- B.A. in English or equivalent*
- One course in advanced literary theory (English 451 or 452 or equivalent)
- GRE General Test (the Advanced Literature Subject Test is not required)
- Three letters of recommendation
* Students without a B.A. in English must take or already have taken an equivalent course in fundamentals of literary interpretation and criticism (English 251); one course each in early British, later British, and American literature; and an advanced research and writing seminar (English 495 or equivalent).
International applicants should contact Graduate Studies for application requirements.
How do I apply?
- Submit a BYU Graduate School Application.
- Submit a formal research paper; applicants applying for the MFA in creative writing must also submit a portfolio of their work in one of three genres—poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. Do not mix genres. Poets should submit 10 pages of poetry; fiction writers 20 pages of double-spaced fiction; nonfiction writers 20 pages of double-spaced nonfiction. If your sample includes more than one genre or exceeds length limits, you will be disqualified as an applicant.
- Submit GRE General Test scores.
Deadline for application: January 15th
Putting Together Your Application Package
The graduate admissions committee evaluates the following six items in every application package and assigns a score for each of them:
- Overall Grade Point Average
- Prerequisites Fulfilled
- GRE General Exam Score (Verbal & Writing)
- Statement of Intent
- Letters of Recommendation
- Writing Sample
Then they tabulate the scores and rank all the applicants accordingly. Usually, the first 20 or so students out of a pool of 80 applicants are admitted into the M.A. in English program, with five or six applicants being placed on a waiting list. Historically, those on the waiting list have a good chance of being admitted also, depending on how many admitted candidates decline their offers of admission.
Those applying for the M.F.A. in Creative Writing must first be admitted to candidacy by the creative writing faculty before the admissions committee can even consider them. Once they are admitted to applicant candidacy, the committee reviews their materials according the same criteria used for the M.A. in English applicants. Generally 8-10 applicants are admitted to the M.F.A. in Creative Writing each year. If there is a waiting list, it tends to be small—two or three students at most.
Students who wish to be considered for admission to both the M.A. in English and M.F.A. in Creative Writing programs must submit two separate applications with the required materials for each. In the event that a student is accepted to both programs, the student will be allowed to enroll in one program or the other but not both.
Successful application packages always demonstrate the applicant's knowledge regarding the basic conventions of applying to a graduate program in English. Please consider the following suggestions as you put together the various parts of your application package.
GPA. Your grade point average is, as they say, what it is. There is really nothing you can do at this point to improve it. A high or low GPA is not a final determinant, just one factor. Graduate GPA is based on your last 60 hours of undergraduate credit.
Prerequisites. Applicants who have not yet completed all the required prerequisites can be admitted into the program provisionally. Still, it is best to complete these requirements before applying or starting your program in the fall. Finishing up these prerequisites during your program will make it hard for you to finish your degree on time. Making the effort to take the prerequisites before applying demonstrates your commitment to the program.
GRE. Standardized tests are important because they provide admissions committees with an opportunity to evaluate candidates on exactly the same ground. Do the very best you can on the GRE. If you struggle with standardized tests, you might want to take a prep course. At the very least, you should purchase an updated GRE prep book with sample tests and study it carefully. The program has no minimum required GRE score. Your score will simply be added into the mix. There is no need to worry about the quantitative score.
Statement of Intent. The standard length for this statement is one to one and a half single-spaced pages, so you will need to be concise and precise.
The more specific you can be in this statement, the better it will be. Project a professional attitude and tone. You should know basically what area of scholarship you want to study and, more importantly, why you want to study it in this program with this particular faculty. Demonstrate how you can benefit from the program and what you can contribute to it.
Resist the temptation to gush about how much you love literature, writing, rhetoric, or whatever. The admissions committee takes your deep disciplinary affections for granted. Impress them with your scholarly plans by demonstrating that you know what graduate studies in your area are all about. Reference any previous contact or discussions you may have had with faculty members.
Letters of Recommendation. Select your recommenders carefully from among your professors–those who can write authoritatively about your scholarly abilities in the study of English or closely related disciplines. Ecclesiastical leaders have already commented on your character in another part of the application, so their insights are not helpful here. Also former employers usually have few significant insights into your ability to do competent graduate work in English.
Stick to recommenders who know you and your scholarly work well. If you are returning to school after an absence that makes it difficult to get recommendations from former professors, do your best to find good alternate recommenders and address this issue in your statement of intent. Make sure you provide your recommenders with sufficient supporting documents–such as unofficial transcripts, writing samples, and resumes–so they can write about you and your work in some detail. Make it easy for them to write a strong letter.
Writing Sample. The best academic writing sample to submit is still a well-researched scholarly paper of about ten pages, the usual length for papers presented at scholarly conferences, preferably in your proposed area of emphasis. Usually candidates select one of their best undergraduate papers and do some additional revision to improve its quality. Creative writers, of course, should also submit their best work—a group of poems, a short story, a novel chapter, or whatever in addition to their scholarly paper sample. The academic writing sample should demonstrate clearly that you can do the work that will be required of you in the program, specifically that you can integrate theory and/or criticism into your own arguments. In addition, creative writers should also submit their best creative work—a group of poems, a short story, a novel chapter, a couple of essays. Do not mix genres in your creative writing sample.