Ph.D. Application Checklist and FAQ


Our application process is now entirely online. Please do not send any materials in hard copy. All materials should be submitted through the online application found here.

Students applying to the PhD program in Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago must have the following materials: 

  • GRE scores--general test only
  • Transcripts from all college-level, degree-track programs
  • 3-4 confidential letters of recommendation
  • A 15-20 page writing sample (double-spaced; page count does not include bibliography) 
  • A statement of academic purpose, 1-3 pages, single-spaced
  • TOEFL scores or IELTS English scores—these are required only for foreign students who are from non-English-speaking nations and who have had less than one year of study at an English-medium university in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or South Africa.

The application deadline for 2016-17 is December 15, 2015. For comprehensive information about admissions requirements and procedures, see the University of Chicago Humanities Division's Prospective Students webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does the Department of Comparative Literature require the GRE subject exam? 
The department does not require the GRE subject exam, and scores for this exam are not considered in the admissions process. Do not submit GRE subject exam scores in your online application.

What is the GRE code for the University of Chicago? 

I have multiple GRE scores. How will my scores be interpreted? 
ETS provides GRE scores from the past five years of an applicant's records. It is up to the discretion of the reviewers how they would like to account for these scores.

Does the Department of Comparative Literature Admissions Committee have cutoff levels for GRE scores and GPAs? 
The Admissions Committee does not have specific cutoff levels for GRE scores and GPAs. Please note that the Admissions Committee generally considers your writing sample, statement of purpose, and recommendation letters to be more important to your application than your GRE scores.

Supplemental Materials

My writing sample is over 20 pages long. Will my application still be considered? 
Your application will still be considered if your writing sample is over the recommended upper limit of 20 pages. This recommended limit is not absolutely fixed, but we strongly suggest that applicants try to adhere to it as closely as possible. If you are unable to reduce the paper you want to use as a writing sample in your PhD application to 20 pages, please consider providing an 20-page excerpt from that paper and supplying a brief (one-page or less) abstract that contextualizes the function and place of the excerpted section within the paper as a whole.

Where should I mail my supplementary application materials? All materials are submitted online.

Do page counts refer to single- or double-spaced pages? 
The writing sample should be 15-20 pages double-spaced. The statement of academic purpose (also referred to as the Candidate or Personal Statement, or the "Statement of Intent") should be 1-3 pages single-spaced.

Additional PhD application information can be found on the Division of Humanities webpage.

Master's Degree

Does the Department of Comparative Literature offer a master's degree? 
The Department of Comparative Literature does not offer a terminal MA degree. The University of Chicago offers Masters level study in Comparative Literature through the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities. In this one-year program, students build their own curriculum with graduate-level courses in any humanities department (including Comparative Literature) and complete a thesis with a faculty advisor.

Department of Comparative Literature students can earn an MA while on the PhD track, providing they do not already hold an MA in Comparative Literature.

If I already have a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature, how will this affect my application?
Applicants with a Masters degree in Comparative Literature will be evaluated according to the same criteria as all applicants. If accepted, students with masters degrees in Comparative Literature will receive partial credit in the form of a reduced course load but must still fulfill core courses and other  requirements. For further information, see Course Requirements page.
Applicants with Masters degrees in single literatures or in other humanities disciplines will be evaluated according to the same criteria as all applicants including the language and other requirements as stated. Credit, if any, will be decided at the time of admission.


Once I've submitted my application, how can I check that my materials were received? 
Once your application is submitted, you can log in to the submission site to track the receipt of your application. As the Admissions Office receives your application materials, they will update your checklist.

How many applicants does the PhD program receive per year and how many of these applicants are admitted? 
This past year we received almost 150 applications. In recent years, anywhere from 3% to 6% of the applicants have been admitted into the program.

How many admitted applicants receive funding? All incoming graduate students receive a full fellowship renewable based on satisfactory progress for a total of five years. Most of our PhD candidates are successful in the competition for dissertation completion fellowships in the sixth year. For more information, see Funding Opportunities.

I would like to apply for a joint degree program at the University of Chicago. How can I go about doing this? 
In the Humanities Division at Chicago, applicants cannot apply for a joint degree program upfront. It is recommended that you apply to one of the two departments in which you are interested and, in the following year, apply for a joint degree with the other department.

I am currently enrolled in a PhD program at another University and would like to transfer to the University of Chicago. How can I do this? The PhD program in Comparative Literature does not accept transfer students. For admission, you must apply as would any other prospective student, regardless of your academic background. The admission committee will assess your academic progress and see what graduate courses, if any, may be counted toward your PhD course work at University of Chicago. If your work meets the language and other requirements of Comparative Literature, it is possible that you might be admitted with the same credit as those applying with a previous MA (see above) but you would still be required to take ten graduate courses including the required two core seminars. See program requirements.
How many times a year do you accept PhD applicants? 
We only accept new PhD students in the fall. The deadline is typically in the third week of December.
Can prospective students schedule campus visits? 
The Department of Comparative Literature hosts an Open House each year solely for prospective students who have already been admitted to the PhD program. If other prospective students have questions about the program, they should e-mail Ingrid Sagor, the Department Administrator, at The Office of Enrollment also offers tours of campus throughout the year.  While registration is not required, it is strongly advised to ensure that a tour is indeed scheduled and that the tour guide will be familiar with your area of study. More information regarding tours can be found here.