Putting Together Your Application

The graduate admissions committee evaluates the following five items in every application and assigns a score for each. See below for details.

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Your grade point average is, as they say, what it is. There is little or nothing you can do at this point to improve it. If you have a substantially better GPA in your major courses or over your junior and senior years, you may want to mention that in your statement of intent. A high or low GPA is not a final determinant, just one factor. However, most successful applicants do have outstanding academic records. 

Three 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.

MA Writing Sample

The best writing sample to submit is 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. The 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 relevant theory and criticism into your own arguments.

MFA Writing Sample (Creative Portfolio)

If you are applying to the MFA in Creative Writing, you should submit a research paper (see above) and ALSO a portfolio of your creative work. The creative portfolio should consist of your best literary writing in a single genre–poetry, fiction, or nonfictionand may contain a group of poems, one or more short stories, personal essays, or chapter excerpts from longer works of prose. Please specify the genre at the top of your submission. Submissions that exceed the page limit will not be considered.


An undergraduate degree in English or its equivalent is preferred. Applicants should have strong grounding in American and British literature and a course in advanced critical theory (such as BYU’s English 451 or 452). These courses may be taken from any accredited program.

Personal Statement (Statement of Intent) 

A personal statement is often called a letter of intent. While it is really more an essay than a letter in format, it is something like a job application letter in that it describes your interests and qualifications for graduate study. Still, you don’t need to begin it with “Dear Admissions Committee” or close with “Sincerely yours.”

What should you write? To answer that, let’s think first about what you don’t need to say. A personal statement is usually accompanied by the following:

  • an application form
  • a transcript showing your coursework and GPA
  • letters of recommendation
  • a writing sample

By the time you write your personal statement, each of the above is pretty well determined. You can’t change your GPA . You can’t write your own letters of recommendation. Your writing sample is complete. And you don’t need to say things the admissions committee will already know as a result of looking over your application form. This means that the personal statement should tell the committee what they don’t know about you. The personal statement could well be the most important part of the application package because it is the only part you still have some control over as the deadline looms.

In your personal statement, you can—and should—say things about yourself that will not otherwise be apparent to the committee. A strong personal statement can sometimes salvage an application that isn’t distinguished by a sterling academic résumé. A poor statement, on the other hand, may undermine an otherwise competitive application. When the other indicators for success are strong, a highly effective personal statement may make your application even more competitive or bring a bonus beyond mere admission. For example, it may help you get a scholarship or an assistantship.

A good personal statement often has a narrative structure. Like a good narrative, it should have thematic unity. What do people always say about you as a student? What words do you use to describe yourself and your intellectual development? Your statement should reveal you as a unique individual, and it should describe your strengths in such a way that the committee members will want to admit you because they hope to see how you will build on your strengths through graduate coursework and the writing of a thesis.

But more than that, a personal statement should show that you have thought carefully about why you want to go to graduate school. It should identify an area or areas of interest that you want to study more deeply. It may identify professors with whom you want to study and tell why those professors’ work attracts you. It may even state a possible research topic you want to pursue. In short, it must do more than simply claim that you have always loved reading fiction, poetry, or drama and then writing those genres or writing about them. Your personal statement should describe concretely what has compelled you to seek higher learning and outline a vision of what you want to do and be with your graduate credentials. It should distinguish you from the dozens of other students competing for a place in the graduate program.

Take time to write two or three drafts of your statement and show them to trusted advisors—especially professors from your undergraduate courses. They can coach you on the best way to present your character and your accomplishments as qualifications for graduate school.

Ecclesiastical Endorsement

Each student must complete an ecclesiastical endorsement. Click here for more information.

Application Fee

As part of the application process, you will need to pay a $50 nonrefundable fee.





Tessa Hauglid

English Graduate Program Manager


4166 JFSB

Provo, Utah 84602

(801) 422-8673

Email Tessa Hauglid