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How to Apply

Aerial view of Vari Hall with the Ross Building behind it

Prospective applicants must submit an online application.

Click “Apply Online to York” below to be brought to the application. The application takes about 30 minutes to complete in total.

Supporting materials include:

  • Application fee;
  • University transcripts (include transcripts from all universities attended), unless you are a York U student, since they are on file with the Registrar currently;
  • Statement of Interest;
  • Writing Sample;
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation.

Feel free to contact us to receive more information.

Understanding the Assessment Process

The Program’s Admissions Committee is comprised of faculty members with diverse specializations, interests, and approaches to literary history, criticism, and theory. Given this diverse make-up, write intelligently, clearly, and in jargon-free prose.

Application Numbers of domestic (Canadian citizen) files received are in the hundreds for approximately 20 MA positions and 8 doctoral positions.

More than 40 international applications are received for 0-1 positions in either the MA or PhD programs. Be advised, therefore, that international applicants must well exceed the minimum qualifications. At the PhD level, the “fit” between the applicant’s research project and the specializations of GPE faculty must be superb.

The Assessment Process, once the application deadline has passed, operates quickly. Program Admissions Committee members individually assess each application and record quantitative and qualitative scores. Once completed, quantitative scores are tallied, and members meet to review and discuss the top applications collaboratively, reordering rankings as necessary.

Conceive the application as made up of three parts: 1) Historical Track Record, 2) Others’ Assessments, 3) Self-representation.

Transcripts provide an institutional list of your past performance in a range of courses constituting your major (double major, major/minor) positioned with the breadth of knowledge required for the degree.

Committee members assess breadth, particularly within the major. They are well acquainted with the structure of the degree, false starts, “a bad year,” etc., and pay attention to any increase in performance success over the course of a degree and particularly to the grades of the final two years of study in the major.

Ask professors who know you, your academic and personal strengths and weaknesses, best; who want to support you and agree that you will flourish in graduate school, knowing well its different challenges from those of undergrad.

Committee members rely on recommendations as “professors writing to professors honestly and in detail.” Members are not influenced by rank or reputation. They seek only detailed knowledgeable assessment of the applicant’s knowledge and skills, research potential, critical acumen, responsibility and time management. If there are any other considerations about the applicant which help to contextualization past performance, then committee members appreciate such explanations from colleagues.

a) Statement of Interest: 500 words.
Convey clearly your interests in literature, criticism, and/or theory – namely the sorts of issues and types of questions which you consider sufficiently important to pursue and which ignite your most critical and creative thinking.

  • There is a “Goldilocks” art to statements—not too general as to be vague, but also not so specific and particular that applicants inadvertently hand to the Committee the reason not to accept them (namely, there will be no courses to help or faculty available with that specialization). The “just right” middle may be achieved by describing a category or type of issue of significance which interests you, and then exemplifying it. The aim is to convey how you think, how well, and why you think the issue is significant.
  • Beware of announcing: “I’ve always loved literature since I was a child” or “Poetry is my passion.” The Committee is most glad; however, as professors of literature, criticism, and theory assessing applicants to a graduate program in the same, we presume such “love” and “passion” and want to hear more about your thinking. What ignites your analytical mind and your curiosity?
  • Writing Sample: 3500 words or 10 pages.
    • Clean copy, jargon–free, which best exemplifies your critical, analytical, inventively researched writing. A “close reading” is a wonderful thing and the interpretive skills that it involves are fundamental; however, the Committee needs to see how you approach and analyze academic research at this stage as well as your facility with citation mechanics among the other fundamentals (organization, coherence, voice, style, grammar and punctuation, etc.)
  • Do not send your Honour’s Thesis.  It surely isn't only 3500 words.
  • If you excerpt the 3500-word writing sample from a longer essay, then just add a few lines to convey either the preceding context or the subsequent course of the argument, depending.
  • Be careful of submitting a sample that works against what you declare are your interests in the Statement. The sample does not have to be on a specific topic mentioned, or the same period, genre, etc., but it should work in concert with how you convey yourself in the Statement, particularly if the writing sample is supposed to be (some of) your best work. A very contemporary approach to nature in Emerson’s writing, for instance, or the British Romantics works in concert with a Statement conveying an interest in eco-criticism, and even if your interest is moving into contemporary literature. A very traditional paper on prosody in the Restoration with a Statement declaring interests only in the post-human, cyborg-techno-OOO can end up confusing and dividing Committee member assessments.

Learn More

The Graduate Program in English at York is an exciting environment to pursue innovative, socially engaging, career-ready education. Contact our Graduate Program Assistant to learn more.