To Apply

Applications are due February 1; see below under Application Deadlines for more detailed information about deadlines.

Prospective applicants should visit The Graduate School website for information about the application process.

Prospective applicants must apply online. Please submit all application materials (transcripts, letters of recommendation, writing sample, personal statement, resume, etc.) as indicated.  Questions about the online application process should be directed to the Graduate School at or by telephone 540.568.6131.

The English Department strongly encourages applicants to obtain letters which address their preparation for graduate study; motivation; maturity; reading, writing, and analytical skills; and particular areas of strength and weakness. Letters of recommendation may be uploaded to the online application site or, if the recommender prefers, sent directly to the Director of Graduate Studies at the following address.

          Dr. Brooks Hefner 
          Director of Graduate Studies
          210 Keezell Hall, MSC 1801
          921 Madison Drive
          Harrisonburg, VA 22807
          Office: 540-568-3759

Prospective applicants are welcome to communicate directly with the Director of Graduate Studies, who encourages personal visits by prospective applicants. Prospective students may wish to meet with current students, attend a seminar, and meet with graduate faculty whose areas of expertise match their own. 

Required Materials
  1. Transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate programs.

  2. At least two letters of recommendation from faculty familiar with the applicant’s academic performance and potential for graduate work.  Additional letters, if relevant, may be sent with a candidate’s application. Applicants who did not earn their undergraduate degrees recently should contact the Director of Graduate Studies for advice about appropriate recommenders.

  3. A substantial academic writing sample of 10-20 pages, showing the applicant’s strongest work and potential for literary research.

  4. A statement of approximately 500 words articulating the applicant’s specific research interests, academic training, goals for graduate study, and career aspirations, as well as the applicant’s reasons for applying to the JMU English program.

Recommended Materials
  1. A resume is strongly recommended.

  2. Any additional materials that provide the Graduate Committee with information about an applicant’s suitability and preparation for graduate study.

Optional Materials
  1. Graduate Record Examination General Test (GRE) scores are optional and not required for admission.

Evaluation Measures

The Graduate Committee considers the overall strength of an application rather than focusing on fixed requirements. The Graduate Committee reads and evaluates all completed applications.  We consider all available material to help us judge whether a student is prepared for and capable of successful work at the graduate level, and we stress the importance of a solid personal statement that is specific and focused as well as a writing sample that demonstrates strong intellectual and interpretive capabilities, facility with literary research, and excellent writing skills.           

In addition to satisfying all admission requirements of the JMU Graduate School, applicants must meet the requirements of the English Department, which include the following:

  1. A minimum overall GPA of 3.0. (A minimum GPA of 3.5 in English courses is recommended.)
  2. At least 15 credit hours in upper-division English courses showing some breadth of study are recommended. The Committee may favorably acknowledge more diverse backgrounds (such as a concentration in creative writing, an English minor, or another major in the humanities), but may specify provisions for admittance (such as additional prerequisite undergraduate courses), to assure that the student is adequately prepared for graduate seminars.
  3. A writing sample that demonstrates strong intellectual and interpretive capabilities, facility with literary research, and excellent writing skills.
  4. A personal statement that details the applicant’s specific research interests, academic training, goals for graduate study, and career aspirations, as well as the applicant’s reasons for applying to the JMU Department of English M.A. program.  We recommend that an applicant seek advice on how to write effective personal statements from faculty at his or her home institution.
Application Deadlines

Complete applications are due by February 1 and review of applications begins shortly after this date. We do consider all applications, even those that are not complete by the February 1 deadline. Late applicants, however, might be at some disadvantage in terms of funding consideration since those decisions are made by the end of February. All applicants are automatically considered for Graduate Assistantships unless they indicate on their application form that they do not wish to apply for one. Please see the Financial Support tab for more information about allocation of assistantships. Admission is offered for fall semester only. However, students may discuss with the Director of Graduate Studies the possibility of taking seminars as a non-degree candidate. Students may transfer up to 9 credits into the graduate program if they receive a grade of B or better in the seminar and are admitted into the program.

Application Review Procedure and Timetable

The Graduate Committee begins reading all complete applications shortly after the February 1 deadline. Incomplete applications are read only when they are complete; completion of the application after the deadline will put candidates at a disadvantage for admission and funding. However, the committee does consider such applications in a second, later review. The number of applications and Graduate Committee members’ workload affects the time necessary to review applications, but we make every effort to complete our review in a month’s time. Candidates are welcome to contact the Director of Graduate Studies for information about where we are in the process after three weeks or at any time if the candidate has received other offers.   

Note:  Students must achieve the classification of unconditional admission before applying for admission to candidacy. See the Graduate Catalog for all matters relating to a change of status.

Admission Classifications

Please note that only in very rare cases are students considered for Conditional or Provisional Admission.          

Unconditional admission

The applicant is admitted without reservation and has met all the entry criteria of The Graduate School and of the Department of English.

Conditional admission 

The applicant has met all the entry criteria of The Graduate School, but the Department of English has identified specific conditions that must be met before the applicant attains unconditional admission status. After the applicant addresses the provisions of the conditional acceptance, he or she may direct a written request to the Director of Graduate Studies, who decides if the applicant has met the provisions for acceptance into the graduate program.

Provisional Admission 

This indicates a probationary status; applicants who have not met all of the requirements of the Department of English Graduate Program may be granted provisional status as prospective candidates for a degree. Removal of provisional conditions, which will be specified in the applicant’s provisional admission letter, should be the student’s first objective. Provisional admission may be warranted if the previous academic record is weak, prerequisite coursework is insufficient, or the applicant has majored in another field and has not yet clearly demonstrated abilities in the proposed new field. Once the provisional conditions are met, the applicant should send a written request for a change to unconditional status to the Director of Graduate Studies.

Transfer Credits

A student may transfer up to 9 hours of graduate credit required for the degree in English from the graduate program of another accredited college or university, subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, the English Department Head, and the Dean of The Graduate School. Students who wish to receive graduate credit for courses taken prior to entering a JMU graduate program must submit requests to the Director of Graduate Studies prior to or during the first semester of enrollment. The Approval of Transfer Credit form is available online.

 A grade of “B” or better must be earned in courses requested for transfer credit. Courses taken for pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory grades will not be accepted for transfer.  It is the student’s responsibility to furnish evidence that any course presented for transfer credit is applicable to a comparable degree at the accredited institution where the course was taken. For specific details see the Transfer Credit section of the James Madison University Graduate Catalog.

Foreign Language Requirement

Completion of the second year of a college foreign language course or passing an examination demonstrating intermediate competency in a foreign language is required for all students of the Master of Arts degree.

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