Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue
Honors Courses in English at the University of Tennessee

Graduate Program FAQ

How many students do you admit each year with funding?

Each year we admit roughly ten students with funding to our PhD program, eleven students with funding to our MA program, and five students with funding to our MFA program. Students with funding receive a tuition waiver (including summer courses), a teaching assistantship or associateship that pays a graduate stipend, and health insurance.  Potential students who do not wish to be considered for funding (for instance, international students whose tuition will be paid by an external source and who do not intend to teach) should indicate so clearly on their applications.

If I am admitted but placed on the waiting list for funding, may I enroll?

In the PhD and MFA programs, funding and admission are inseparable: students who are placed on the waiting list for funding will not receive an offer of admission until funding becomes available for them.  We strongly discourage MA students who have applied for funding from enrolling in the program without it, even if they have received an offer of admission.  One recommended option for students in this position is to enroll as a non-degree student and to apply again the following year. Potential students who do not wish to be considered for funding, who intend either to pay their own tuition or to have it paid by an external source, should indicate so clearly on their applications.

How should I prepare in order to be considered for admission?

Applicants to the MA and MFA programs must have completed a minimum of 18 credit hours in upper-level English courses to be considered for admission, though an undergraduate major in English (30 credit hours of upper-level English courses or more) is preferred. Although the Graduate School requires that domestic applicants have a minimum 2.7 cumulative GPA and that  international applicants have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA in all previous undergraduate coursework  for admission to an master’s program, prospective MA and MFA candidates should usually have better than a 3.5 average in English courses.

Applicants to the PhD program must have been awarded an MA or, in the case of applicants to the PhD with Creative Dissertation, an MFA by the time they begin their study. We do not consider applicants who hold only a bachelor’s degree and who wish to be directly admitted into a PhD program without first completing an MA or MFA.  Although the Graduate School requires that domestic applicants have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and that international applicants have a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA in all graduate-level coursework for admission to a PhD program, prospective PhD candidates should usually have a 3.5 average GPA or better in graduate coursework.

I am an international applicant.  Where can I find information specific to my situation?

Please see the Graduate School’s Admission Guide for International Students.

How are the applications evaluated?

Three admissions committees—one each for the MA , the MFA, and the PhD—read and rank all applications. Candidates at the top of the ranked list are made an offer of admission with funding; candidates below these top rankings who are nevertheless judged worthy of admission are placed on a waiting list for funding.

All admissions committees pay particular attention to five parts of the application: the statement of purpose, writing sample(s), GRE scores, letters of recommendations, and undergraduate and/or graduate transcripts. Note: Due to COVID-19 quarantines and cancellations, GRE scores are optional for this year’s applications.  If you decide to submit GRE scores, you must abide by the appropriate deadlines.  All applications will receive full consideration, and applications will not be harmed by not including GRE scores.

How do the committees evaluate GRE scores?

We are particularly interested in the Verbal portion of the General test. In recent years, most successful applicants both for the MA and the PhD have had a verbal score of at least 160 (600 on the old test) or above. If you take the GRE more than once, the committees generally consider the highest score rather than the most recent. However, Graduate Admissions will always look at the most recent. Keep in mind that GRE scores are optional for this year. If you include GRE scores, the evaluative criteria explained here will be in place, but we will not penalize applications that do not include GRE scores.

What is the University of Tennessee’s code for GRE scores?


Where can I find information about the GRE?

Visit the GRE home page at

Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

It is best to have the rating forms completed by professors or instructors who have had you in their courses. They can more accurately evaluate your performance in the classroom than can a supervisor or coworker at your place of employment, an athletic coach, or a clergy member. The admissions committee wants to read evaluations of your ability to complete graduate work in English successfully. An English professor is the best judge of that ability.

Can I reapply if my application is rejected?

Candidates who are denied entrance into graduate degree programs may reapply for admission if their application has been substantially enhanced. Please see or call the Director of Graduate Studies for suggestions. Any candidate who is denied admission to a graduate program twice will not be considered a third time.