and should provide the committee with an overview of the student's professional goals.

The Application Process

Although applicants may request admission in any semester, those who wish to be considered for graduate teaching assistantships or any available graduate assistantships should apply by January 15 to receive full consideration for an assistantship beginning in the Fall Semester.

All application materials should be submitted through the Graduate School.

Last Updated: January 29, 2018
Do you accept applications for Spring or Summer?
No, new students are admitted once a year beginning in the fall.
Do you have a minimum GRE score that applicants must meet?
No, we do not have a minimum GRE score requirement. The evaluation of each applicant is based on all the materials in the file and is not exclusively based on test scores.
What is Auburn’s GRE code?
Auburn’s institutional GRE code is 1005.
Does Auburn offer a straight-through PhD?
No, the MA and PhD programs require separate applications.  MA students who wish to continue in our PhD program would apply during their second year of study.
When will I learn if I’ve been accepted?
Applicants are notified of admissions decisions in the middle of March.
What are your foreign language proficiency requirements?
By the time they complete the degree, MA students must demonstrate reading proficiency in one foreign language.  PhD students must show proficiency in two languages or advanced proficiency in one.  Consult our on-line Graduate Student Handbook for more details about how to satisfy the language requirement.
Does the MA degree require a thesis?
No, students in the MA program do not write a thesis, although they can pursue a longer writing project as part of an approved independent study course.  All students submit a portfolio of work prepared under the guidance of their Advisory Committee and must pass an oral examination based on the portfolio.  Additional details about the portfolio requirement can be found in the on-line Graduate Student Handbook.
Last Updated: September 09, 2020

Student teachingThe most common form of financial aid in our program is the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA). As a GTA, you receive vital professional training and improve your teaching skills throughout the course of your academic career at Auburn. Master’s students may hold a GTA for two years; PhD students may hold a GTA for up to five years.

MA-level GTA

First-year MA students serve as teaching assistants for our core survey classes in American, British, or world literature. Working under the guidance of an experienced faculty member, students assist with grading for the course and lead two small, weekly discussion sections of 15 students. Also, as part of their training to teach composition in their second year, students in the fall semester enroll in ENGL 7040: Teaching Composition: Issues and Approaches and observe one section of ENGL 1100. In the spring semester, students build on their experience in 7040 by working more closely with an experienced member of our composition faculty, observing a section of ENGL 1120 and attending a weekly advising session with their mentor.

Second-year MA GTAs teach three courses of their own in our composition program: typically one section of ENGL 1100 in the fall and two sections of ENGL 1120 in the spring (as scheduling needs dictate, sometimes students will teach two courses in the fall and one in the spring). The maximum class size for our first-year composition courses is 25 students.

PhD-level GTA

First-year GTAs in our PhD program teach three courses in our freshman composition sequence over the course of the year. In the second year, PhD students are eligible to increase their workload to four courses for a proportionally higher stipend. Third-year PhD students focusing in literary studies may expand their teaching responsibilities to include our core literature sequence, which features surveys of British, American, and world literature. With additional training, advanced doctoral students also have opportunities for professional development as teachers in specialized writing classes, including business and technical writing. Thus, by the end of their PhD studies, students will have developed a diverse teaching portfolio that includes both parts of our first-year composition sequence; survey courses in their area of expertise, whether British or American literature; and one or more sections of world literature.


As you compare offers from other programs, it is worth remembering that Auburn’s first-year stipends are highly competitive on the national market for GTAs in English Studies. Need-based financial aid is also available through the University Financial Aid Office.


The English Department offers fellowships to outstanding first-year applicants. At the PhD level, as much as 50 % of our incoming class typically receives fellowship offers ranging from $5000 to $10,000 on top of their GTA. African-American students in our PhD program can also be nominated to receive one of the President's Office's Graduate Opportunity Fellowships, which adds $10,000 dollars to the support provided by the department. Doctoral students in English have also competed well for the Graduate School's $4,000 Merriwether Fellowship in university-wide competition. At the Master’s level, we offer fellowships of $4500 and $1500 to our most highly qualified applicants.

The Office of University Writing and Miller Writing Center

The Office of University Writing and the Miller Writing Center employ graduate students in a number of positions. They offer administrative assistantships as well as hourly pay for tutoring, working on their longitudinal research project, managing websites, and other special projects . Check their website or contact Dr. Margaret Marshall ( for details about current openings or ways your scholarly interests and talents might connect to their needs.

Support for Scholarly Activity

The Department, College of Liberal Arts, and University also provide funding for professional travel and research projects by graduate students.

Last Updated: June 05, 2014

The Department of English welcomes qualified applicants from outside the US.  International applicants must meet the same standards of admission as other applicants and submit the same application materials, including GRE General Test scores:  please visit our How to Apply page for more information on the application process.  In addition, international applicants must meet a minimum set of language and financial requirements as established by the Auburn University Graduate School.  These requirements are described in more detail below.  


Applicants whose native language is not English must score at least 550 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)  paper version (pBT), 213 on the computer version (cBT), or 79 on the internet version (iBT).  Additionally, successful applicants must score minimums of 16 on the listening, reading, speaking, and writing components of the iBT. Auburn will also accept a minimum score of 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.


The international student must have sufficient funds to cover all fees, transportation, and living expenses. Currently (2012-13) this amount is set at US $ 38,202.  The Graduate School has no funds for scholarships or fellowships and cannot guarantee other forms of financial aid. Therefore, an Official Statement of Finances and certified evidence of a sponsor's financial capability must be submitted. Forms are available at the Graduate School or from the Graduate School web site.


All international students are required to subscribe to Plan II of the Student Insurance Program or provide evidence of equivalent coverage. Information is available at the Auburn Medical Clinic.

Additional questions about insurance, language, and financial requirements can be directed to international admissions processor for the Auburn University Graduate School. 

Last Updated: December 10, 2020
Table of course requirements
Requirements Courses    
GTA req.
(2 hrs)

ENGL 7940: GTA Practicum

Distribution Courses
(9 hrs)
Literature pre-1800 LinguisticsorTPCorRhet/Comp Special: Technology and Culture, Globalism Sustainability, Diversity
Major Area Courses (9 hrs) 7130: Fiction Writing (repeated as needed - offered annually) 7140: Poetry Writing (repeated as needed - offered biannually)  
Minor Area Courses (6 hrs) 2 graduate courses in English or another discipline relative to the student’s professional & academic goals; approved by the student’s Graduate Advisory Committee    
Elective Courses (3 hors) 1 graduate course in English    
Capstone Portfolio and oral exam    

32 credit hours:

  • 9 credits major area courses
  • 9 credits distribution courses
  • 6 credits in minor area courses
  • 6 credits in elective coursework
  • 1 credit Literature Practicum
  • 1 credit Rhetoric and Composition Practicum
  • Portfolio/exam (this requires significant research and revision of work originally completed in courses taken for the MA under the supervision of the student’s graduate advisory committee)
  • Foreign language requirement

Concentration in Creative Writing Portfolio

Portfolios must include the following:

  • A 10 to 12 page craft essay which will include the following:
    • An explanation of the thematic concerns evident in the portfolio.
    • A discussion of the stylistic techniques employed in the portfolio.
    • An analysis of revision of one poem or one short story, in which you give detailed examples of both line level and larger, thematic revisions to the piece.
    • A description of the texts and authors that have shaped the writer’s work, and the portfolio, specifically.
  • An updated résumé or curriculum vitae.
  • A 30-50 page portfolio of creative work. The portfolio itself may be composed of short stories, poems, or a mixture of both. Much of this work will have been initiated in classes at Auburn, although it will be significantly revised and developed for the portfolio.  
  • A brief writing project. These can be one or more of the following:
    • A thousand-word artist statement
    • A teaching statement
    • Sample syllabi and lesson plans
    • A book review

The decision to mix genres should arise from a discussion between the advisor and student.  Because we don’t yet offer courses in creative nonfiction, drama, or screenwriting, the addition of these genres will be left to the discretion of the advisor.

There are numerous reasons why an undergraduate creative writer might be better off applying to an MA program in creative writing rather than an MFA. All of the following benefits of such a choice are certainly true for Auburn’s MA in creative writing:

            - The first and most obvious is financial: the MFA applicant pool is increasingly competitive, and as Professor Dinty W. Moore of Ohio University notes, “Many students are coming up blank when they first apply. A younger student might not be ready for a top MFA program and may be wasting time and money applying.” Those programs aren’t going anywhere—working on your craft for two years could very well mean that you end up in a much better MFA program in the long run. Auburn’s MA students have gone on to some of the top MFA programs in the country, and they’ll be the first to tell you that they couldn’t have done it without their two years at Auburn.

            - There’s also the consideration of time: Moore argues that the MA program “allows an extra two years to focus on enhancing a writing portfolio. A hard-working student can write a lot of poems, stories, and essays in two years.” If your goal is to write as much as you can before beginning fulltime employment, then an MA program provides an additional two years of writing time. Why rush? Take your time writing that first novel! Those two years in an MA program could be free of charge (unlike many expensive MFA programs). Auburn offers all of its MA students full funding, along with university teaching experience—two things that many MFA programs fail to provide.

            - Academic rigor comes into play, as well: Moore makes clear that the wider range of course work and the academic challenge provided by an MA program catering to a diverse range of student interests will better prepare a writer not only for the more typical studio MFA, but for the PhD in creative writing, too. And as the PhD becomes a more common terminal degree among creative writers, the MA’s value will only increase in terms of the preparation it provides for such a program. Auburn’s MA students graduate from our program with a portfolio of creative work that will gain them entry to publication and an MFA program. However, the scholarly work they complete at Auburn puts them step ahead of the competition they’ll face on the academic job market.

            - Finally, many MFA program professors prefer to accept writers who have had a life beyond the undergraduate experience. Two years in an MA program provides time to mature your talent and voice, and to gain valuable life experience that can be translated into compelling art. Auburn’s MA students travel to conferences, host a reading series, run community writing programs, edit the pages of the Southern Humanities Review, and enjoy life in a beautiful Southern town with a football team that isn’t half bad. There’s a lot to learn here—on and off the page!

Professor John Poch of Texas Tech backs up many of these points in his insightful article for AWP. As he says, “While an MFA in creative writing is considered by most to be the terminal degree for those writers seeking academic training and the rewards thereof, many English departments and writing programs offer an MA in English (magister artium in the Latin) where creative writing can be chosen as a specialization area rather than technical communication, rhetoric/composition, literature, linguistics, or even film. In general, a student working in a creative writing MA program tends to follow a more rigorously structured degree plan than an MFA, fulfilling more scholarly/literary studies requirements… Auburn, UC Davis, the University of Chicago, Western Washington, and many other programs still offer the MA as their signature writing degree.”

The MA in creative writing at Auburn is a program with a rich history and a formidable reputation. Come join us as we continue to do the rich and rewarding work of growing great literary talent!

From Garrard Conley, author of Boy Erased: A Memoir, Riverhead Books, 2016:

“Auburn was a fantastic place to focus on craft and theory. My classes helped me think critically about the choices I wanted to make in my stories. “Ownership” is probably the best word for what I felt at Auburn. I wanted to own my stories in the sense that I wanted to be responsible for the work they might do in the world, and I believe Auburn's unique focus on theory and creative writing helped me reach this insight.

Because the program is relatively small and supports its students financially, I felt very nurtured during my two years at Auburn. I had the opportunity to be on the staff of an excellent literary magazine, Southern Humanities Review, and the process helped me learn not only what it means to run a magazine but also what people across the country were writing at that time, seeing where my work fit in the cultural narrative. 

I look back on my experience at Auburn as a golden moment in my literary life. I was surrounded by books and loving, devoted readers who opened my eyes to many different ways of writing and thinking.” 

During your time at Auburn, you can be involved our literary scene in many ways.

  • The Southern Humanities Review, a nationally-recognized literary quarterly
  • Third Thursday, a monthly series of poetry readings by notable poets at The Jules Collins Smith Art Museum
  • Spring Sessions, a special event featuring workshops and readings by nationally-recognized writers

Some of the writers who have given readings and offered workshops at Auburn include Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, Dan Albergotti, Molly Antopol, Brian Barker, Elizabeth Bradfield, Tina Mozelle Braziel, Jericho Brown, Nickole Brown, Robin Behn, Jennifer Chang, Jessica Cornelson, Tom Crawford, Geffrey Davis, Kendra DeColo, Natalie Diaz, Hali Felt, Beth Ann Fennelly, Tom Franklin, Cristina Garza, David Gessner, Richie Hoffman, John Hoppenthaler, Peter Kline, Michael Knight, Cecilia Llompart, Joanie Majkowski, Taylor Mali, James Davis May, Michael Martone, L. S. McKee, Brittany Perham, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Janisse Ray, Steve Scafidi, Martha Serpas, Lauren Slaughter, Matthew Siegel, R. T. Smith, Darin Strauss, Jeanie Thompson, Richard Tillinghast, Natasha Tretheway, Jon Tribble, Jean Valentine, Adam Vines, Frank X. Walker, Kevin Wilson, and Ann Fisher-Wirth. 

Our students have gone on to attend graduate programs at University of California - Los Angeles, University of Florida, University of Indiana - Bloomington, University of Iowa, Seattle University, University of Tennessee - Knoxville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina - Wilmington, University of South Carolina, University of Illinois, and University of Washington, among others.

For more information

Derek Ross

Derek Ross

Director of Graduate Studies
8072 Haley Center
(334) 844-9073

Last Updated: September 09, 2020